Headline, August 24 2021/ ''' '' TUNISIAN STUDENTS TUNGSTEN '' '''



IN TUNISIA'S RURAL INTERIOR - WHERE THE REVOLUTION that started the Arab Spring erupted after a young fruit seller set himself ablaze to protest police harassment, dozens of young men self immolate every year.

''Even if you have a job,'' said Mr. Mejri, the waiter in Tebourba, ''you don't think about having a car or building a house. You just think about eating.''

But Tunisia was struggling long before Covid, hampered under dictators and democracy alike by a trade deficit, corruption, a labor market that failed to create jobs for the country's many college graduates and an economy too dependent on outside forces such as tourism and the European market.

Post - revolution, as successive governments failed to correct those problems, prices have risen as the local currency lost value. More than a third of young people, who makeup over 28 percent of the population, are unemployed.

TUNISIA IS KAPUT. Everything is kaput. DISILLUSIONED TUNISIANS POUR ANGER AND SOUR ON DEMOCRACY. And corruption and poverty fuel popular support for a president seizing power.

For many Tunisian students, Mr. Saied is giving the people what they want. A former law professor, he was elected by a huge margin in 2019 in part thanks to the perception that, as a political outsider, he was not corrupt.

''We've been waiting for this day,'' said Beya Rahoui, 65, who sells handmade jewelry to tourists in the village of Sidi Bou Said. ''There's too much injustice and corruption. Nothing is going well. Tourism is kaput. Tunisia is kaput.''

Aroussi Meiri, a 40-year-old waiter, is just lucky to have a regular job, even if it pays only about $7.20 a day. Yet although a lot has changed in Tunisia since he started working in cafes more than a decade ago, wages have not.

Since 2011, his country has gone from an autocracy to the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings after it ousted its dictator. But for Mejri, the main difference is that it has gotten much harder to feed his children.

''From what we've seen so far, democracy has no value,'' he said in his hometown, Tebourba, about an hour's drive from Tunis, the capital. ''If someone like me stayed stuck in the same situation he was in before, why did we revolt?''

For many Tunisians, it has been a decade of disappointment - of incurable unemployment, deepening poverty and a growing sense that their leaders do not care. Young men die at sea while trying to migrate across the Mediterranean in search of opportunities in Italy and beyond. Others set themselves on fire out of despair.

The boiling point came late last month when Tunisians, disgusted with official corruption and incompetence, surged into the streets, giving President Kais Saied their backings to seize power from the rest of the government.

The president suspended Parliament for 30 days, fired the prime minister, appointed himself as the attorney general and said he would begin prosecuting corrupt business and political elites. His political opponents, and many Westerners, called it an unconstitutional power grab, if not a coup. But he appeared to have the support of most Tunisians - nearly 90 percent, according to one poll by Emrhod Consulting, a local firm.

''There's a perception among lots of people in Tunisia that the institutions of what people call democracy haven't delivered,'' said Monica Marks, a Middle East politics professor at New York University Abu Dhabi who has long studied Tunisia.

''There are no revolutionary dividends for people in Tunisia - the only one is freedom of expression,'' she said. ''And you can't eat that.''

Still, it would be premature to declare Tunisia's democracy dead.

Most Tunisians appear to be giving the president the benefit of the doubt, as long as he can deliver change, but that should not be mistaken for a yearning to return to dictatorship.

''Who can fix this situation and at the same time keep the freedoms?'' said Mahfoudi Adel, 54, a cemetery worker in Tunis. ''We don't want someone who will kill democracy and freedoms just because we are hungry.''

''This is the best thing Saied has done since getting into office,'' said Ahmed Chihi, 18, who was sitting in a cafe in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Tunis in late July, ''because people don't want to give Ennahda power anymore.''

Mr. Chihi said he had applied for about 50 jobs with no success in the six months since the secondhand clothing market where he used to work closed down because of coronavirus. A friend sitting with him, Mohammed Amine May, 18, had tried to leave for Italy three times, only to be arrested or turn around for lack of money. Mr. Chihi is seeking a different route to Europe : He is trying to marry the Polish girlfriend he met online.

Analysts say there is little evidence that Ennahda is especially corrupt, or imposing its religious vision. But its years in power have failed to produce results. And it has not helped the case by calling, in the midst of economic suffering, to be paid reparations for the torture and imprisonment its members suffered under the dictator deposed in 2011 2011 uprising, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

''When the state can't deliver, who do they blame? They blame Ennahda because Ennahda is always there,'' Said Ferjani, a senior Ennahda lawmaker and longtime advocate of democracy, said in an interview. '' We have to look at ourselves and how to fix ourselves.''

But Mr. Ferjani warned against trampling democratic institutions under the guise of fixing them. Tunisia's problems, he said, ''can be solved only under the tent of democracy.''

Mr. Mejri, the waiter, said he appreciated some of the fruits of the 2011 revolution, including freedom of speech. ''Everyone wants his country to progress,'' he said. But thanks to the president, he is more hopeful now than he can remember being after the uprising.

''This president feels for the poor,'' he said. ''He's doing everything for them.''

The Sadness and Torments of this Publishing, continues. The World Students Society thanks authors Vivian Yee and Massinissa Benlakehal.

With respectful dedication to the people of Tunisia, Students, Professors and Teachers, 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 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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