The story behind the teenage star of Tunisia's Arab Spring
Remember that epic National Geographic cover photo of an Afghan refugee girl? Yeah, they found her. Seventeen years later.
It didn’t take that long for Your Middle East. But we did find the girl on our favorite Arab Spring picture, the one we have used on so many occasions and digital platforms. The passionate, angry, confident, dedicated, and change-thirsty Tunis protester. She became a symbol for what we set out to cover; a young Middle Eastern crowd looking for ways to battle dogmatic structures. Peacefully.
Yes, we found her. I could write this again, I swear. In fact we – the team behind Your Middle East – have imagined this very moment for three years. Not seventeen, no, but THREE. And here she is – our star of the Arab Spring. Yosser Saidane.
Did you ever realize you ended up on a somewhat famous photo?
No actually, till last year I was unaware of all this till a friend of a friend sent me a link of the cover, and I was quite surprised. But it wasn't something impossible to end up on a cover of a magazine considering the circumstances my country is going through and how all eyes are fixed on us and especially because I was protesting all the time.
Are you still out there protesting?
Yes I am still protesting but not as much as two years or three years ago, because I’m somehow disgusted and desperate. I share these feelings with a number of “engaged” Tunisian youth who sometimes feel that their efforts are futile.
What has changed for you since that photo?
Many things changed on a political level; two governments have come since, the constitution is at last achieved, two leading figures of the opposition has been assassinated and the Tunisian people still has no clue of who killed them, many violent terrorist attacks in the mountains of Tunisia have occurred. But socially nothing actually changed (at least to the better) the problems for which the Tunisian people denounced during the "revolution" of 17th December 2010-14th of January (such as unemployment, high cost of life) are still as they were three years ago and the ruling politicians seem not to mind all this. They are only caring about trivial issues that have nothing to do with the people's needs.
You went out to protest that day. Has Tunisia changed in the way you expected - and perhaps more importantly the way you hoped?
I can't deny that Tunisia has changed from what it was under the dictatorship of Ben Ali's system. But as someone who had very high hopes and expectations about this "revolution" I am disappointed to some level. As I said earlier, socially, nothing have changed since 2011. But, we must not forget that we are enjoying the gift of freedom (at least till now), something the Tunisian people has been missing under the previous regimes that ruled their country, we are enjoying this freedom not only thanks to the uprising of 2010/2011 but also to a long combat against dictatorship from the resistance against the French occupation, till the uprising of miners in Redeyef 2008/2009. That freedom is something really valuable that we should keep fighting to maintain permanently.