President Obama met Zahraa Said, Khaled Said’s sister, and Tunisian blogger and activist Jamel Bettaieb of Sidi Bou Zaid at the White House last Wednesday.
According to a press release issued by the White House president Obama commemorated the sacrifices of citizens through the region and reaffirmed US support of the transition to democracy currently taking place in Egypt and Tunisia. Obama said the US welcomed the leadership of emerging voices within civil society, reaffirming its commitment to support universal rights.
Zahraa Said and Jamel Bettaeib are currently in Washington to accept the 2011 Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) on behalf of the citizens of Egypt and Tunisia for standing against dictatorship.
Zahraa Said is the sister of Khaled Said, whose murder by two police officers in the Sidi Gaber district of Alexandria in June 2010 launched a grassroots movement that contributed directly to the January 25 revolution in Egypt.
Jamel Bettaeib is a Tunisian teacher, activist, trade unionist and blogger from Sidi Bou Zid, the hometown of late Mohamed Bou Azizi, now considered the igniter of the Arab revolutions. Bettaeib is a professor of German at the Sidi Bou Zid institute. He was an active member in the protests movement during the revolution through trade unions.
The National Endowment Democracy is a private NGO founded in 1983 and funded by the US congress. It is a grant-making organization dedicated to strengthening democratic institutions around the world. This year its 2011 Democracy Award and roundtable event honoured the citizens of Egypt and Tunisia. The roundtable discussion was about the Arab Spring revolutions and the struggle for democracy in the Middle East. The panelists were from Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen.