Tunisia protests: ‘What are we waiting for?’

tunisia protest 2018
A rally in Tunis to mark the seventh anniversary of the toppling of President Ali and the start of the Arab Spring: the issues that sparked the 2011 uprising have not been resolved.

Seven years after mass protests in Tunisia forced the resignation of President Ben Ali in January 2011, and set in motion the ‘Arab Spring’, thousands of Tunisians have come out on the streets once again demanding real change. Few, if any, of the issues which sparked the 2011 uprising have been addressed by the so-called ‘revolution’. Harsh austerity measures mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure its financial support have galvanised large sections of the Tunisian working class into action against falling living standards, high unemployment, and government corruption. Urban student leaders have formed the ‘What are we waiting for?’ movement and faced arrest and state repression. 34 years earlier, in January 1984, massive bread riots in response to IMF conditions were put down by force, killing 100 protesters. This time the movement has to address the real economic roots of their grievances – the capitalist system. Toby Harbertson reports.


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The interim government had forbidden protests under emergency laws, but growing frustration at the lack of political change culminated in a week of continuous protests starting with a march of 40,000 people on Friday 18 February.

The following Friday, designated as a day of rage throughout the Middle East and North Africa, numbers in Tunis swelled to over 100,000. Protesters demanded a complete break from the former regime, with chants accusing the interim government of confiscating the revolution. When a huge sit-down protest took place the government responded by issuing a statement of token concessions targeting the assets of ousted members of Ben Ali’s regime, while simultaneously issuing a decree banning further protests under threat of mass arrest.


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Tunisia: masses in revolt

The uprising in Tunisia is a response to the world capitalist crisis which is pushing more people into poverty and social misery; the people have said ‘enough!’ Annie Richards reports on the uprising in Tunisia.

The trigger that unleashed waves of protest across Tunisia was the tragic self-immolation of 26-year-old street vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid on 17 December 2010. The police had confiscated Mohammed’s stall and, when he went to complain, local government officials refused to speak with him. In desperation, he set himself alight with paint stripper. According to a friend, Mohammed had experienced police harassment since he started working to support his family at the age of ten by selling fruit in the city centre. In Tunisia, a country with a 30% youth unemployment rate, working in the informal economy is commonplace. Even for university graduates, finding stable employment is increasingly difficult without personal connections.


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