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The voice from the streets is clear: the revolution in Tunisia has just begun
north africa | community struggles | news report Thursday April 21, 2011 20:08 by Mouatamid and M.H. - CGT
The Tunisia chronicle, pt.1
Avenue Habib Bourguiba is a hive of activity. The hum of debate rebounds on all sides. From the steps outside the Municipal Theatre, the megaphone is passed from hand to hand. People talking, shouting, freely stating that the revolution must go on. Ben Ali has not gone away: his political police, though hidden, is still at work, his web of corruption is still in place, his people from the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) are still there, though today mixed in with various political parties and are preparing for the right moment to return to power, which they never really left. [Castellano]
The voice from the streets is clear: the revolution in Tunisia has just begun
Avenue Habib Bourguiba is a hive of activity. The hum of debate rebounds on all sides. From the steps outside the Municipal Theatre, the megaphone is passed from hand to hand. People talking, shouting, freely stating that the revolution must go on. Ben Ali has not gone away: his political police, though hidden, is still at work, his web of corruption is still in place, his people from the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) are still there, though today mixed in with various political parties and are preparing for the right moment to return to power, which they never really left.
Calls for a "Third Kasbah" are repeated, spread and discussed in the streets. It is the response to the words of the new prime minister Essebsi, who speaks with the arrogance of power and a legitimacy that the people have not given him. And the people have responded. They say that they are still there, alive and well, and have no intention of yielding easily to a "normality" that does not involve real change in Tunisian society.
From all those places where social isolation and exclusion is the norm, from Sidi Bouzid, Redeyef, Thala, Kasserine... spreading throughout the whole country, the Tunisian people on the streets carried on this revolution of dignity. No office, no hidden power, no party, no-one drew up their programme. It is the people of Tunisia themselves who have been writing their own history, not with jasmine, but with the dignity and the blood of their young, their martyrs.
During the First Kasbah, the caravan of the revolution, thousands of people from the poorest areas of Tunisia all over the country occupied the Prime Ministry in the Kasbah from Sunday 23rd January until the 28th, when they were brutally evicted. They had no intention of accepting a government where the majority of members were in Ben Ali's party, starting with his prime minister, Ghannouchi.
With the Second Kasbah, Ghannouchi was toppled. They had already brought down two governments after the fall of the dictator. The Tunisian people took yet another step forward, ignoring the support being offered Ghannouchi's government by the European Union and the United States. The main police chiefs from the Ben Ali era were removed from their positions, political prisoners were freed and the RCD was dissolved but the people wanted still more. The counter-revolution had not been stopped.
April 1st. Calls for a Third Kasbah have brought together several thousand people. It has become impossible to reach the Kasbah square. Police and military personnel control access points. The army is also visible on the streets. Tanks and trucks everywhere. Along the road leading to the square, several police cordons block the way of those who are gathering. There are impromptu speeches by the people. Meher, a young man who has been vocal in the debates, talked to me about the revolution, about how the murderers are going unpunished and the corrupt go free. They want real change. They want to destroy the whole party-state apparatus. They want another Tunisia. They have no trust in parties or trade unions. They know that their strength keeps them on the streets.
Suddenly, the crowd starts moving. Some are receding, most are pushing towards the police. It seems that the police have started to charge - then the pushing starts, blows, stones fly, paving stones are ripped up and the air fills with tear gas, causing the crowd to disperse into the streets of the Medina.
But the gas follows us through the streets. An asthmatic comrade from the CGT falls to the ground in a faint. But the people are here. From the houses come women, men, children, to care for the wounded. Milk, lemon, blankets... everything. A young girl gives my comrade some ventolin. And kisses her on the forehead out of respect. The love and solidarity of the people. Another comrade from Solidaires has got lost and is overcome by the gas. The same response. He is quickly welcomed into a house to for treatment and to avoid arrest. There have been about twenty arrests, they tell us.
People are already arriving on the Avenue Habib Bourguiba and gathering in front of the Municipal Theatre. There are discussions and debates. A young student talks to us, aware that he is an important part of what is happening. He rejects the continued interference by the West in his country's affairs, our sense of superiority. He speaks of a tolerant Tunisia, where people can live together and build a different democracy, more real than ours. He breathes conviction and self-confidence from every pore. He is the image of a people which is organizing itself, which has hope and the ability to build and move forward.
The unemployed university graduates have mobilized and are organizing themselves. In just two months 45,000 unemployed people have come together in real grassroots organizations. Committees for safeguarding the revolution are everywhere, some whose operations are more closed (coordination of organizations), some more open (assembly-based). In practice, many municipalities are being run by them. Big protests are being prepared against the government if it fails to dismantle the old apparatus of power and does not send those responsible for murders committed during the revolution to prison.
And all this time, the debates of the councils working on constitutional changes and preparing new elections, initially scheduled for 25th July, the struggles and alliances between political parties, continue. The situation is difficult. And there is no shortage of people with an interest in slowing down the process or using to their own advantage.
But the voice from the streets is clear. The revolution in Tunisia has just begun.
English translation by FdCA-International Relations Office
Fri 24 May, 16:58
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