In February 2011, Roger Cohen of The NY Times demanded that we abandon the phrase “the Arab Street” as a relic of the past which no longer applied, even as crowds in Tunisia surged around a Synagogue shouting “”Jews, remember Khyabar, the army of Mohammed is returning””:
Cohen further asserted that “the usual Muslim-hating naysayers” were democracy’s greatest threat in Tunisia:
Tunisia has a lot going for it in this quest: high levels of education, emancipated women encouraged over decades to use birth control, manageable size, and an Islamist movement that Michael Willis, a North Africa expert at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, described as “perhaps the mildest and most pragmatic around.” Their exiled leader, Rached Ghannouchi, has been multiplying conciliatory statements. A democratic Tunisia can do the Turkish thing.
There will, in coming weeks, be agents provocateurs bent on the worst, and the usual Muslim-hating naysayers. Arab democracy is threatening to a host of vested interests and glib clichés.
Cohen dubbed the revolution the “dignity revolution.”
So what has become of Tunisa in the past two years? An Islamist nightmare.
ON Oct. 23, 2011, I voted for the first time as a Tunisian citizen. It was the first election of the Arab Spring. Pictures of smiling, proud voters flooded the Internet. The world watched, surprised and hopeful. Moderate political Islam in the Arab world was touted as a possibility rather than an oxymoron.
A year later, we have no democracy, no trust in elected officials, no improved constitution. Human rights and women’s rights are threatened. The economy is tanking.
Tourism is dwindling. Who wants to vacation among bands of bearded savages raiding embassies, staking their black pirate flag over universities or burning trucks carrying beer? Meanwhile, our government and puppet president watch, without arresting these Salafist extremists.
Hurling stones and wielding clubs and knives, dozens of supporters of Tunisia’s Islamist rulers attacked members of the country’s main labor union on Tuesday, in the latest sign of unrest in the North African country.
Activists with the General Union of Tunisian Workers were gathering for a march in Tunis to commemorate the 1952 assassination of a historic member when they were set upon by the League for Protection of the Revolution, resulting in pitched battle that injured 10 people before police restored order.
The attackers were shouting “the people want the assassination of the union,” according to witnesses.
“These are militias used by the ruling party as their armed wing, “ union member Fathi Abaza said.
Tunisia’s largest union called on Wednesday for a general protest strike next week against the Islamist-led government in an escalation of protests that resulted in violent clashes in the capital this week.
On Tuesday, several hundred Islamists armed with knives and sticks charged a gathering of members of the UGTT union in the capital and broke office windows with stones. Police had to intervene to separate the two groups.
Siliana was fairly quiet during the revolution that overthrew Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali nearly two years ago. But last week it rose up against its unpopular governor. Ahmed Mahjoubi, who was installed last February by the country’s Islamist-led government, has done nothing for Siliana, complain its inhabitants. Protests against the governor spread, encouraged by the local branch of Tunisia’s powerful trade union federation, the UGTT. Flexing its muscles against the Islamist-led government in Tunis, it called a general strike during which all the town’s businesses closed. The prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, initially dismissed the recent demonstrations. But on Saturday, anxious to restore calm, the government announced that the local governor would, at least for now, be replaced by his deputy.
More than 210 people were treated at Siliana’s regional hospital last week. Staff say that ten of them suffered serious eye injuries from birdshot pellets fired by police.
PATIENCE is wearing thin for the people of Thala, one of the first Tunisian towns to join the revolution nearly two years ago, with an abandoned marble quarry a stark reminder that for them little has improved. On the edge of town, hundreds of blocks of royal marble remain stacked at the quarry, a resource that could bring in millions of euros in revenue and provide work for some of the 40,000 residents.
Before the revolution in December 2010, relatives of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali rented the land for next to nothing and tapped its natural riches for their own benefit, according to local marble worker Mohamed Salah Jomli. But since the fall of the regime, the mines have come under the control of the government, headed by the Islamist party Ennahda, which has yet to decide on the terms of their commercial exploitation.