Socialist Worker

Tunisian trade unionist: ‘Our revolt inspires hope across the Arab states’

Issue No. 2236

Waves of anger generated by the Tunisian revolution continue to crash against the country’s battered ruling class.

Politicians from the old regime that held dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in power for 23 long years still desperately cling to power. But the movement against them is determined.

Jilani Hamani of the Union Generale des Travailleurs Tunisien (UGTT) trade union federation spoke to Socialist Worker. He says that strikes and protests are growing by the day and that new groups of workers are entering the struggle.

The UGTT played a crucial role in the movement against Ben Ali after it called a general strike against his regime.

“The pressure on the government is increasing all the time,” Jilani said, pointing out that in the past week several ministers had resigned, refusing to be part of a government with the old ruling party, the RCD.

“Monday’s education strike was a great success, with very high levels of participation. School students were out in the streets everywhere, especially in the capital, Tunis. Primary schools are on indefinite strike until the government falls.”


Last Sunday over 1,000 protesters joined a 30‑mile march to the capital as part of a “Liberation Caravan” to demand the removal of Ben Ali supporters from the government (see story, right).

Thousands remained camped outside the prime minister’s compound as Socialist Worker went to press.

“Today we all joined with the Caravan protest and held a sit-in outside a government ministry,” says Jilani. “The crowd is growing all the time.”

Jilani says popular support for the movement means that even some of the dictatorship’s most loyal supporters are keen to be seen among the opposition:

“Police officers have been demonstrating in recent days. They are demanding the right to form a union, and claiming that they too are victims of the old regime.

“They don’t think it is fair that people see them as tools of repression.

“There isn’t a great deal of sympathy for the police. People support their right to form a union but this is mitigated by a fear that they could be part of a coup by the government.”

While Western leaders worry that the example of Tunisia could help bring down a string of dictators, that prospect fills Jilani with hope.

“We can see how our example is inspiring people in neighbouring countries,” he says.

“There’s a great feeling of pride in our revolution, and the way that people in other Arab states, like Egypt and Yemen, having been trying to follow our example.”


Even the recent protests in Albania are seen as a direct result of the resistance in Tunisia, he says.

Jilani described the way longstanding activists have been surprised by the speed of events.

“Last year, we followed the protests against austerity in countries across the world,” he says. “People here would shrug their shoulders and say that those abroad were lucky, and that we can’t do the same because we live under a dictatorship.

“But now our revolution has created its own methods of revolt.

“On Tuesday, there was to be a meeting of organisations and personalities from the opposition movement to discuss the formation of an alternative government. We feel the current government could fall within days.”

Describing the potential of the movement to spread, Jilani says, “I hope to see the working class and popular movements throughout the world bring down neoliberalism.

“I want to see people take power in their own hands, to create a future full of happiness for humanity.”

The Tunisia Solidarity Campaign is a new organisation set up by Tunisians in Britain. Go to

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