Arab Spring, Part-3; Tunisia protests

Arab Spring, Part-3; Tunisia Trapped between Political, Judicial and Militant crisis.

by Ali Asad
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Arab Spring -Part1: A Case Study Of The Egyptian Saga

Arab Spring, Part-2: Culmination Of Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya

The Tunisian Revolution, also known as the Jasmine Revolution, was an intensive 28 day campaign of civil resistance. Tunisia is the one country to have made a peaceful transition after the Arab uprisings began. The North African country spawned the uprisings on December 17, 2010 after a young street vendor; Mohamed Bouazizi repeatedly harassed by police demanding bribes set him on fire to protest government corruption.

It eventually led to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections. Police reportedly killed hundreds of people over the next month in Tunisia. President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s pledges of reforms couldn’t proved any helpful. On January 14, 2011, Ben Ali fled with his family to Saudi Arabia which marked an end to his 23 years of power.

President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali

Government formed with a blend of Secular and Islamist parties

From January to October 2011, an interim government moved toward reform, recognized new political parties and disbanded Ben Ali’s party. Protests demanding further reform continued on and off. On October 23, Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party, won the national elections and formed a coalition government with two secular parties.

But Tunisia’s growing democracy faced repeated challenges from both Islamist and secular parties since the revolution. In 2012, the new government attempted to control protests and violence throughout the country as thousands rallied for and against a more conservative religious government.

Tensions mounted in 2013 when two prominent secular politicians, “Chokri Belaid” and “Mohamed Brahmi” were assassinated, breeding another political crisis and civil friction. Although authorities arrested militants, some protesters blamed Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party for the attacks. Thousands of Ennahda members countered with demonstrations in support of the government. Ennahda handed over power to an interim government which was tasked with organizing new elections. The negotiations among the political parties were facilitated by the “Tunisia National Dialogue Quartet”.

Tunisians choose to join ISIS

Source: Daily Express

In 2014, secular parties edged out Islamists at the polls.  But turnout was lowest among the young, who ignited the Arab uprisings. The turnout was lowest in Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the uprisings that spread across the Middle East and North Africa. Thousands of Tunisians left the country to join ISIS in Syria, Iraq or Libya; proportionately its militants made up one of the highest percentages of ISIS fighters from the region. Tunisian militants have fought in several foreign conflicts, including in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Despite political achievements, the economy still challenged Tunisians while the security situation deteriorated as a branch of ISIS emerged. In 2015, Islamist militants attacked the National Bardo Museum, killing 24 people. Militants opened fired on a beach resort in Sousse, killing 39 foreigners; and assaulted a bus carrying the Presidential Guard.

Love story of ISIS and Al-Qaida

Tunisia’s troubled economy was the biggest challenge in 2017. High unemployment, a rising inflation rate, and tax increases plagued Tunisians. In January 2018, protests erupted in more than a dozen cities over price hikes. ISIS paved the way to re launch the Al Qaida in Tunisia and provided full support. After killing a top leader of al-Qaida in the southern part of Tunisia, the security officials said the movement might be trying to regroup in Tunisia.

For all the protests in 2017 and 2018, however, voter turnout in the first municipal elections, in May 2018, was at an all-time low since 2011. This is a worrying sign for rule of law and officials in Tunisia. Many Tunisian citizens have lost faith in the state as a result of what they have witnessed in the past and the failings of the transitional justice process add fuel to the fire.

A Democratic political system: still a dream for Tunisians

Which parts of a nation’s crisis; political, judicial, or militant get remembered and which ones are to be forgotten might seem an abstract question. But getting the history right about people who were marginalized, abused, exploited or nearly wiped out is a prerequisite to building a pluralistic and democratic political system. Tunisia is ten years on from the Arab Spring revolution which took birth in its lap, but it’s still struggling with what came before that.


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