Winds of revolution in Tunisia

Tunisia

Every year in December, the spectre of the Revolution in Tunisia reappears, recalling the spirit that inspired the jasmine revolution in 2011. This year, however, the winds of revolution over Tunisia are not limited to the media. A young worker committed suicide last week by launching himself from the tenth floor of a hotel on the central Avenue Bourguiba in the capital Tunis.

The man complained that he had not received a salary from the hotel where he worked for months. The coronavirus has put a strain on the already fragile Tunisian economy. The closure of the borders and the night curfew, extended yesterday until the end of March 2021, has frozen thousands of businesses struggling to stay open. The central government has allocated aid to small and medium-sized enterprises, but between rents, management costs, taxes, and the increase in utilities, they appear inadequate and insufficient. Also, the employees of large public companies, such as the electricity and gas company “STEG,” have been in a state of agitation for weeks, leading to the closure of offices.

The south of Tunisia continues to suffer from the lack of opportunities and projects, while some Governorates denounce the lack of cooking gas cylinders. “We don’t have cooking gas,” says Mohamed, an oil worker who has been home for nearly a year who attended a sit-in in Medenine. Burnt tires and protests also in Gasrine and Sfax. The Tunisians are asking for concrete answers from the new executive of Hichem Mechichi, which are slow in arriving. Recent headlines have revealed the absence of institutions and the lack of funds for health care, especially during the pandemic. Today, Badr Al-Din Al-Alawi, a surgeon in his thirties, died in the Jendouba Regional Hospital.

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The elevator, on which he was standing, would have plunged over ten meters. The fall, probably due to a technical problem, caused the young doctor serious injuries and fractures that led to the death of Al-Alawi. Authorities opened a security and administrative investigation on the incident to determine the causes and responsibilities of the young doctor’s death. The incident left everyone shocked, confirming the obsolescence of equipment for this health facility.

Since the Tunisian Parliament considers a controversial law on police protection, there are other protests in the city of Bardo starting from 6 and 8 October. Several human rights groups and a citizen youth movement called Hasebhom – which in Arabic means “consider them” – rallied outside the Parliament against the bill. If adopted, it would legalize the impunity of the security forces, granting them immunity from prosecution despite their unnecessary use of lethal force. The decision to hold a session to discuss the bill – weeks before the 10th anniversary of the revolution that overthrew Ben Ali’s dictatorship – met with criticism by the masses since its presentation in 2015.

As activists mobilized against the law, the police raged against them both online and offline. These attacks on freedom of demonstration and freedom of speech are alarm bells and confirm the social problems of Tunisia, considered the only successful case of the revolution for having managed to start a credible democratic process. In addition to the economic and social crisis, the threat of terrorism continues to strangle the young Republic, the scene of numerous attacks from 2015 to today. Furthermore, the Tunisian government must face up to European pressure for reinforcing borders’ control in an attempt to stem migratory flows. In addition to being a transit country for thousands of sub-Saharan migrants and refugees, the number of landings on the Italian coasts of young Tunisians who decide to make the dangerous journey to the Mediterranean to pursue the dream of a better life has increased.

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