Headline, January 25 2021/ STUDENTS : ''' '' TUNISIA'S TRUE TEMPEST '' '''



ARAB SPRINGS BIRTHPLACE ERUPTS AGAIN as many, many people find many, many reasons to protest.

'' WHY THE HELL DID WE REVOLT'' SAID INES JABALI - 23, a sociology student. ''Everything changed for the worse''. And then student Dahdouh had protested a decade ago, mainly against corruption, but now corruption saturates the daily life, he said. Getting jobs require bribes. Basic paper work requires bribe.

''Justice and dignity,'' as the revolutionaries once chanted, seem a very, very long way off.

It felt like an echo of the wildfire that brought down Tunisia's dictator, leadding to a series of revolts that ripped across the Middle East 10 years ago; young people in the streets of more than a dozen Tunisian cities over three nights.

Fury that corruption seemed to be everywhere, jobs nowhere. Clashes with security forces led to more than 600 arrests by early this week. Only this time, the endgame was unclear.

Tunisia's dictatorship is long gone. Zine eL-Abidine Ben Ali, who was president fled the country in January 2011 after a brutal 23-year rule, the first strongman to fall in the Arab Spring revolts that began in Tunisia and surged across the Middle East.

Ten years later, Tunisians have built a democracy, however dysfunctional, complete with elections and - that rarest of Arab commodities - the right to free speech.

So it is that the protests, strikes and sit-ins seemed to almost never stop.

''The only positive thing we got out of the revolution was the freedom to say anything we wanted,'' said Ayman Fahri, 24, a trade student who said he wanted to leave Tunis, the capital maybe for Turkey, because of the lack of opportunities at home.

As for the rest of democracy, he said, ''Maybe we understood freedom wrong, because we've made no progress in the last 10 years.''

Thanks to a deadlock in its post-revolutionary parliamentary system, Tunisia has torn through new governments at a rate of one per year, and three in just the last 12 months.

Political parties dominated by wealthy businessmen shuffle and reshuffle power - occasionally coming to actual blows in Parliament - while making little headway on economic reforms.

As faith in politics has dwindled, so has voter turnout. Over the course of Tunisia's seven free elections, participation has fallen from a high of 68 percent in the 2014 parliamentary elections to 42 percent in 2019.

Without prompting, student Jebali like Student Fahri, acknowledged one exception. At least, she said, there is now freedom of speech - though even that is occasionally threatened, with security forces beating demonstrators and prosecutors frequently hauling bloggers into court on charges of defaming public officials.

''With today's democracy, they may not be able to eat,'' said Sihem Benesdrine, a longtime activist, who as head Of Tunisia's, who as head of Tunisia's truth and dignity commission investigated previous regimes' abuses and corruption. ''But they have the freedom to fight for what they want.''

''I've lost hope in the political elite,'' said Mouheb Garoui, 34. ''We need to start working on the political education of younger people. Why not see young people run in 2024? If we just keep fighting corruption, it's never going to end.''

His group is starting its own radio station and digital media outlet, hiring young YouTube, Instagram and TikTok influencers with millions of followers to create content about accountability and political rights.

Like other youthful Arab media start-ups it aims to circumvent traditional media outlets, which tend to be owned - and muzzled - by powerful businessmen.

''Civil society usually preaches to the converted, to the elite,'' said Achref Aouadi, 35, another I-Watch founder. ''We want to be consumed by millions, by the masses.''

He can be confident the audience is there. After all, young Tunisian students, unlike their elders, have grown up taking for granted the right to consume whatever they want.

''We're all traumatized by censorship,'' Mr. Aouadi said. ''The younger one's, they don't care.''

!The Stark reality of Tunisian freedom!. Tunisia's future may depend on whether young Tunisians come to their hard-won rights, not a strong ruler, as the best route to putting bread on the table.

Take Student Haythgem Dahdouh, 31, a law school graduate who eat one recent afternoon at a cafe in Zaghouan, an hour inland from Tunisia's wealthier coast, because he had nothing else to do.

Friends of his were better off, he said, though not by very much: A trained accountant could find work only on a factory floor, a law classmate at a call center.

''I have experience in unemployment,'' he joked.

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Arab Spring and State-of-the-World, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Vivian Yee.

With respectful dedication the Students, Professors and Teachers of Tunisia, and then the world. See Ya all prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

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SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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