Tunisians take to streets for revolution anniversary

Thousands of Tunisians gather to celebrate five year anniversary of President Ben Ali’s ousting during Arab Spring

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

People wave national flags during celebrations marking the fifth anniversary of Tunisia's 2011 revolution, in Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, Tunisia, January 14, 2016

Updated Jan 15, 2016

Thousands of Tunisians gathered in the capital for the five year anniversary of the ousting of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Habib Bourguiba Avenue, known as the centre of the capital Tunis, was closed to traffic and intense security measures were taken.

Some attended political rallies, chanted revolutionary slogans like "Work! Freedom! Dignity!" and waved Tunisian flags, while others listened to concerts or talked about the uprising.

Although it’s considered that only Tunisia, the inspiring country of the Arab Spring, succeeded in the uprising, many of the citizens had mixed feelings.

Among the other "Arab Spring" countries, Syria and Yemen fell into a civil war, Egypt experienced a military coup a year after its first democratic elections, and Libya is currently divided between two governments.

Only Tunisia managed to have elections in 2011 and 2014, and adopted a new constitution.

Yet it suffers from economic and security problems. Poverty and unemployment are still high and DAESH targeted the country in March, June and November, since then Tunisia is governed while a state of emergency is in effect.

Prime Minister Habib Essid said at the anniversary that "We are proud of the Tunisian exception, which dazzled the world. Tunisia broke once and for all with authoritarianism and tyranny."

"We are working together to fulfill the many demands of the revolution, especially the guarantee of a dignified life for all," he said, adding that "winning the war on terrorism remains an essential condition."

Tunisians’ thoughts

Tunisians expressed mixed feelings and thoughts on the revolution and the state of their country.

Latifa, a 40-year-old seamstress, told AFP that "The revolution did not help me in any way -- prices went up, many young people are still marginalised."

"But I came to celebrate anyway, because the revolution brought us some democracy, and that's important," she said.

Adnen Meddeb, a freelance cinema worker who was among the protesters in 2011 thinks Tunisia has not improved since the revolution.

Meddeb was arrested last year over charges of suspicion of cannabis consumption after police found rolling paper in his car.

He believes he was arrested because the police wanted to make an example of him for his role as an activist during the protests.

"What happened was not a revolution, but an aborted revolution. A revolution happens when laws change, when I am arrested by police I have the right to have a lawyer, I have the right to contact my family. I have full rights, when the law guarantees my rights," he told Reuters.

"Our laws are dedicated to cutting our freedom and cracking down on the youth and their dreams, to fill prisons.”

“It drives anyone to think about crossing the sea and going to Europe. The poverty, the marginalization, the oppression are the main providers of terrorism. The State is the provider of terrorism, precisely the state and the oppression," he said.

Muhammad Amin al Akrabi, another activist who joined the anniversary celebrations, told Anadolu Agency that “In the fifth anniversary of the revolution, we can’t say we are living as it was during Ben Ali’s time. Ben Ali’s time was very hard. Thank God Tunisia has got over those days.”

He said Tunisian people, by gathering here, give the message that they want the demands of the revolution to be realised.

“The revolution will continue until the demands of the revolution will be realised.”

TRTWorld and agencies