Arabian Uprising – We’re Not There Yet

A french protest in support of Mohamed Bouzazzi. Image courtesy of wikimedia commons project

A french protest in support of Mohamed Bouzazzi. Image courtesy of wikimedia commons project

Arab revolutions, or at least calls for them, have been rife in the media over the last number of years, but mostly from a political and quite de-sensitised viewpoint. I get that these are the stories that make headlines, controversial, crowd drawing and often blood curdling. However, today I read an article that for once felt like it pinned the ownership of the story on the people of the counties concerned rather than the politics of the story sold by the journalists. For this reason it may not be the usually pointed controversial story covered in Intentious, but one that should be shared nonetheless.

Madison’s January issue covered 4 interviews with local women in Tunisia, Egypt, Lybia and Syria. These women have seen the struggles in their own countries first hand, not as a journalist reporting the news, but as a local living it day in day out. Being a local is difficult enough, but being a local and a WOMAN in these circumstances is quite something else. When not only are your oppressors are against the people’s freedom of speech, thought, or living, but they are doubly against those of women. For women should remain subordinate and uneducated, so it were.

On December 17th 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi would take his own life by setting himself on fire outside the local municipality building in Sidi Bouzid in protest after the police confiscated his stall contents without reason, and then humiliating him. It was this action that kick started the Tunisian revolution.

I have been to Sidi Bouzid, but had the (wonderful, and most likely superficial) experience of a tourist. Still, it was hard to believe when I heard the news that this had happened in the same place.

One month after Bouazizi’s death the President of 23 years fled the country, and was charged in absentia with murder, injustice and drug trafficking.

Aya Chebbi, a 25 year old young woman from Tunisia, speaks to the world on the beginning of a revolution. She was studying for her university exams at the time of Bouazizi’s death. Ben Ali then closed all the educational institutions which Chebbi calls a mistake for Ali as they had time to organise and mobilise their protests, something no doubt incredibly dangerous to the young women of the country, but a fight worth the risk. She knew some of those killed and imprisioned in the ensuing conflicts, saying;

“The country was in total chaos…Militia, police and snipers everywhere. People were killed, kidnapped and raped…”

Here is where the news kicks in telling the world of political revolution having come to Tunisia. Something neighbouring countries were yet to experience, and we in the West seem to think that it’s all over. Here the struggle pretty much ceases. Sure it takes a while to stabilise, but the hard yards are done. This is not so. The article comments;

“Hemadi Jebali of the moderate Islamic Ennahada Movement Party became prime minister, promising to fulfil the people’s demands. But hope and optimism have worn off. In August, a draft of Tunisia’s new constitution assigned women a ‘complementary’ role inside the family, rather than labeling them equal to men – a right they had actually been given in 1957 by the old dictatorship.”

Hard to believe this was not made so much of in international presses.

Chebbi says, “Things have not been resolved, and if those in government violate their positions, people still have the power to change them. A lot of people outside Tunisia use the term AFTER the revolution, but I think we are still IN revolution.”

She certainly seems to be striving in that direction. Chebbi has  since graduated from university in English and International Relations and with two other activists has set up an organisation called United Women for Peace which has the aim of defending the rights of women against persecution and violence – and something that has previously not existed in Tunisia.

The revolution she talks about is so readily deserved by the people of the country I treasured visiting so much. I really hope they continue to move in the right direction without the need for figures and sacrifice of those such as Bouazizi and the remainder who remain anonymous but who sacrificed so much.

This article does not even touch the plight of the other 3 women interviewed, but I do suggest you get your hands on the January Australian Madison article if you would like to read more – definately worth the effort, and an emotive read.

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Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Crime, Events, Multiculturalism, People, Politics, Law

Author:Lou

Digital and Comms nerd working in an INGO. PhD researcher (technology / gender / International development / fragile and conflict affected states / South Sudan). Bibliophile. Writer. Musician. Views my own.

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