01 nov Tunisia, one year after
On October 23rd 2011 the Tunisians voted in free elections for the first time. It was also the first election of the Arab Spring. Moderate political Islam in the Arab world became a possibility. A dream come true for all those who wanted freedom, democracy, equal rights for men and women and respect for human rights in general. A year later, there is no democracy, no trust in elected officials, no strong constitution, no equal rights and human rights are threatened. There are not enough jobs to keep people happy, the economy is far from flourishing. Tourism is dwindling. The future looks sad and some are even wishing for the old families to return to power.
I was in Tunisia in January 2012 and saw the mixture of hope and fatigue, of energy and pessimism. Young men talked to me about their job hunt, their lack of money and their wish to emigrate. Two months after the merry revolution, most young people were at home instead of continuing their peaceful struggle against the old elite, corruption and the system. Tired, so tired already, that I thought this will never work. To start a revolution is one thing, to continue until the roots of evil are dead is another story. It takes motivated leaders, unselfish execution, intelligent organization and enough followers to keep the pressure on the kettle. Instead, Salafist extremist attack trucks carrying beer and embassies of befriended nations while planting black flags on universities. As the Tunisian writer Souhir Stephenson says in the Herald Tribune (November 1st): ‘We have one thing left: free speech…if something will save us, it will be our refusal to shut up again.’ So keep on talking, Twittering, using Facebook.
Islamists volunteer more than democrats, that may be one reason for the revolution to start failing. But the ruling Ennahda party is far from doing a good job, even disregarding religious differences. The Islamic government has no answer to terrorist attacks, violation of rules, assassinations of politicians, gang-raping by policemen and the burning of the American School (attended by Tunisians). This means that another face of brutal repression and corruption becomes visible, instead of a new Tunisia. Under Islamic rule Tunisia has become an even less pleasant country to live in.
If Tunisia’s secular parties are finally able to form a democratic coalition, instead of staying fragmented as they were for the past year, they can represent Tunisians of all creeds. Maybe up to 60% of the nation would stand behind this coalition, ending the conservative rule of the Ennahda party that received only 41% of the votes anyway. There is still hope that October 23rd 2013 will finally be Election Day and not another day of mourning and despair.