“We are like one hand. I protect your brother and sister, you protect my father and mother – we protect this country!” shouts Walid, a young, unemployed Tunisian, in front of hundreds of people in Bizerte, a city in the far north of the smallest North African country. He is part of a new generation that is, all of a sudden, full of hope. After a month of turmoil, the people are ready to deal with crime and corruption by themselves, to the highest levels. The population of an Arab country has managed to overthrow a dictatorial regime on their own for the first time. Their actions show that the people themselves can bring about political change and are neither dependent on Islamist movements nor on invasions of the Western world.
Political analysts have insisted that it will be hard for democracy to develop within a short time period. They note that the opposition is weak and members of disposed President Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) are still in positions of power. The people are not going to idly wait. They have returned to the streets, in all the major cities, unhappy that interim President Foued Mebazaâ and provisional Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi reappointed so many ministers from Ben Ali's government, and demand the complete resolution of the RCD. In fractious times, Red Pepper spoke to Tunisians living in at home and abroad about events taking place. For many, it is the first time in decades that they have been able to talk freely about their political opinions and hopes for the future.
Amel is a young Tunisian Producer who has lived in Brussels for nearly a decade. She followed events mostly via Facebook:
“The last two weeks were progressively tense. The immolation of Bouazizi was an alarm siren to me. I could not expect something good but the coming days proved the opposite. The hope of seeing the country freed from its oppressors was mixed with positive anxiety over the aftermath; about reconstruction and the political project to build up to ensure real changes. Today, it's more a negative anxiety, nurtured by everyday news reporting the terror caused by supposedly 3000 fired presidential policemen and armed militias. But we are determined to get back our freedom of speech, benefit from more job opportunities and to decide freely on whom should run our country. We want, more than ever, to get back our dignity, and effective participation in the public sphere.”
Aymen is a computer engineer in the capital Tunis. He participated in street protests:
“On the one hand people here in Tunis are celebrating and are happy about the victory over [disposed President] Ben Ali. But on the other hand, there is an anxiety in the air, a feeling of instability and insecurity. We need to react fast now because Tunisia does not want to slip into an economic crisis and we need stability. The next step is to change the constitution so that we gain time to not have elections in two months because the opposition needs more time. But at least now we have freedom! I hope that Tunisia will be a role-model for young people in other African or Arab countries."
Abir is a young language student:
“I am mourning for those who have lost their lives during the protests and at the same time I feel joy because of our revolution and proud of being Tunisian. But I have no hope for the new government as long as the whole party of Ben Ali is not dissolved. The Tunisian Constitution should be changed because it serves only the interests of the ruling class. I only have confidence in the Tunisian trade unions, which have again proved that you can count on them.”
Hamadi is a 50-year-old father who has lived in the Medina (town center) of Tunis for most of his life: “The future belongs to our young people under 35 years. I mean the young generation of Tunisians, excluding fundamentalists and members of the RCD led by former President Ben Ali.”
Sophia is a photographer from La Marsa, a small suburb outside of Tunis. She documented events over the past month with her camera:
“The last month was a battle for us, a real discovery. For years we were living in fear, lacking confidence, but we fought and we found ourselves; our dignity and pride. Now we have to look forward, believe in our strength as a people and stop hiding. Nobody would have believed a couple of weeks ago that we could become an example for the rest of the world! The country is still suffering from the consequences of 23 years of authoritarian leadership, [but] I believe that we will succeed in building a new country. Everyone I met during the protests helped me to believe in my dream of living in a country of freedom and mutual respect! It is important for people to know to that we here in Tunis don t talk about the jasmine revolution, that is only the Western press who created this term. We name it by the facts: fire and blood revolution, the revolution of freedom.”