Tunisians mark fifth anniversary of revolution

Published January 15th, 2016 - 10:00 GMT
Tunisians gather at a rally during elections in 2014. (File Photo)
Tunisians gather at a rally during elections in 2014. (File Photo)

Thousands gathered in Tunis Thursday to mark the fifth anniversary of the revolution that toppled longtime dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and inspired the Arab Spring, AFP reported.

Tunisians flocked to Habib Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis, the main site of the uprising five years ago. Many attended political rallies, chanting slogans like "Work! Freedom! Dignity!" while others attended concerts and reminisced about the revolution.

Despite Tunisians' fierce pride of the revolution, the anniversary was tempered by economic concerns and a rise in militant violence.

“The revolution did not help me in any way – prices went up, many young people are still marginalized,” Latifa, a 40-year-old seamstress, told AFP. “But I came to celebrate anyway, because the revolution brought us some democracy, and that’s important.”

Tunisia's revolution inspired uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and other Arab countries, but five years later Tunisia is the only success story of the Arab Spring. Syria and Yemen have been thrown into civil war, Libya remains wracked by a fractured political system and militant violence, and Egypt's first democratically elected leader was overthrown in a military coup.

By contrast, Tunisia has organized elections in 2011 and 2014, adopted a new constitution, and last year its National Dialogue Quartet - a group of civil society organizations - was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for facilitatiing the transition to democracy.

“We are proud of the Tunisian exception, which dazzled the world. Tunisia broke once and for all with authoritarianism and tyranny,” Prime Minister Habib Essid said in a statement to mark the anniversary.

However, Tunisia's economy remains sluggish, with poverty and unemployment still high, especially among young people.

But the country has struggled to revive its economy, with poverty and unemployment still high.

Since Ben Ali's overthrow there has also been an uptick in militant violence, most dramatically in the attacks on the Bardo museum and on a Mediterranean resort last year.

The state of the revolution remains fragile as the country struggles to rebuild its economy and not slide back into authoritarianism in the wake of militant attacks. 

“Torture and repression were hallmarks of former president Ben Ali’s regime; they must not be allowed to become defining features of post-uprising Tunisia,” Said Boumedouha, the deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program, told AFP.


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