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In the heart of Tunisia. Thala: the occupied police station
The Tunisia chronicle, pt.2
The second instalment of a series of reports from a couple of CGT members visiting Tunisia. Here, the author visits the town of Thala in northwestern Tunisia, a town where the people's protests led to the town's police taking to their heels. [Castellano]
In the heart of Tunisia. Thala: the occupied police station
Thala, Kasserine governorate (province), 300 kms from the capital. A poor city, on the fringe, whose only resourse is agriculture which depends on rainfall: wheat, prickly pears... without industry.
Upon our arrival, we were surprised to find an outdoor museum filled with graffiti. Graffiti demanding freedom and dignity, against Ben Ali and his henchmen, tributes to the 6 who died in the revolution, a sign of the inhabitants' desire to be true to their memory. The free expression of the people on the walls of this small, abandoned city of the Tunisian interior.
Young people throng around us to see us taking pictures of the graffiti. They tell us the story of their struggle. As early as 24th December they held their first solidarity march with Sidi Bouzid, where the first call in all of Tunisia was made demanding the fall of Ben Ali. On 3 January, students from the town's two schools - one at each end of the city - decided to protest. The principals of the schools called parents in an attempt to stop the students taking to the streets. But they only achieved the opposite: the parents joined their children and all the people took to the streets in a peaceful demonstration.
The hated Colonel Youssef Abdelaziz ordered to fire on the demonstrators. Marouan Jemli, 19, was the first martyr in Thala. The struggle not to lose his body, fearing that the police would try to hide their crime, caused a second death - another 19-year-old. Finally, the young people were able to carry Marouan's body to his grandmother's house after a 10-hour walk over mountain trails.
Marouan's funeral was used by the criminal colonel Youssef as an opportunity to shoot at the people carrying the coffin. A 32-year-old comrade who was preparing for his wedding in March and a disabled man were both hit by police bullets and died beside the coffin, the latter with five bullets in his body! The mothers had originally tried to carry the coffin themselves (in Muslim culture, it is the men who accompany the dead to the cemetery), but the young men instead had decided to carry it.
Between 3rd and 6th January, Thala - a town of 15,000 inhabitants - was completely surrounded by 1,800 police. It was impossible to leave or to enter. Supplies of water, bread and sugar were cut off. Cries were heard in every corner of Thala, "YES to bread and water, NO to Ben Ali". 150 people were imprisoned and a great many young men, women and children were tortured and abused. But through Facebook and other social networks, the young were able to publish videos of the repression and publicize the police murder of 5 young people and their siege of the town.
On 8th January, Col. Youssef was overthrown and replaced by another police chief. But the movement had spread throughout Tunisia and the rebellion had reached the capital. On 12th January, yet another person was killed by the police outside his home. New police chief, new murder.
The orders to the police in the early days were clear: crush the rebellion in the Sidi Bouzid and Kasserine (home to Thala) governorates in order to prevent it from spreading to the rest of Tunisia. The 1,800 police officers who surrounded the town for days had clear orders to kill, to crush resistance, like elsewhere.
Thala, a town without police, without a municipality, managed by the peopleBut Thala, a town with a revolutionary tradition, resisted and won. Today, there are no police in town. Young people take it in turns to deal with security. Only the military presence reminds us that there is a state.
The committee to safeguard the revolution runs the town and has "justice for our dead" as its prime demand. They have submitted a list of people involved in the killings, complete with names, and for 17 days in March they organized demonstrations to demand the imprisonment and trial of the murderers. The Justice Department of the interim government has asked for 15 days in which to respond. If in the first week of April there is no answer, the struggle will be taken up again.
They do not recognize President Fouad Mebazaa, nor prime minister Beji Caid Essebsi. They are calling for the dissolution of the three councils that have been created: the political and constitutional reform council, the council investigating the repression since 17th December and the anti-corruption council. They do not trust them, as they were created by Ghannouchi and are filled with people from Ben Ali's RCD party. How can they investigate themselves?
The police station transformed into a social centreAfter the death of Marouan, his friends were consumed with anger. One of them, filling his motorbike with petrol, set it on fire and crashed it into the police station, causing a fire that forced the police to leave the town.
On 17th February, Nemri Bassem, a mechanical engineer unemployed since 2004, occupied the police station and stayed there, demanding his right to work. This action is only one of hundreds of actions that have been carried out in Tunisia by the Union of Unemployed Graduates.
Nemri is not alone. Many young people joined him for his hours at the police station, which has today been converted into a place where you can listen to music, play cards and talk about revolution.
We said goodbye to Thala. Marouan's father points out to us the place where they killed his son: "I will never forget this place". And so says the graffiti that he did there.
Neither will the Tunisian people forget.
Translation by FdCA-International Relations Office
Sat 23 May, 13:44
Morocco: A January of revolt and repression for the new government 17:53 Wed 15 Feb 0 comments
The struggles of the Moroccan people have continued with force during the month of January. Labour struggles, peasant struggles, the unemployed, the Amazigh [Berber] movement, the struggle in support of political prisoners and against the impunity of the dictatorship, all over Morocco, people are expressing their unease over the situation and the need for profound, real change. The February 20 Movement is demonstrating in the streets and preparing the first anniversary. [Castellano]
Tunis: International meeting on the struggles 18:12 Fri 14 Oct 0 comments
An international meeting was held in Tunis from 30 September to 2 October in which the CGT participated. The meeting was organized by Tunisian comrades from the Popular Liberation Front of Tunisia. [Castellano]
The unemployed movement in Tunisia: an unstoppable process 16:25 Mon 25 Apr 0 comments
Young people have been at the forefront of the revolution. Mohamed Bouazizi, whose death sparked off the revolt, was one of those educated young people who were rotting in villages with no prospect for the future. But these young people today are organizing themselves. More than 100 local branches of the Union have been created since February, when it was legalized, and so far it has gathered 45,000 members, male and female. [Castellano]
[Tunisia] The Committees to Safeguard the Revolution - the example of Bizerte 21:31 Thu 21 Apr 0 comments
Since 14th January numerous committees to safeguard the revolution have been set up in many places throughout the country, with a variety of forms, constitutions and functions. This report is of a meeting with the Bizerte committee and gives an excellent idea of the work they are doing. [Castellano]
The voice from the streets is clear: the revolution in Tunisia has just begun 20:08 Thu 21 Apr 0 comments
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]
Tunisia: The Revolution will not be Televised 02:27 Thu 13 Jan 0 comments
A mass wave of riots by ordinary people against the government have swept Tunisia for the last three weeks under a near-total media blackout in the West. We look at what's been happening and why it's being kept off our TV screens.
What kind of democracy for the Arab world? Mar 15 2 comments
Reflections on the significance of the current Arab revolts and their implications for revolutionary theory, particularly with regard to the debate on democracy and popular power. [Castellano] [العربية] [Català] [Ελληνικά] [Italiano]
The protests in North Africa: What's happening? Jan 14 0 comments
The protests against the high cost of living, unemployment and corruption have been growing since the end of the year throughout North Africa, spreading through both Tunisia and Algeria in more and more cities and involving more social sectors, to the extent that the situation in both countries has become extremely unstable - much to the concern of the United States and the European Union... [Castellano] [Deutsch]
The Egyptian streets are stronger than the polling booths Jul 05 AL 0 comments
Two and a half years after the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian streets have spoken again. Mohamed Morsi has been ousted after a one-year reign and four days of demonstrations on an unprecedented scale in the history of the country. The Egyptians have reminded the world that an election is not a blank cheque which leaves representatives free from all constraint. [Français] [Castellano] [Italiano] [Ελληνικά ]
Support to the Egyptian men and women repressed by the police! Feb 03 AL 0 comments
Long live the struggle of the Egyptian people!
Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen... Feb 02 International Secretariat 0 comments
The wave of protests which began in Sidi Bouzid on 17 December continues to grow. Sparked off by a gesture of despair by Mohamed Bouazizi, it is giving hope for a better world to millions of people in a growing number of Arab countries. After the riots in Algeria and Libya earlier this month, now is the turn of Egypt, Jordan and Yemen to see extensive social movements... [Français]
Tunisia: the revolution is not over Jan 20 Anarkismo 0 comments
Our organizations affirm their full solidarity with the struggle of the Tunisian people for freedom and social justice and our support for militant anti-capitalist Tunisians. We condemn the attitude of the Western States and more generally their political classes, both right-wing and social democratic, who have always actively supported the authoritarian power of Ben Ali. [Français]