The Arab Spring may have fizzled out, but for Tunisia’s youth the revolution is not over. After the 2011 protests and downfall of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, young journalists, artists and bloggers are still taking to the streets to fight for democracy under a police state.
A video on the Al Jazeera network’s AJ+ documents the continuing struggle for freedom in Tunisia. Around 200 Tunisian activists have been charged with criminal offences, most of which have come in 2014. Jihed Mabrouk was shot in the neck during Tunisia’s Arab Spring after attempting to help a fallen protestor. After the revolution, he was forced to leave his home and seek refuge in Morocco to avoid arrest after a businessman from the old regime accused him of attempted murder.
“They’re prosecuting me for things I didn’t do,” Mabrouk told Al Jazeera from Casablanca, Morocco.
Bassem Triffi, a lawyer working pro bono for young activists falsely charged, said there’s been a political exploitation of some laws and targeting certain activists in order to frighten and discourage them.
Yasmine Ryan, an Al Jazeera journalist who worked on the documentary, told the Daily Vox that in the wake of the revolution, citizens expected their lives to change.
“Politicians on all sides exploited that, making grandiose promises, and so the simmering anger felt by many Tunisians has only deepened. Strikes, long suppressed by the police state, became common place,” Ryan said.
“Since 2011, there’s also been a degree of institutional breakdown, and so rather than improving, ordinary Tunisians have ironically faced many additional burdens.”
A small group of powerful elites now benefits from economic opportunities and a corrupt justice system at the expense of Tunisia’s masses. In 2015, Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission, which is loosely based on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, will begin in order to address challenges and reconciliation in the country.
“The media tends to focus on war and violence, but I think it’s vital for the world not to forget Tunisia. If Tunisia’s political transition doesn’t succeed, or doesn’t go far enough, the implications go far beyond Tunisia’s borders. A light will go out in the Arab world,” Ryan said.
But for young activists like Mabrouk, Tunisia’s lack of change reveals that the country never really had a revolution despite efforts and sacrifices made in 2011.
“There’s no revolution, that’s my conclusion. It’s just a show,” Mabrouk said.
Watch the documentary here:
– Featured image via Wikimedia Commons