Extinguishing the flames of the Arab Spring

Al Jazeera reports: Five years ago today, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old street vendor, set himself on fire outside a local municipal office in his hometown of Sidi Bouzid to protest against police corruption – a solitary act that would set off a stunning chain of events throughout the Arab world.

In the years since Bouazizi’s death, Tunisia has gone through tremendous change. After street protests forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile after two decades of his rule, Tunisia adopted a new constitution and held national elections in 2014.

Earlier this month, the country’s National Dialogue Quartet was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for assisting Tunisia’s transition to democracy.

But despite the changes that have taken place around them, residents of Sidi Bouzid say their lives are no better than they were before the uprising.

“Before the toppling of the regime of Ben Ali, we had hopes,” Ramzi Abdouli, 29, a graduate from Sidi Bouzid, told Al Jazeera. “We thought that maybe when Ben Ali left our reality would change. Unfortunately, it was not the case.”

Like many of Tunisia’s youth, Abdouli participated in the 2010-2011 protests, hoisting banners against the regime. Even after Ben Ali was deposed, Abdouli marched more than 250km from Sidi Bouzid to Tunis in April 2012 to reiterate demands for social justice and employment.

Today, via social media, he remains a relentless critic of the current government and its political affairs – and is pessimistic about the years ahead. [Continue reading…]

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