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Tunisia: A New Beginning...Or Merely A New Leader?

1472 words - 6 pages

The Tunisian uprising of January 2011 started a chain reaction of collective political violence that ignited the Arab world. Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa, it was commonly known as the most European country of North Africa, with a relatively large middle class and luxurious Mediterranean beaches. Tunisia was dominated by the authoritarian government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali for twenty-three years preceding his exile to Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011. The civilians of Tunisia tolerated Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime which suppressed them economically, socially, and politically. Tunisians believed that the Jasmine Revolution would lead the nation to a new beginning, encompassed with a government that would grant the civil liberties that were previously deprived. Presently, the future of Tunisia remains uncertain. To foretell whether the historical uprising will lead to a new beginning or merely a new leader many aspects of the country must be studied, such as, the history of Tunisia, the factors that initiated the protests, and the developments that have taken place since the revolution.
First, the history of Tunisia must be reviewed to fully understand the present state of the nation. Taoufik Djebali notes, “For historical and geographical reasons, Tunisia seems to be the most ethnically homogenous country of the Maghreb.” (Djebali, 2005:152) The majority of modern Tunisians are considered Arab-Berber, and speak Tunisian Arabic. In 1987, Ben Ali became the second president of Tunisia, he procured the position by a constitutional coup against eighty-four year old Habib Bourguiba. Ironically, Ben Ali’s coup was intended to lead to a more democratic nation. Larbi Sadiki noted, “It can be said that many of Ben Ali’s promises to democratize Tunisia remain unfulfilled.” (Sadiki, 2002:58) Ben Ali’s regime distributed propaganda to its citizens and the rest of the world by controlling and silencing the media. This led many to believe that he was the reason for the prosperity of Tunisia in the 1990s. According to Moncez Marzouki, this is not the case, “That was a situation Ben Ali inherited. Over a period of twenty years, he transformed Tunisia into a corrupt economy whose mafia-like tendencies are there for all to see.” (Marzouki, 2011:252) The government change of 2011 appears to be more promising than the coup of 1987, as the Jasmine revolution was guided entirely by the civilians and not the military or a political leader.
Furthermore, collective political violence in the form of mass political protests started the historical uprising in Tunisia. On December 17, 2010, Tunisians were moved by the scene that unfolded within the impoverished town of Sidi Bouzid. Mohamed Bouazizi, a twenty-six year old fruit vendor, set himself on fire to protest the harassment he was undergoing from Ben Ali’s local police force. After witnessing this horrific act, Tunisians took to the streets, demanding for justice and democracy. The...

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