A 26 years old street vendor named Mohammad Bouazizi had his newly constructed cart seized by a law enforcement official on 17 December 2010 in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. When he protested for such action, the policeman replied to him with insults and slaps. Later on, Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of the municipality building because of the humiliation he had to bear in public. The self-destructive act of Bouazizi revealed the grievance among the Tunisian public against the government because of its corrupt nature, inequalities in the society, bad economy and, repression. Mass protests began on the same day all over Tunisia that demanded the resignation of the government. This is known as the ‘Jasmine Revolution’. At least 300 people were killed during this time according to the United Nations (Bruce, 2013). Eventually on 14 January 2011, then president Ben Ali, who ruled the country for about 23 years, stepped down and fled to Saudi Arabia. This was the first time in Arab history where a tyrant was taken down by public protests rather than a coup. The Jasmine Revolution immediately inspired other Arab countries to stand up against their dictator governments. This revolution initiated what now is popularly known as the Arab Spring.
There have been some deep-rooted factors behind the Tunisian revolution. The economy has been a serious area of concern. Never-ending poverty, unemployment and, an increase in the prices of food and daily commodities forced people to come out of their homes and join the revolution. The authoritarian government failed to create a safe job environment for educated people and delivered poorly paid jobs. There were massive inequalities in income and other sectors. There existed enough political reasons to demand the resignation of the government. The governing system of Ben Ali turned into one of the most authoritarian and repressive regimes in the Arab region. There was systematic repression with violation of human rights, lack of political freedoms and, opinion. Several research centers and civil society organizations were closed down taking away people’s freedom of expression. The government soon lost its political legitimacy. The country successfully mobilized the use of new media. According to sources, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter worked as catalysts for the revolution. The Ben Ali regime received major backlash on the internet through web pages and blogs. This further accelerated the motivations for the revolution.
The popular uprising in Tunisia gave its people hope that significant economic and political changes are coming their way. However, even after almost ten years since the revolution, the country is having a hard time meeting the aspirations of its population. The country remains the only one in the region that attained a peaceful transition since the beginning of the Arab Spring. Most of the other Arab countries including Yemen and Syria have undergone serious violent conflicts and civil wars resulting in massive humanitarian crises. Back in 2014, then president Moncef Marzouki expressed that, only hope for democracy in the Arab region lies in the hand of Tunisia that can determine the future of democratic transition in the region. If not significant, Tunisia took some steps forward in the political arena for establishing a democratic state. However, the political abuse of the past still continues with major strains in the rule of law, failure in the justice process and, the legacy of dictatorship. The country needs to remember its glorifying history and work on their state system accordingly. Otherwise, Tunisia will keep struggling with problems it once started a revolution against.
Bruce, I. (2013). The Arab Spring in Tunisia and its Aftermath, Honors and School of International Service Senior Capstone, Retrieved from: https://auislandora.wrlc.org/islandora/object/1213capstones%3A153/datastream/PDF/view