Ben Ali fled from Tunisia, and with his departure, a regime has been overthrown by an overwhelming popular revolution, initiated by a young man named Mohammed Bouazizi. He was a university graduate who had been unemployed for four years, finally becoming a vegetable vendor to support his family. However, he set himself on fire in protest against the municipality officials, who confiscated his vegetable cart. This was the “tipping point” which sparked off full-scale pubic anger in various Tunisian cities and villages, opening up all issues without fear or reservation. Demands for work, protests against unemployment, and complaints of soaring prices, tuned into wider condemnation of tyranny and corruption. The nation revolted to uncover the dictators within the key positions of power, and demand that the tyrannical and corrupt President himself should leave the country, along with his family.
With eyes and mouths open, people followed what was happening in Tunisia with astonishment. It was like a fictional movie being conveyed to the people by all means of communication, means which the Bin Ali regime had sought to prohibit by force.
Scenes of horrific demonstrations, explicit slogans, and bloody, suppressive confrontations with the regime’s security apparatus, all turned into a full on popular revolution, which crippled the country. The people had only one fixed demand, namely that the tyrant ruler should leave the country. Ben Ali delivered three final speeches to the people, and in the last one he appeared pitiful, weak and shaken, begging his nation with words that warranted neither belief nor respect.
It is strange how the people managed, albeit unwillingly, to feign passion and respect for their leaders, who deprived them of a sense of security, and dignified living standards, for so long. Overnight, the situation had turned on its head, with the nation venting its anger and true feelings, feelings which neither the torrent of bullets, nor the heavily armed soldiers, could suppress.
What is amazing is that such a savage anger came from one of the most decent, gentle and cultured Arab nations, but when dignity has been robbed, and when even the most patient have been angered, this is the end result.
The Tunisian revolution was not initiated or politicized from abroad, or carried by the tanks of foreign forces, nor did it raise extreme religious slogans. Rather it was ignited by the people, for the people, in a spontaneous manner. Therefore, the revolution was truly sincere. It was ignited by the call of a simple man, who had been treated unjustly, and whose dignity had been destroyed. God’s reply was miraculous, whereby the leader was dethroned in a truly magnificent spectacle.
The Tunisians referred to the articles of the constitution, and demanded its application. The army took to streets to protect the people, rather than seize control of power (despite the fact that the army and its leader were already in control of the country, Ben Ali was forced to flee as his army declined to open fire on the people). The army knew the limits of its role, and is now contributing to stabilizing the situation, and helping establish the principles of a peaceful transition of power, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
Of course, there are lessons to be drawn from what happened in Tunisia; lessons which will be daunting for those who must learn from them. The free citizen is built upon the foundations of a dignified life, opportunities to earn a livelihood, and a sense of security. These all are prerequisites to ensure that the citizen then feels loyalty [to the homeland]. Citizenship is not empty slogans or repetitive chants, rather it is a common code of honour between the state and the citizen, and once the balance tips, the relationship between the two parties is disrupted.
Arab Politicians in the past have been preoccupied with slogans of ‘Lebanonization’, ‘Iraqization’, ‘Sudanization’ and ‘Somalization’, but I firmly believe that the slogan of the current era is ‘Tuniziation’. This scenario will be repeated unless we take notice, and fully comprehend what happened in Tunisia.
May God bless and protect Tunisia, and its people.