The social protest movement that has been stirring in France for the past month has caused a lot of reactions from the Maghreb and Middle East countries. Between satire and parallel with the Arab spring, journalists and Internet users do not hesitate to ironicize.
The Arab world is watching with great attention the events that have been taking place in France over the past month. At the origin of the "Yellow Vests’" movement, the increase in fuel tax. A demand that then widened: lowering unemployment, abolishing other taxes... Some people are going so far as to ask for the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron. A call that has become a real slogan in the demonstrations held every Saturday throughout France
The mobilization has experienced its share of overflows and violence. In total, 820 demonstrators and more than 200 police officers were injured, more than 1,600 arrested and nearly 1,400 taken into police custody. Four people died in incidents related to the movement. These facts have provoked reactions and comments in the Arab world.
"Let me explain the French springtime to you"
"An organic protest movement, without a leader and without a clear ideology, has just emerged in France. I've been waiting for this since 2011. Let me explain the French spring," writes Karl Sharro, a Lebanese blogger, on his Twitter account. In a series of messages, the cartoonist makes sarcastic decryptions where, in a logic of inverted gaze, he uses the reflexes generally adopted by the Western media to deal with uprisings in the Arab world:
"Experts are already warning of a potential domino effect, which could lead to the spread of these protests from France to neighbouring countries. The East's position on this issue is still unclear. However, they call on the French authorities to respect the right to demonstrate," he continued in another tweet. Before concluding: "It is with great pleasure that as a Middle Eastern, I would say that all this is just a matter of oil".
There, the rule of law prevails. There, however, looked like a (small) little bit like here for a weekend.
The Lebanese daily L'Orient-Le jour, written by Anthony Samrani, also wonders whether this movement is not a sign of "a democracy in peril". The journalist undertakes an analysis of the reasons for the mobilization, denouncing the shortcomings of the government and the feeling of downgrading
However, the author nuances the comparison: "There is no dictator to bring down. Nor is there a police state or a moukhabarat [intelligence services] that is quick to make you disappear at the slightest criticism. There, popular demonstrations are allowed, opposition is free to express itself and the worst insults against the head of state are tolerated. There, (quality) schools are free of charge, as are health services, and the State provides assistance to the most disadvantaged. There, the rule of law prevails. There, however, looked a little bit like here for a weekend. “I feel like I'm in Beirut,” he writes, "several Lebanese residents of the French capital have told us”.
In Algeria, the satirical site "El Manchar" prefers to use humour, by disguising General De Gaulle's famous formula during the Liberation of the French capital in 1944: " Paris outraged, Paris burned, Paris martyred but Paris macronized".
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Tunisians offer the "know-how" of their police officers
On social networks, many Internet users have ridiculed the image of what they call "France as a lesson giver". Tunisians did not hesitate to refer to the famous proposal of Michèle Alliot-Marie, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, who said during the events of 14 January 2011 in Tunisia: "We propose that the know-how of our security forces, which is recognised throughout the world, should make it possible to resolve security situations of this type". Today, Tunisian Internet users in turn suggest sending their troops to reinforce their French counterparts.
As a proof that Tunisians have a persistent memory, others have taken up the polemical title of an article in Libération, published following the Bardo attacks in Tunis in 2015: "Tunisia is over, tourism is over". At the time, this title was criticized by President Beji Caid Essebsi himself. At the beginning of the week, Internet users broadcast images of the scenes of violence on the Champs-Élysées, accompanied by the message: "Paris's over".
And the parallel does not stop there. Michel Picard, RFI correspondent in Tunisia, reveals a surprising conversation with a Tunisian police officer:
At a road check in Tunisia, when the usual "Documents, please" turns into: "It's revolution in France! Will Macron buzz off, like Ben Ali ?". An the police officer conclues:"Her it's worse now. Tell it to the protestors"
If the French protest movement provokes sarcasm, it also inspires. In Basra, a large city in southern Iraq, hundreds of demonstrators put on yellow vests. They too are protesting against unemployment, but also against corruption and water and electricity cuts.