The Arab Spring may have fizzled out, but for Tunisiaâ€™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 Tunisiaâ€™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.
â€œTheyâ€™re prosecuting me for things I didnâ€™t do,â€ Mabrouk told Al Jazeera from Casablanca, Morocco.
Bassem Triffi, a lawyer working pro bono for young activists falsely charged, said thereâ€™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.
â€œPoliticians 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,â€ Ryan said.
â€œSince 2011, there’s also been a degree of institutional breakdown, and so rather than improving, ordinary Tunisians have ironically faced many additional burdens.â€
A small group of powerful elites now benefits from economic opportunities and a corrupt justice system at the expense of Tunisiaâ€™s masses. In 2015, Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission, which is loosely based on South Africaâ€™s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, will begin in order to address challenges and reconciliation in the country.
â€œThe 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,â€ Ryan said.
But for young activists like Mabrouk, Tunisiaâ€™s lack of change reveals that the country never really had a revolution despite efforts and sacrifices made in 2011.
â€œThereâ€™s no revolution, thatâ€™s my conclusion. Itâ€™s just a show,â€ Mabrouk said.
Watch the documentary here:
– Featured image via Wikimedia Commons