Remembering Tunisia 2012: The Jasmine Pioneer One Year Later

Published January 16th, 2012 - 10:01 GMT

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Ben Ali toppled, setting the domino effect into play for regional leaders. 14th Jan marked the 1st anniversary of the death of the 24 year-old dictatorship of Zine E- Abidine Ben Ali. Forced out of power, into a shameful hiding in KSA., he took just under 4 weeks to give the people what they wanted-- his riddance - and the birth of people power.
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Image 1 of 14: Ben Ali toppled, setting the domino effect into play for regional leaders. 14th Jan marked the 1st anniversary of the death of the 24 year-old dictatorship of Zine E- Abidine Ben Ali. Forced out of power, into a shameful hiding in KSA., he took just under 4 weeks to give the people what they wanted-- his riddance - and the birth of people power.

President Bourguiba Father of Tunisia preceded the Prodigal son, Ben Ali. He freed them of the French yoke. Tunisia's beloved dictator gave refuge to the PLO, & took a 1-party state toward democracy. He gave women votes, dumped polygamy & the veil. Though sworn for life, by '87 PM Ben Ali swindled him of power, certifying him medically senile.
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Image 1 of 14: President Bourguiba Father of Tunisia preceded the Prodigal son, Ben Ali. He freed them of the French yoke. Tunisia's beloved dictator gave refuge to the PLO, & took a 1-party state toward democracy. He gave women votes, dumped polygamy & the veil. Though sworn for life, by '87 PM Ben Ali swindled him of power, certifying him medically senile.

Mohamed Bouazizi: the Arab people's man of the century. This desperate pauper 'changed' the Arab world & inspired the whole globe to protest for their rights & command attention from authority: for better democratic, economic, & any which rights. As Billy Joel sings, 'We didn't start the fire' (Bouazizi did). He had to die for our wake-up call.
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Image 1 of 14: Mohamed Bouazizi: the Arab people's man of the century. This desperate pauper 'changed' the Arab world & inspired the whole globe to protest for their rights & command attention from authority: for better democratic, economic, & any which rights. As Billy Joel sings, 'We didn't start the fire' (Bouazizi did). He had to die for our wake-up call.

This frustrated fruit-seller lacking the power to change his life, ended up in death unwittingly changing lives, not least those of pugnacious rulers. His vexation was felt in the highest ranks of power. His spark was seen far & wide; he did not sacrifice in vain. Ben Ali's deathbed visit was a last-ditch attempt to appease after weak speeches.
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Image 1 of 14: This frustrated fruit-seller lacking the power to change his life, ended up in death unwittingly changing lives, not least those of pugnacious rulers. His vexation was felt in the highest ranks of power. His spark was seen far & wide; he did not sacrifice in vain. Ben Ali's deathbed visit was a last-ditch attempt to appease after weak speeches.

Sidi Bouzid: hometown of Bouazizi; birthplace of Arab revolutions. Many images got appropriated as the face of his cause. Aside from men burning, the man shooting figment bullets, with a 'baguette' at a row of riot police in Bourguiba Blvd speaks to the human imagination that fired up Tunisia's revolution. Bouazizi kindled violent demonstrations.
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Image 1 of 14: Sidi Bouzid: hometown of Bouazizi; birthplace of Arab revolutions. Many images got appropriated as the face of his cause. Aside from men burning, the man shooting figment bullets, with a 'baguette' at a row of riot police in Bourguiba Blvd speaks to the human imagination that fired up Tunisia's revolution. Bouazizi kindled violent demonstrations.

Bouazizi, symbolizing youthful disillusionment & unemployment, triggered an impassioned eruption of demonstrations, whose cause struck a resounding chord: From Sidi Bouzid - a known center for opposition to authoritarianism - to nationwide, dispossessed Tunisians spurred by labor unions took to streets to decry living conditions & the economy.
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Image 1 of 14: Bouazizi, symbolizing youthful disillusionment & unemployment, triggered an impassioned eruption of demonstrations, whose cause struck a resounding chord: From Sidi Bouzid - a known center for opposition to authoritarianism - to nationwide, dispossessed Tunisians spurred by labor unions took to streets to decry living conditions & the economy.

Protests spread to the capital Tunis where Bourguiba Avenue & the 'Kasba' demos were the precedent for Tahrir. Live ammunition fired into crowds only spurred on the gumption. The area afore the foreboding interior ministry swelled in a critical mass of red, single-starred flags. This tipped Tunisia's revolt which in turn inflamed the region.
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Image 1 of 14: Protests spread to the capital Tunis where Bourguiba Avenue & the 'Kasba' demos were the precedent for Tahrir. Live ammunition fired into crowds only spurred on the gumption. The area afore the foreboding interior ministry swelled in a critical mass of red, single-starred flags. This tipped Tunisia's revolt which in turn inflamed the region.

Ben Ali's 2nd wife, 'hairdresser' in reference to humble roots, stood for rampant corruption. Leila Trabelsi reminded the protestor of the injustice of a system that tolerated gross misdemeanors at the top. This 1st (2nd) Lady syphoned money off the state, stoking flames of discontent. Some $16.8bn of 'spoils' of the regime remain unrecovered.
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Image 1 of 14: Ben Ali's 2nd wife, 'hairdresser' in reference to humble roots, stood for rampant corruption. Leila Trabelsi reminded the protestor of the injustice of a system that tolerated gross misdemeanors at the top. This 1st (2nd) Lady syphoned money off the state, stoking flames of discontent. Some $16.8bn of 'spoils' of the regime remain unrecovered.

Ben Ali 'Harab' or 'fled' became a refrain of the Arab Spring: Bouazizi died Jan 4: 10 days on, as crowds hankered for change, Ben Ali quietly stole away in the night to KSA. The President's ouster,14 Jan, fell 28 days after a man, followed by towns, had burnt with rage. It took Egypt 18 days to be shot of Mubarak. These were the speedier ones.
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Image 1 of 14: Ben Ali "Harab" or 'fled' became a refrain of the Arab Spring: Bouazizi died Jan 4: 10 days on, as crowds hankered for change, Ben Ali quietly stole away in the night to KSA. The President's ouster,14 Jan, fell 28 days after a man, followed by towns, had burnt with rage. It took Egypt 18 days to be shot of Mubarak. These were the speedier ones.

Following Ben Ali's bolting, & a state of emergency, an interim government tided Tunisia over. Political exiles returned to steer the country through transition. Rashid Ghanoushi, co-founder of the Islamist Ennahda (not to be confused with Mohamed Ghanouchi,1st PM of the care-taker government) returned to lead Ennahda to success at the elections.
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Image 1 of 14: Following Ben Ali's bolting, & a state of emergency, an interim government tided Tunisia over. Political exiles returned to steer the country through transition. Rashid Ghanoushi, co-founder of the Islamist Ennahda (not to be confused with Mohamed Ghanouchi,1st PM of the care-taker government) returned to lead Ennahda to success at the elections.

Fouad Mobazaa stood in as PM, temporarily head of the country, holding fort as the 3rd short-term leader. Mebazaa was appointed acting president for the caretaker coalition government that still kept members of Ben Ali's party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD). Since, the RCD was disqualified from transitional government & disbanded.
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Image 1 of 14: Fouad Mobazaa stood in as PM, temporarily head of the country, holding fort as the 3rd short-term leader. Mebazaa was appointed acting president for the caretaker coalition government that still kept members of Ben Ali's party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD). Since, the RCD was disqualified from transitional government & disbanded.

Moncef Marzouki took over from Mebazaa's interim presidency. This doctor & man of letters who reads law, is the newly incumbent President of the Republic of Tunisia. He returned from French exile 4 days after Ben Ali had made off for pastures sandy. His party- the secular center-left Congress for the Republic (CPR) came in 2nd after Nahda.
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Image 1 of 14: Moncef Marzouki took over from Mebazaa's interim presidency. This doctor & man of letters who reads law, is the newly incumbent President of the Republic of Tunisia. He returned from French exile 4 days after Ben Ali had made off for pastures sandy. His party- the secular center-left Congress for the Republic (CPR) came in 2nd after Nahda.

Qatar's foot in the door: Qatar Prince Sheikh Hamad Bin khalifa attended the downtown event 14 Jan to mark celebratory Tunisia's one-year old dramatic events. Qatar's emir may have picked up a cool welcome as some construe his emirate as meddling in a post-revolution as new Tunisia carves a path between GCC leaning or a Euro-Western orientation.
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Image 1 of 14: Qatar's foot in the door: Qatar Prince Sheikh Hamad Bin khalifa attended the downtown event 14 Jan to mark celebratory Tunisia's one-year old dramatic events. Qatar's emir may have picked up a cool welcome as some construe his emirate as meddling in a post-revolution as new Tunisia carves a path between GCC leaning or a Euro-Western orientation.

Algeria is pro-revolution: An interesting coterie of Arab dignitaries joined Tunisia in commemoration of Jan 14 that triggered an Arab Spring. Algeria's leader Bouteflika perhaps felt sufficiently over protests in his own back yard last year; and the head of Libya's interim government, Mustepha Abdel-Jalil, celebrated scoring Libya's revolution.
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Image 1 of 14: Algeria is pro-revolution: An interesting coterie of Arab dignitaries joined Tunisia in commemoration of Jan 14 that triggered an Arab Spring. Algeria's leader Bouteflika perhaps felt sufficiently over protests in his own back yard last year; and the head of Libya's interim government, Mustepha Abdel-Jalil, celebrated scoring Libya's revolution.

Masses of Tunisians marched in peaceful triumph Saturday Jan 14, 2012,  to mark the one-year anniversary of the revolution that ended the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali — and indisputably sparked uprisings around the Arab world. Arab dignitaries too were out for the occasion of professing their pro-revolution stance, joining their hands in recognizing the momentous events that precipitated an Arab Spring.

All attended an event at Palais des Congres in downtown Tunis Saturday 14 January. 

Perhaps the revelers marching the streets were celebrating the rise of the will of the populace and the demonstration (or demo). This new found, no-longer secret, weapon of people willpower was well and truly out of the bag. The proverbial genie, more aptly for the region, was out of the bottle. The leaders were variously honoring their own journeys and participations in the whirlwind and drawn-out conflicts.

This was a moment to really absorb how one Tunisian's (everyman's) impotent rage- turned suicidal despair-- planted strategically in the public gaze (aided and abetted by FaceBook) had changed the history of Tunisia and no doubt their Middle East. The rest as they say is history... 

People wrath

Anger from the masses expressed peacefully, albeit vociferously and explosively, had led leaders to move aside, or keel over, feeling keenly the distress of their failure to appease this people wave of objection against their unpopularity.

Ousting of a dictator aside, what was the significance of January 14? Had this national day now appropriated as a pan-Arab day been about the run-away Arab leader, or was it a moment to pause and take stock of where 'changed' Arab states were actually heading?

One year on from commemorating one year since the success of the “Jasmine revolution”, Tunisian people are looking at their achievements proudly and with hope. 

Before January 2011, Tunisia was known for its progressive measures of development and healthy social conditions (among the best in the MENA), more liberal social norms, a strong middle class and gender equality to boot, all as come about by the first Tunisian dictator after 'independence'.  Still, these apparent advances did not preclude a stifling political system. While the political system is about to breathe the new air of democracy once again, there is still a long way to go to declaring 'better times'.

Such is the remaining struggle on their hands that in fact celebrations were almost marred by the current of distress felt economically in a Tunisia of unemployment and debt (not helped by the outstanding embezzled funds of the former regime who grew fat off the land or state).

The new heirs of 'Carthage' have now inherited the good, and the residual bad, that has not gone away over night.

The revolution and the neighboring Libyan crisis have had a negative impact on the short-term economic outlook, particularly in the area of tourism and foreign direct investment.  Tunisia’s GDP, once on the rise, is now set to slow down, notably aggrevating the rate of unemployment. Despite these short-term challenges, Tunisia’s economic outlook remains positive.  The pace of growth is expected to increase with alliances with Europe and across the Mediterranean, maybe even with the GCC.

Remembering one man:

On 17 December 20II Mohammad Bouzizi, a street vendor from Sidi Bouzid a town on the margins of Tunisia set himself on fire as an act of despair. This tragic incident has sparked off marathon protest movements all over the country in a national revolt, that soon became a pan-Arab revolt of sorts once it reached neighbors.These revolutions were without leaders nor a clear  ideology. What they were was a quest for freedom, dignity and more and more regionally and the world over, a hunger for employment.

For Tunisia, four weeks of confrontation were enough to tip the former President to the edge, admitting faintly his mistakes as he abruptly fled the country on Friday January 14, 2011. Egypt's too was all over in under 3 weeks. These were the fast and furious revolutions. Others in the region have been more protracted.

This man's burning proves that an impotent outrage can affect the highest echelons of power and the domino effect is still alive.

One year after of the necessity to be united and rational in order to establish new legitimate institutions, Tunisians saw succeeding smoothly and peacefully one another three interim governments before legal and transparent election of constituent assembly was organized on October 23 2011. December saw the new President signing on to his new office.

"The Assembly consists of Two hundred seventeen members who represent a multitude of political parties and independents what reflects dynamism and diversity of the post-revolution political landscape and is set to draft a new constitution watching with the expectations of new generations of 21 century."

Tunisia today watches over a rich coalition of three political parties: Ennahdha - an Islamist wing, often compared to the Muslim Brotherhood; with leftist elements between the Congress for the Republic (CPR), and the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties (Ettakatol’s). Together, these three have formalized a power-sharing agreement to rule the country until the new constitution will be finalized.

The new Government will tackle, collectively, urgent goals including restoring people’s right and ensuring justice by the families of martyrs, establishing a healthy development inter-regionally, and meeting expectations in issues of employment and decent life choice, particularly for youth and new graduates. Already they are placing progressive measures in place including but not restricting to the pardon of prisoners.

Tunisia greeted the anniversary with prudent optimism, amid worries about high unemployment that cast a shadow over their pride at transforming the country.

Now a human rights activist of the most erudite degree man is president, and a moderate Islamist jailed for years by the old regime is prime minister at the head of a diverse coalition, after the freest elections in Tunisia's history.

As the country that started the Arab Spring, Tunisia appears to be the farthest along in its transformation. Political analysts warn, however, that further gains will not be easy or painless.

The new leader Moncef Marzouki "cautiously optimistic" for Tunisia's development, but remains worried about the country's economic and social situation. It's unclear, too, what the Islamists who won the elections will do with their power.

Does it mean that a country is free once revolutionised? 

Tunisia's journey to obtain freedom from authortarian rule infected the creative conscience of the revolution that took hold in the region and even managed to inspire the world to participate in the spirit of protest.

To end on a pertinent and home-grown note for Tunisia, Al Jazeera said it well: 

"January 14 stands for the enactment of popular will. The revolution Tunisia staged and won is the gift of that will."

As CNN reported

"Each year thousands of young men and women from north Africa try to enter Europe illegally, looking for a better life.

They call themselves "harraka" -- which translates as "the burners" -- because the first thing they do when they reach Europe is to set fire to their passports and documents to avoid being sent back home. Many in Tunisia now see Al Bouazizi as a "harraka" -- but in his own way."

Linguistic triumph: Tunis 'hurra' (is free) and 'thawra' (revolution)

Al Bawaba casts its own predictions into the mix, and sees a future enriched with new Arabic terminology to add to the more popularly attributed 'Algebra' and so forth. 

A new lexicon from the Arab language is set to infect the fast-growing landscape of world-English and internet 'urban English' that is already picking up, spreading virally like wild-fire. 

 

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