Socialist Worker

Tunisian uprising is a beacon of hope

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2233

The uprisings that spread across Tunisia in North Africa over the last two weeks in December mark an important moment in the country’s history.

Demonstrations were sparked by the attempted suicide of a graduate.

He doused himself in petrol and set himself alight when police confiscated the fruit and vegetables he was trying to sell, as he had no permit to do so.

Unemployment and poverty is rife in the country.

Thousands of students, graduates, unemployed workers, trade unionists and opposition politicians made up the protests in the province of Sidi Bouzid, one of the areas most affected by unemployment.

Police killed a teenage protester and many more were beaten and imprisoned as the protests spread.

Police cars and government buildings were set ablaze in Tunis, the capital.

Dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has ruled Tunisia since 1987.

Heavy repression is a daily reality for Tunisian people, the vast majority of whom live in grinding poverty, eking out a living from agriculture and small trade.

But frustrations have boiled over.

The protests are not just about unemployment, but also rampant corruption, which has seen members of Ben Ali’s family become extremely rich.

His brother owns huge chunks of the recently privatised media and the people know the family as “the Mafia”.

The US has been a major backer of the regime.

But recently leaked US diplomatic cables said of the regime, “They tolerate no advice or criticism, whether domestic or international. Increasingly, they rely on the police for control.”

Ben Ali has vowed to punish the protesters.

Since this threat activists have shown further signs of bravery—demonstrators are chanting against Ben Ali standing in the 2014 election.

Resistance against such an oppressive regime can give confidence to people in Tunisia, and the region as a whole, to fight back against their dictators.

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Tue 4 Jan 2011, 17:30 GMT
Issue No. 2233
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