Tunisians Recall Revolution Reluctantly, if at All: ‘It Just Faded Away’

LE KRAM, Tunisia — When a part of one in all Tunisia’s solely monuments to its 2011 revolution disappeared earlier this 12 months, not many observed.

Some residents of Le Kram, a suburb of the capital, Tunis, say the plaque bearing the names of eight locals killed whereas protesting was damaged off by somebody with a psychological sickness. Others say a passing drunk was in charge.

No matter occurred, the true story is that nobody bothered to repair it.

“This place wasn’t maintained, as you’ll be able to see,” mentioned Aymen Tahari, 40, the proprietor of the struggling plant nursery dealing with the monument and, as of about two weeks in the past, its self-appointed caretaker. “Through the first 12 months after the revolution, there was a sort of assist from everybody, however then it simply pale away.”

A decade later, Tunisia remembers its rebellion — which ignited the region-upending protests that got here to be generally known as the Arab Spring, overthrew a dictator and ushered within the movement’s only remaining democracy — with a sort of reluctance bordering on hostility, the euphoria of that point stanched way back.

This Jan. 14, the 10-year anniversary of the day the dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, fled the nation, there was no official tribute, solely extra protests over Tunisia’s no-end-in-sight economic decline.

Greater than remembrance, there’s remorse.

The revolution answered few, if any, of the hopes it raised for financial alternative, accountability and an finish to corruption, many Tunisians now say. This decade of disappointment with their elected leaders is why many Tunisians supported the occasions of this July, when President Kais Saied sidelined Parliament and seized energy, precipitating a political disaster that still grips the nation.

“The revolution is historical past now,” Mr. Tahari mentioned. “Now we’re shifting ahead.”

In 2019, Le Kram’s mayor tried to immortalize its half in that historical past, selecting for the location of the memorial to these killed a roundabout ringed by a half-empty cafe, the shell of a parking storage, a automotive dealership and a stand hawking low cost purses. In the course of the roundabout is a scraggle of dried-out grass, and in the midst of the grass stands a black steel spike, the Tunisian flag flying crisply from its tip.

On a current morning, Mr. Tahari was pacing the roundabout with one in all his staff from the nursery, discussing plans to choose up the cigarette butts and water the grass.

No person had requested him to. However the municipality lacked the cash, all people else lacked the desire, and he thought it might be a pleasant factor to do. He mentioned he had not given a lot thought to honoring the martyrs, as Tunisians name them.

Not that he was diminishing their sacrifice. Again in 2011, he mentioned, Ben Ali’s repression and corruption made the revolution unavoidable and bloodshed inevitable.

But Tunisia, as soon as awash in clocks shaped like the number 7 in honor of the Nov. 7, 1987, coup that introduced Ben Ali to energy, is conspicuously lacking in monuments to those that felled him.

Officers have mentioned such memorials needed to look forward to a government-approved listing of the lifeless and wounded, which was not revealed till this March after a decade of pleas from the victims’ households, quarrels over who constituted a “martyr” and expenses that old-regime sympathizers have been obstructing the work.

What few tributes exist are put up by native governments or, typically, by families at their very own expense.

“We had little interest in the main points of the official listing,” Fathi Laayouni, the mayor of Le Kram, told an interviewer final 12 months. “We all know our martyrs very nicely, and we took the initiative to appease the ache and struggling of the households.”

The reminiscence of the revolution is continually contested.

Tunisia’s post-revolution Fact and Dignity Fee spent years accumulating proof of crimes dedicated underneath Ben Ali and his predecessor, Habib Bourguiba, solely to run into obstacles to prosecuting the perpetrators. After being eliminated in 2011, a statue of Bourguiba triumphant atop a horse returned in 2016 to his namesake avenue in downtown Tunis, the identical avenue the place hundreds of Tunisians had chanted for Ben Ali to “Go away!”

Strolling down the avenue, nobody would guess that the sq. close to the statue is meant to be known as the 14 January 2011 Sq.. There is no such thing as a signal.

It could be straightforward in charge old-regime sympathizers in energy. However many Tunisians have way more nostalgia for their ex-dictator than the revolution that toppled him.

If Ben Ali had stored ruling as he did in his early years in cost, “he might’ve stayed,” mentioned Sondes Kouni, 55, from the coastal metropolis of Sfax, who was strolling via the Le Kram roundabout. She had not protested in 2011, however had, ultimately, been persuaded that Ben Ali wanted to go.

Those that have been killed protesting “didn’t die for nothing,” she added. “However afterward, there have been errors that weren’t imagined to occur.”

In accordance with Mr. Tahari and plenty of others, Tunisia’s post-revolution leaders had finished subsequent to nothing aside from enrich themselves and their mates.

Maybe none have better trigger for bitterness than the households of the lifeless.

Le Kram’s black spike just isn’t the one one of many neighborhood’s memorials to the killed; a easy block of marble was first put up by their households. Inscribed with the eight names, it stands throughout from its taller cousin within the roundabout.

The municipality holds quiet commemoration ceremonies on the massive monument, however solely the households come to the small one.

“We did it in order that their names stay,” mentioned Saida el-Sifi, 63, whose son Chokri el-Sifi, a fuel station employee, was 19 when he was shot within the protests.

Adorned with a minimum of a dozen photographs of Chokri massive and small, the household’s house is itself a monument of kinds to him. The household moved there after his demise, claiming what had been state property, and hung a plaque outdoors the gate proudly saying it as the house of a revolutionary martyr.

Regardless of authorities makes an attempt at eviction, they’ve been dwelling there ever since. Ms. El-Sifi considers it her proper, having sacrificed her son for Tunisia. Now she expects Mr. Saied to satisfy authorities guarantees made to households then, and by no means stored: To place the shooters on trial and to compensate the survivors.

“I nonetheless assist the revolution, however the final 10 years, it was a multitude,” she mentioned. “We actually hope Kais Saied, now he’s president, will remedy the issues and save the nation and convey us our justice.”

Passing the roundabout on her approach residence, Arbia Jneihi, 46, typically pauses over the identify of her husband, Nouri Sikala, a carpenter shot whereas protesting on Jan. 13, 2011. He was 30.

“Once I see his identify, I’m going again in historical past, I’m going again in my recollections,” she mentioned. “We might’ve had a traditional life, we might’ve had children. However every little thing was only a dream.”

Mr. Sikala had protested due to all of the official mistreatment he had endured, she mentioned: roughing-up from cops, insults on the city corridor. Le Kram’s streets had been stuffed with aggrieved folks like him, burning down the police station, burning tires. In some locations, you possibly can nonetheless see the marks.

However Ms. Jneihi, who has a low-level authorities job — one in all her few survivors’ advantages — mentioned she had joined the revolution extra “to float.”

It had introduced her solely remorse.

“I want he hadn’t gone out. I want the revolution hadn’t occurred. I used to be really, at one level, wishing I hadn’t met him in any respect,” she mentioned. “We had a hope, we had a dream, but it surely simply stayed a dream.”

For all its failed promise, nonetheless, Mr. Tahari says he nonetheless believes within the rebellion’s beliefs.

“We confirmed,” he mentioned, “that it’s the individuals who have the ability.” | Tunisians Recall Revolution Reluctantly, if at All: ‘It Simply Pale Away’


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