With another year under the absolute rule of President Kais Saied, Tunisia commemorates its revolution amid a complex political and economic crisis, raising burning questions about its causes and prospects.
A context that represented basic material for a number of documentary works that I completed, in which I noticed that every time I hovered around a central question that carried within it a strange paradox, which is:
What exactly happened in Tunisia on January 14, 2011?
It is natural that the answers to this question go in different ways, in an arc that extends from considering it a great revolutionary event, to those who see it as a Western conspiracy against the national state, based on the movement of “local puppets.”
But the same question refers to another meaning, which is what can be described as the uniqueness that characterized the event that extended from December 2010 to January 2011, drawing a different regional and Arab scene than what the region had settled on for decades.
The uniqueness of the event in Tunisia came from the fact that it was carried out by marginalized youth in a year in which the United Nations adopted an official Tunisian proposal to designate 2011 as the International Year of Youth.
The regime of the late President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali found itself facing a segment of society outside the traditional classifications, using social networking sites as an essential tool in breaking the iron security curtain that was imposed on Tunisians at the time.
Once again – regardless of the sharp contrast in the diagnosis of the event and its implications – what happened can be considered a revolutionary occasion and opportunity, shared by two basic considerations: one of them; Rama's horizon was the establishment of a modern democracy, which was translated into a constitution, constitutional bodies, and fair electoral stations.
And the other; It is a ground on which the “democratic dream” stood, and it is represented by a demanding social mentality, and before and after that, a deep structure of a network of interests and influential people, which was monitoring a political map that granted the Islamists legal legitimacy and advanced roles in interacting with its transformations, which was a matter that aroused the suspicion of parties and rejection. Another new reality.
The clash between reality and horizon generated lines of conflict that exacerbated the country's problems instead of solving them, and the democratic transition gradually became a crisis made more complex by security events and terrorist attacks.
There is no doubt that the throes of transformation – in any country – are an arduous and painful process, fraught with stakes and risks from everywhere, but the limited public awareness of this fact, and the failure of the elites who opposed the Ben Ali regime to build a historical bloc in the face of the entitlements of the stage, all created the vacuum. Who transformed the democratic path, and made it erode from within little by little, to the point where the forces of the past regained their confidence in the possibility of regaining control, and tempted regional and Arab parties to think about taking revenge on the “cradle of the Arab Spring revolutions,” and ending this story from where it emerged.
This raises a question that cannot be overlooked: What did Tunisia represent to those regional and Arab parties compared to other inflammatory arenas such as Syria, Yemen, and even neighboring Libya?
The answer takes us back to the fact that he neglects all approaches that reduce fierce confrontations only to armed military matters, while many experiences remind us that the outbreak and end of conflicts are due to symbolic and valuable data linked to projects and stakes of the clashing or competing forces.
Here, Tunisia represents a lot. The revolution created an image for the country that was close to ideal, so that everyone in 2011 talked about Tunisia with its ancient reformist heritage, the country of civilization and its cultured, open people, which explains its leadership in making that transformation that changed the face of the region forever.
It was necessary to return to that image and its realistic and ideal dimensions. To redraw it again according to different considerations, in which the Tunisian appears decisive in the matter of democracy, dissatisfied and even resentful of its advocates, unwilling to hear anything from politics and its people, absorbed in his daily concerns, concerned only with securing his livelihood or riding one of the death boats, as it is called in the past. Irregular migration towards the “European paradise”.
This space is sufficient to some extent to explain several paradoxes surrounding the current scene in Tunisia and remove any ambiguity from it, because the revolution that expelled the late Ben Ali was wanted to end as it began, with the least bloody cost, and even with zero drops of blood.
I also want it to end with the same democratic mechanisms it established, so the bet was on the elections and its volatile alliances, and I want it to end with its deepest and best slogans; That is, resisting corruption, but this time the accusation is not only directed at the remnants of the former regime, as the “revolutionaries” described it, but also at those who once resisted Ben Ali’s oppressive regime.
In the unique turning point in the path of the revolution in Tunisia, under the title: “The Path of the 25th of July,” what explains the intense battle between two narratives competing to speak in the name of the revolution and accuse the other party of betraying it.
Two narratives that compete with central terms such as; The new construction, historical action, and distribution of power and wealth in current Tunisia, with the redefinition of power and the reproduction of balances by eliminating intermediary bodies by reducing and diminishing them, whether political or union.
The throes of chaos
Is there any amount of realism in saying that the Tunisian revolution has ended, or that it is alive, despite the clinical death it is going through?
“Yes and no. The answer is a kind of chaos that is not known specifically whether it will be creative or stifling.” This is because the horizon seems cloudy in the face of an authority that says it is waging a fierce battle against what it describes as a network of corrupt, monopolists and traitors, as well as in the face of an exhausted opposition. All peaceful political means to resist what it considers to be a coup against a previous trend were of no use in statements, meetings, and marches.
Between this party and that is a people who are reluctant to participate in all the stations proposed by President Saied, without this meaning nostalgia for what came before that path, and who are accustomed to making their say about the reality in which they live, through categories, expressions, and means that go beyond the ceilings of the state and its opponents.
Crises cast a heavy shadow over an arena, making it vulnerable to interventions coming from outside, but with their slow and deep accumulations, they lead towards some transformation.
Transformation President Kais Saied says; It is in the process of being created and imposed, and the opposition confirms that it is coming one day in the direction of freedom and democracy. The policy of the status quo does nothing but delay it, which portends a heavy price for achieving it, in a country that has always boasted that it made its transformations at the lowest cost.