TUNISIA Tunisia commemorates Thursday the 10th anniversary of the ousted flight of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, ousted from power in a popular revolt warning of strife and civil war in the region known as the Arab Spring.
But there will be no festive celebration marking the revolution in this North African nation, which was ordered to be blocked to contain the coronavirus.
The tree-lined Bourguiba Avenue, the main artery in the Tunisian capital, which became a center of the uprising, could be deserted if citizens obey orders to stay home. Demonstrations and rallies are banned for four days starting on Thursday, although there was no guarantee that the rules would be followed.
After the political stalemate, it is the turn of the health stalemate, said a salesman, Ahmed Hassen, who said with a laugh that the situation looks like Ben Ali’s revenge.
Ben Ali ruled for 23 years over a system that instilled fear in many Tunisians, deprived of free press, free speech and other freedoms. He fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011, amid a snowy rebellion marked by violence, rampant looting and incessant calls to come out.
Ben Ali died in 2019 in exile.
The revolution was inadvertently triggered by the desperate action of a 26-year-old fruit seller, Mohammed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, to protest police humiliation in a city in the nation’s neglected hinterland. Sidi Bouzid. His death sparked outrageous protests and mass demonstrations against poverty, unemployment and oppression. This in turn ricocheted beyond Tunisia, triggering what is known as the Arab Spring uprisings with coups and civil wars in the region.
In Tunisia, joy and revenge marked the beginning of the post-Ben Ali era, with protesters tearing down the ubiquitous Ben Ali posters and occupying the luxurious home of the presidents’ brother-in-law, Belhassen Trabelsi. The Tunisian train station burned down, tear gas flooded Avenue Bourguiba and other neighborhoods of the capital, and helicopters flew low over the city. More than 300 people were killed. However, chaos was contained.
A thriving democracy grew as a result of the Ben Ali era, but a rage of frustration hangs over the country, marked by extremist attacks, political conflicts, a troubled economy and unfulfilled promises, including internal development.
Despite the guaranteed rights, numerous democratic elections, protests are flourishing, especially in the central and southern regions, where the youth unemployment rate reaches 30% and the poverty rate is over 20%. According to the Tunisian Forum of Economic and Social Rights, more than 1,000 demonstrations were counted in November alone. The lull months paralyzed oil and phosphate production, a major source, for months, drilling billions of dollars into the budget.
Tunisians have held numerous democratic elections, for mayor, parliament and president, appointing in particular a professor of constitutional law, Kais Saied, to the presidential palace in 2019.
Today’s Tunisia joins advanced countries in terms of democracy, said Najib Chebbi, founder of the Progressive Democratic Party, the main political opposition under Ben Ali.
The Tunisian people have political rights, but are still waiting for their demands for dignity and work to be met, he said, alluding to the revolutionary slogan of the demonstrators shouting, freedom, jobs and dignity.
Analyst Slaheddine Jourchi said that what has been achieved in the decades since the revolution is far from responding to the demands of the population, especially the expectations of the youth the backbone of the revolution.
The revolution needs a deep appreciation, he said.
For Chebbi, the opposition leader of the past, Tunisia sits on a volcano and threatens to derail.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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