Arab bloggers in Tunis on Monday discussed the role they played in the “Arab Spring,” just days before the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize for which some among them are seen as frontrunners.
As the meeting got underway in the country whose “Jasmine Revolution” kicked off the turmoil in the Arab world, the focus was on local blogger Lina Ben Mhenni.
The young woman who chronicled the revolution in her country is considered one of the frontrunners for the famed prize to be announced on Friday in Oslo.
“Of course cyberactivism as a movement can change things, but we cannot forget that the Tunisian revolution began on the ground,” said Ben Mhenni, adding that if she did indeed win the Nobel Peace Prize she would dedicate it to “the martyrs and the wounded throughout Tunisia.”
Others echoed the sentiment.
“It wasn’t Twitter, it wasn’t Facebook, that carried out the revolutions,” said Riadh Guerfali, a member of the Tunisian Nawaat network. “Here, we are the children of those who were imprisoned, tortured, of those who truly sacrificed their lives.”
Along with Ben Mhenni, another “Arab Spring” blogger considered a Nobel frontrunner is Google executive Wael Ghonim, who was a central inspiration to the protests on Tahrir Square in Cairo.
Another frontrunner is thought to be Israa Abdel Fattah of Egypt and the April 6th youth movement she co-founded in 2008.
The Nobel Committee keeps its list of candidates for the Peace Prize a closely-guarded secret. But every year experts and observers circulate a list of names thought to be at the top.
Experts agree it would be timely for the prestigious award to go to actors within the Arab Spring uprising, which brought the overthrow of autocratic regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and rattled the ones in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.
Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told AFP last week that “it has not been particularly difficult this year (to decide on a winner).”
Monday’s meeting in Tunisia was the third of its kind, with Arab bloggers previously having gathered in Beirut in 2008 and 2009.
Organisers said 10 Palestinian bloggers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip could not attend because they were denied visas. Tunisia’s interior ministry had no immediate comment.