Tunisia marks sixth year since Arab Spring victory

Tunisia's former leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali stepped down, ending his 23-year grip on the country after finally giving into weeks of protests against his rule.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

The Arab Spring uprisings started in Tunisia in late 2010 before spreading to other countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

Six years ago today, a wave of unrelenting pressure ousted Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power. The revolution was televised into millions of homes around the world. What took place in Tunisia would go on to be known as the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

The self-immolation of Mohammad Bouazizi, a market vendor, over police confiscating his equipment, sparked the ignition. Demonstrations demanding the country's longtime leader to resign quickly spread.

After less than a month of protests, Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, ending his 23-year reign. Six years on, many regard Tunisia's revolution as a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same, especially in the capital Tunis.

The fall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali spurred on revolts in other Arab countries which saw regimes fall in Libya, Egypt and Yemen. It also preceded the Syrian civil war, which broke out in March 2011.

"The new successive governments have failed to achieve the revolution's demands,” Ahmed Al-Mansoury, a Tunisian activist, said.

“They haven't had a serious will to conduct reformations. They've created ideological conflicts under the excuse of fighting terrorism, the demands of people have been forgotten," he continued.

Tunisia is also the biggest exporter of foreign fighters to Syria and Libya. According to the UN, more than 5,000 left to join militant groups.

High unemployment has left the country's young with little chance of earning a living. And while the homegrown militants fight overseas, the fear is that they'll return and target the fragile state.   

Despite its troubles, the Arab Spring in Tunisia is often seen as relatively successful when compared to the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Tunisia dodged much of the sectarian and political violence that crippled its counterparts.

"Since the revolution ended, we have been facing major difficulties,” Adil Al-Owainy, an antiques shop owner, said.

“The terror attacks have widely damaged the tourism and most of the businesses in Tunisia have been badly affected.”

TRT World’s Nick Davis looks back at the moment the Arab Spring burst into life.