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Tunisia – the Exception | Inter Press Service

Eight years have passed since the Arab Spring. In many countries, the uprising was crushed, but in Tunisia democracy gained a foothold. Arbetet Global travelled to the small country town Side Bouzid to find out why.
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Eight years have passed since the Arab Spring. In many countries, the uprising was crushed, but in Tunisia democracy gained a foothold. Arbetet Global travelled to the small country town Side Bouzid to find out why.

Issaouis Bilels’ residence turf. Credit score: Massinissa Benlakehal Arbetet-International/IPS

SIDE BOUZID, Tunisia, Dec 17 2018 (IPS) – Eight years have handed since the Arab Spring. In lots of nations, the rebellion was crushed, however in Tunisia democracy gained a foothold. Arbetet International travelled to the small nation city Aspect Bouzid to seek out out why.

By way of the automotive window, two boys round the age of 10 may be seen pushing a hen to the floor to chop its throat.

It’s supper time in the small nation city of Aspect Bouzid.

An older lady with a brush sweeps the mud from her a part of the road in Grawriya, as the neighbourhood is understood.

That is Issaouis Bilels’ residence turf. He’s 28 years previous and lives together with his mother and father and 6 siblings. He exhibits us round the dusty streets of an space that didn’t exist earlier than the nation’s dictator was overthrown eight years in the past.

Most individuals are married at his age, have had youngsters and shaped a household. He scoffs at the thought.

“How could I do that? I have nothing. No job, no security. Nothing.”

4 months in the past, he was heading abroad. Like so many others, he deliberate to board a rubber boat and cross his fingers that he’d survive the voyage to Spain.

He was nearly to purchase a ticket to Morocco, then pay 1,000 euro to human traffickers to get a seat on a ship.

He had a plan. A pal already in Spain was engaged on getting him a job. However out of the blue all the things modified.

His good friend acquired a brand new job, in Cuba. Issaouis Bilels cancelled his plan. He didn’t need to go as a result of he didn’t know what would occur. Subsequently, he’s biding his time.

“Are you not afraid to get in a rubber boat?”

“I’m afraid to stay here without any future,” he replies.

He remembers that day eight years in the past when the good friend he used to play pool with poured a flammable liquid over himself, lit up and burned to dying.


Inhabitants:11.5 million.

Life expectancy: 75.9 years.

Financial system: Export-based financial system during which the textile business performs an necessary position. The tourism business has additionally been an essential supply of revenue. 80 per cent of exports go to EU nations.

Labour market: The official unemployment fee has been round 13-15 per cent for a number of years, however many in the nation are underemployed and should resort to momentary work. Half of the workforce is employed in the retail and repair industries, whereas one third is working in the industrial sector and 15 per cent in agriculture.

Unions: The nation’s largest commerce union UGTT has near 750,000 members. The union was intently linked to the ruling celebration RCD throughout the dictator Ben Ali’s time (1987-2011) however acted independently and initiated demonstrations towards the regime. Following the 2011 revolt, two new union federations, UTT and UCGT have been launched.

Public well being: The well being state of affairs amongst the inhabitants is claimed to be amongst the greatest in North Africa. Most residents have entry to medical insurance that entitles them to primary care. At the similar time, improvement and welfare differ drastically inside the nation.

The authorized system: From 2014, Tunisia’s new democratic structure presents robust safety for human rights and ensures gender equality. The structure is considered liberal and in contrast to most Arab nations, Islamic regulation, Sharia, just isn’t the foundation for the rule of regulation.

How does a revolution begin?

There are not any easy solutions however on Friday, December 17, 2010, vegetable dealer Mohamed Bouazizi stood in entrance of the City Corridor in Aspect Bouzid. He’d had sufficient. He wasn’t the first, however when his petrol-covered garments caught hearth and he twisted in agony, it had historic penalties.

In contrast to earlier suicide burnings, the media coated the incident exhaustively.

Twitter had just lately turn into a drive to be reckoned with, and thru social media and the web, the story unfold in a area the place many recognised the hopelessness. In addition to the corruption, the poverty, and the rising value of dwelling.

The day after the burning, the union UGTT calls a gathering. Demonstrations are organised. Entrepreneurs, legal professionals and bizarre individuals additionally react.

Dictator Ben Ali’s response was sending police. Hundreds of police. It was like pouring petrol on a fireplace.

The protest grows over the following days. Throughout the day, the center class performs peaceable demonstrations, whereas youths struggle with police at night time.

The rebellion spreads. From metropolis to metropolis, nation to nation. The Arab world catches hearth. Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain.

For some time it seems to be prefer it’s getting into the proper course, as if the entire area is about to be democratised. However quickly, it stalls. In some nations, previous despots are dethrones however changed by new ones. In nation after nation, the uprisings are crushed. However not in Tunisia.

For some purpose, democracy positive aspects floor right here.

The roadblocks are all over the place. However the police simply wave the automobiles previous, virtually a bit apathetically. The police presence is palpable in the nation that is filled with jihadists. About 6,000 former IS warriors have returned residence. A number of weeks in the past, a feminine suicide bomber blasted herself to demise in central Tunis. About 20 individuals have been injured.

Democracy is frail right here, hanging on by a thread.

To the west lies the army state of Algeria and to the east the lawless Libya, whereas Saudi Arabia and Iran watch the whole area like two historic birds of prey. Each declare to guard Islamic traditions. Democracy isn’t on their want listing.

However, ladies right here stroll round with out headscarves. And final spring, the capital Tunis acquired its first feminine mayor. The federal government has a Jewish vacationer minister and is presently discussing a proposal to introduce 10 days of paternity depart.

When specialists speak about the democratic exception, many look to the previous.

In historic occasions, Carthage, now a suburb of the capital Tunis, was a buying and selling metropolis influenced by a number of Mediterranean cultures.

Trendy historical past, nevertheless, is characterised by the colonial heritage. In 1956, Tunisia turned unbiased from France and the dream of a contemporary society grew.

Polygamy was abolished, abortion turned authorized. Contraceptive tablets have been made obtainable and a number of other reforms have been carried out that meant ladies might research and take part in political decision-making. Civil society was strengthened. Though the dictator Ben Ali was a strict ruler, essential voices have been heard. Between the dictator’s iron fists, a fierce civil society grew.

When the rebellion began in 2010, the UGTT and employers’ organisation UTICA have been a few of the forces that took a stand for change, and in 2011 Ben Ali fled the nation.

The average Islamist get together Ennahda gained the subsequent election however voluntarily gave up its energy in 2013 when discussions about the new structure turned too heated.

A brand new centrist authorities was inaugurated in 2014, which then selected to ask the Islamic get together into the authorities.

The guiding star was consensus, as an alternative of polarisation.

It’s a aim that has been retained. Tunisia can also be the solely nation by which everybody – state, commerce unions and employers – have joined the International Deal and in 2015, the union and the employers along with a human rights group and a authorized organisation acquired the Nobel Peace Prize.

Politically, Tunisia is a hit story.

However every little thing in life shouldn’t be about politics.

Nightfall is starting to fall when Lazhar Gharbi opens the door to his workplace at UGTT. He directs us to a naked room and begins to place up the pictures of union leaders that have been beforehand standing on the flooring. He opens the window. Then hurries off to order some cups of tea.

When he, a short while later, enjoys his cup of tea, his phrases are flowing. He’s not one for being interrupted. He speaks loudly and with flashes in his eyes.

“All union people speak that loudly here,” the photographer whispers later.


Eight years have passed since the Arab Spring. In many countries, the uprising was crushed, but in Tunisia democracy gained a foothold. Arbetet Global travelled to the small country town Side Bouzid to find out why.

Lazhar Gharbi, UGTT. Credit score: Massinissa Benlakehal Arbetet-International/IPS


Lazhar Gharbi tells us how he was in the mosque the similar day as Mohamed Bouazizi burned himself to dying. They rushed out to the sq. the place the entire metropolis had gathered. Quickly, the protests started.

Nevertheless it nonetheless didn’t end up the approach he had thought it will.

“After the revolution, unemployment increased even more. The youth started drinking, taking drugs. It just got worse. Prices rose. Youth unemployment grew.”

He calls the Islamic celebration Ennahda fascists who’re ruining democracy.

“Does it look dark for Tunisia?”

“Not at all,” he replies. “I’m optimistic. It’s not night. We’re rather in a fog that’s about to lift soon. We won the first revolution, but a second one is needed. One social and one financial. We managed to change politics, but not the financial system, which remains the same as during the dictatorship.”

At the again of the café subsequent to the sq. the place Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on hearth, Issaouis Bilels sits in a purple leather-based couch and smokes.

He by no means made it to Spain. Time is shifting slowly. For 3 years, he has been unemployed. His brothers help the household. He is aware of many individuals right here. He typically will get espresso without spending a dime. Cigarettes too. He has a spot right here.

“I want to leave for a better future but I want to know what I’m doing when I leave. I don’t just want to leave my family and everyone without having any idea of ​​what to do. That’s why I cancelled when my friend got a job in Cuba,” he says.

He speaks softly. Brings to life the reminiscence of his pool buddy.

He remembers him from the vegetable market the place he labored too. Mohamed Bouazizi might have been six years older than him however they often caught up as individuals do in small cities. They each frolicked in a spot the place they performed pool and foosball.

“He was a regular guy. Wasn’t into politics, religion or anything. He never made much of a fuss. He was not at all like me.”

Issaouis Bilels says that again then he used to impress the police. He smoked pot, drank and was rising a beard.

“They thought I was a Salafist but I just wanted to show that I was entitled to have a beard if I wanted to,” he stated.

On December 17, 2010 he was sitting in a restaurant.

“Someone came in and told us. I could not understand it.”

Like many others, he went to the sq. to see what had occurred.

He doesn’t consider that Mohammed needed to kill himself. That the self-immolation was a mistake, maybe it might at greatest be described as a symptom of wounded masculinity.

Mohamed was upset that a police officer had hit him. There was nothing unusual about it. The police have been typically in the sq.. Requested for documentation. Harassed. Demonstrated their energy.

However Mohamed was hit by a feminine police officer. It was humiliating.

“He lost face. He wanted redemption. Several people urged him to do something.”

Being hit may need been the factor that tipped him over the edge in a society the place costs have been going up and starvation was a continuing menace.

He protested. Turned up at the city corridor simply behind the sq.. However they refused to see him.

That’s when he poured the liquid over himself. Everybody was watching.

“I think it was mostly a threat.”

However nothing occurred.

26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi waited. In all probability hoped somebody would concentrate his protest. However all was quiet. The officers simply watched. Nobody responded. He lit himself up. Witnesses stated they stood nonetheless and watched him burn.

A taxi driver ran out with a fireplace extinguisher, however by then it was too late. Mohamed had already set North Africa ablaze.




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