Liberation Of Tunisia

After the dizying hights of yesterday’s post, I had over 200 hits thanks to a retweet by Mr Richard Herring, I feel like I should try and entertain the potential new readers of this blog by writing a funny and fun blog post. However, I can’t ignore an event of sysmic proportions that took place yesterday in Tunisia. Instead of writing a light hearted and fun post, I find myself needing to try to express the very strong and confused feelings I have right now. As you might know I grew up in Algeria, until I was about 13. Tunisia was always a very close neibour, and we had many Tunisian friends. I have therefore always felt a strong affinity to Tunisia.

What happened yesterday in Tunisia is probably one of the most important and historic events in the arab world since decolonisation. It is very difficult for someone who isn’t an arab to understand how important the events of Tunisia are. Before I explain exactly how important and how significant these events are for Tunisia, the arab world, and probably the third world, I’ll give a quick overview of the series of events and a few quick contextual notes.

23 years ago Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali came to power, replacing the ailing first president of Tunisia El-Habib Bourguiba. In the 23 years of his reign he turned Tunisia into a somehow prosporous country, although only a few were able to reap the fruits of this economic boom. This economic developement came at the cost of political freedoms. Tunisia was a tight dictatorship. There was a single party in power and dissent was punnished by torture, death, political imprisonment, and exhile. Ben Ali was a favourite of the West because he had crushed the islamist movements of Tunisia. His dictatorial and bloody tactics were forgiven and overlooked, quite a tired and old story.

However, on the 17th of December 2010 an innocuous event would turn the country in turmoil and lead to the eventual depposition of this vile dictator by the power and will of the people. That day the illegal fruit stand of a man who, because he couldn’t find a job, was reduced to selling fruits illegaly was seized by the police. Later that day, in total dispair that man who’s name is Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire, and died on January 3 2011. This led to a popular uprising the likes of which were never seen in that country. Tunisia has been a tightly run police state, and the Tunisian people are notoriously a very peaceful bunch. But the desperate act of Mohammed Bouazizi, started a series of events that would end with the flight of one of the vilest dictators of the Arab world.

For the next 29 days bigger qnd bigger protests swept the country. They were at first economic protests, demanding jobs and a better standard of living. However, the regime reacted like any other authoritarian regime, with violence. Douzens of civilians were killed by the police. This transformed this movement into a political revolution that demanded a change of regime. The beauty of it though, is that this wasn’t a movement pushed by the West, or by some reactionary islamist political power. It was a purely Tunisian popular uprising against a horrible regime.

After 29 days of unrest, Ben Ali was forced to flee the country yesterday. The Tunisian achieved the unthinkable: They toppled a 23 year long dictatorship through the power of their collective will. This event is of incredible significance for the arab world. This is probably the first real independent post colonial revolution. The other arab dictators must be shitting their pants, excuse my French. The Arab people have seen what is possible. I think that a lot of regimes will be frightened. Hopefully this is the first day of real change coming to the arab world.

Anyway, I have so much more to say about it, but I’m not able to vocalise it, or write it. I feel proud and inspired by the will and resolve of the Tunisian people. Today it’s Tunis, tomorrow it will be Cairo, Amman, Damascus, and all the other corrupt arab regimes.

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