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Locked-down Tunisia marks decade since dictator’s fall

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In 2011, the world’s eyes had been on the Mediterranean nation the place mass protests had damaged out following the self-immolation of the determined younger road vendor Mohamed Bouazizi.

Tunisia marked 10 years on January 14 since its road revolution despatched autocratic ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fleeing into exile, however few are celebrating amid a lockdown as Covid-19 circumstances spiral.

Habib Bourguiba Avenue, a logo of the revolution within the capital Tunis, was abandoned and underneath police guard.

“It’s a subdued January 14,” a photojournalist stated as a convoy of police automobiles drove by.

In previous years, demonstrators have rallied to recall the momentous occasions that sparked the broader Arab Spring revolts and to push for additional change, however not this yr because the world is battling the pandemic.

“Normally we would have demonstrated in the street to demand social justice, because successive governments still haven’t responded to that demand,” stated Alaa Talbi of the non-government Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights. “But this January 14, I’ll stay home for the first time in 10 years, because the health crisis is acute and we need strong measures.”

With over 50 novel coronavirus deaths a day and lots of hospitals reaching capability, authorities imposed a four-day lockdown from January 14, leaving metropolis centres quiet, in sharp distinction to a decade in the past.

Back in 2011 the world’s eyes had been on the Mediterranean nation the place mass protests had damaged out following the self-immolation of the determined younger road vendor Mohamed Bouazizi.

An unprecedented crowd thronged the streets outdoors the Interior Ministry a decade in the past on January 14, 2011, demanding an finish to Mr. Ben Ali’s repressive 23-year rule with deafening cries of “quit!”

That night Mr. Ben Ali fled to an opulent, discreet exile in Saudi Arabia. He by no means set foot on Tunisian soil once more and died in Jeddah in 2019.

His fall triggered a string of uprisings throughout North Africa and the Middle East, toppling different dictators lengthy seen as untouchable.

‘No regret’

While different nations had been plunged into battle or returned to much more repressive rule, Tunisia efficiently transitioned to democracy — albeit one nonetheless riven by corruption and financial ache.

Looking again at these heady days, “we might be disappointed, but that doesn’t mean we regret” the rebellion, Mr. Talbi stated. “Ten years is not a long time to transform a system in place for decades.

“We can be proud of our steps forward… We have installed a new political system, we’ve agreed on a constitution, even if it hasn’t been fully implemented, and we’ve respected electoral deadlines.”

But “now we need an economic transition”.

Tunisia’s financial system, closely reliant on overseas lending, shrank by 9 % final yr, client costs have spiralled and one third of younger individuals are unemployed.

The key tourism sector, already on its knees after a string of lethal jihadist assaults in 2015, was dealt a devastating blow by the pandemic.

Crucial phosphate and oil manufacturing have been hampered by protest blockades in marginalised areas, the place individuals demand jobs and funding.

With few prospects at home, many Tunisians have regarded overseas for a greater life.

Tunisians made up the biggest variety of irregular migrants, over 12,000, who arrived in Italy in 2020 on boats crossing the Mediterranean — 5 instances greater than the earlier yr.

Ben Ali nostalgia

Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi marked the anniversary by posting on his Facebook web page a message of condolences to the “martyrs” of the revolution, and vowed to attempt to obtain the “dignity” demanded by protesters in 2011.

Tunisia’s governments “have struggled to bring change and to balance the interests of the traditional elite and the less-privileged general population”, the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute warned in December 2020.

Many veterans of the protests, which left lots of lifeless or wounded in clashes with police, are bitter and disillusioned.

A Tunisian man who was injured during the revolution shouts anti-government slogans during a sit-in on January 14, 2021, in the capital Tunis.

A Tunisian man who was injured in the course of the revolution shouts anti-government slogans throughout a sit-in on January 14, 2021, within the capital Tunis.  
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Human rights group Amnesty International stated on January 14 that “victims are still struggling to obtain justice and reparations for grave human rights violations committed during the revolution”.

The nation’s post-revolution hangover has fanned nostalgia in some quarters for the Ben Ali period, a sentiment that has superior the careers of a few of his former supporters.

The Free Constitutional Party of lawmaker Abir Moussi has received supporters by vocally attacking the Islamists who’ve dominated parliament since 2011 and calling for a return to a powerful presidential regime.

But for Mr. Talbi, there might be no return to the previous methods.

“Young people who have grown up in a free Tunisia still believe in the revolution,” he stated.

The U.S.congratulated Tunisia, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying in an announcement: “We are proud to have stood by the Tunisian people in the last decade as they became an example of an inclusive democracy, one where the rights of women and minorities and freedom of speech and association are constitutionally respected.”

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