Now that world attention has irresistibly moved on to the next hotspot, Egypt, it is crucially important not to forget Tunisia. In the very same manner that revolutionary change in Tunisia has spread to Egypt and Yemen and, hopefully, will continue to travel to other parts of the Arab world, any setback in Tunisia may set in motion a reverse effect and may prove counterproductive in the long run. Failure is no less contagious than freedom. While our hearts and minds are with our brothers and sisters in Egypt, let’s not forget Tunisia lest the new interim government should intimidate Tunisians into submission to more of the same old new police state. The latest cabinet reshuffle has left Tunisians divided between those who support the new government and the sit-in protestors in al-Qasbah who insist that all the symbols of the old regime go.
While all eyes were set on Egypt’s “Friday of Anger” on January 28, 2011, special security forces in Tunisia seized the opportunity to forcibly dislodge a five-day round-the-clock sit-in protest in the Qasbah Government Square in Tunis. The sit-in protestors are part of the “Freedom Caravan,” which, in addition to the hundreds that joined from the capital, included initially a thousand participants who came all the way from Menzel Bouzayene, Regueb and other villages and towns from the Governorate of Sidi Bouzid where the self-immolation of Mohammad Bouazizi sparked the “Dignity Revolution” that brought down Ben Ali on January 14, 2011.
The protestors ask for the resignation of the so-called interim government and the dismantlement of Ben Ali’s party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD). Echoing Moncef Marzouki, the leader of the Congress for the Republic, the anti-government protestors believe that while they got rid of the dictator, Ben Ali, they still have to dismantle the system of dictatorship he kept in place after his unceremonious flight to Saudi Arabia. They demand that any former RCD member resign from the interim government, not exempting Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi himself, and be replaced by other respectable technocrats from the Bourguiba era.
This article is now featured in Jadaliyya`s edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.