vendredi 7 octobre 2011

The Tunisian Revolt in a few lines

Unless you live on another planet, you probably have heard of the January 2011 Tunisian Revolt or at least of the other revolutions in the Arab world, notably in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain. As many of you know, popular movements within what we call the Arab Spring began mostly in Tunisia before spreading to other countries. Many Tunisians will tell you that the uprising that led to Ben Ali’s ousting did not begin on December 17th with the Bouazizi incident, as many observers reported. In fact many saw signs of change before that date such as anti regime chants at soccer games, the advent of dissident bloggers, beginnings of protester gatherings, the May 22nd protest…
Mohamed Bouazizi

Here’s a quick overview of the Bouazizi incident. On December 17th 2010, a young fruits and vegetables merchant named Mohamed Bouazizi saw his stand confiscated by authorities under pretense that he was committing a violation. His case was one of many acts of humiliation to the people under Ben Ali. In a desperate act, one that earned him international attention, the young man committed self-immolation in Sidi Bouzid. This led to many protests and demonstrations within the city, which later spread to the rest of the country. The incident was so widely publicized that president Ben Ali went to visit Bouazizi while he was hospitalized. He later succumbed to his wounds and died January 4th 2011.

Ben Ali visits Mohamed Bouazizi
Upon seeing gatherings in Sidi Bouzid, a city known for its hard working people, many began to believe in revolution. Aziz Ben Taieb, a young student from the IHEC Carthage, spoke of the growing movement: ‘‘When we saw people stop working to go protest in Sidi Bouzid we told ourselves that this was serious and not likely to go away soon’’.

Demonstrations continued until Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia. In the last weeks before January 14th, many activists and dissidents were jailed; among them were Slim Amamou and Azyz Ammami, two well known bloggers. Also, close to 300 people were killed and 700 more wounded.

Unrest only ceased after Ben Ali’s successor, interim Prime Minister Ghanouchi, resigned in late February. Some protests still occur; recently, police, teachers and parents of martyrs who died during the revolution proclaimed their outrage. 

For some Tunisians, current demonstrations are less effective and only serve to discourage foreign investment. It is difficult to argue with their reasoning but a democratic state (or one wishing to become democratic) must allow peaceful demonstrations. You can count on a wave of protests following the election on October 23rd if any fraud is suspected. Activists and bloggers agree on one thing: the people will only accept a truly democratic and transparent election.

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