Update: At Leila Charfi’s request, I added a paragraph below and shortened her quote to give it more context. She was concerned that the original version highlighted the role of the Internet in Tunisia’s revolution but did not credit street protesters. At least 219 protesters died during the uprising, according to the UN.
TUNIS — Last November, dozens of young Arabs lined up for the chance to meet him. When he spoke of his struggles and triumphs, they hung on his every word. And when only one of the 50 attendees was chosen for training, some of the young Arabs grew frustrated and complained of being excluded.
A jihadist back from battling Americans in Afghanistan? A recruiter for al Qaeda’s North African affiliate? A Hamas member looking for volunteers to attack Israel?
No, the visitor was a Tunisian-American eBay executive who has worked for Apple and Oracle, and founded two Silicon Valley startups. His audience? Young Tunisian entrepreneurs and programmers who dream of turning this city into the Arab world’s Silicon Valley.
“There is a lot of potential,” Sami Ben Romdhane, the eBay executive, told me in a telephone interview this week. “I don’t see any difference between students who are graduating there and students who are graduating here and in Europe.”