Unemployment in Tunisia

These statistics from the world bank revel how bad the unemployment was in Tunisia among students who had graduated from higher education. Unemployment was a major factor in Tunisia’s revolution.

click here to see the statistics


The Story of Mohammed Bouazizi

This article from Al-Jazeera is the most detailed article I have found regarding the life of Mohamed Bouazizi. Bouazizi is the man who set himself on fire, and thus started a revolution not only in Tunisia, but across North Africa and the Middle East. This is the first story I have found that is completely dedicated to telling his story and how he was the man behind the Arab Spring. It details his early life, as well as what caused Bouazizi to light himself on fire. The article titled, The Tragic Life of a Street Vendor, is worth reading to understand the reasoning behind Bouazizi’s actions, and understanding the beginnings of the revolution.

Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb

I recently read a book on Tunisia, called, Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb. It was extremely helpful on providing me with informaiton regarding Ennahda, or previously MTI during the Ben Ali regime. It has proved to be a difficult task to find information on Tunisia during the Ben Ali regime, but this book details the role of that Islam played in politics, and how both Bourguiba and Ben Ali exhausted their efforts in mainting that MTI and later Ennahda constituted illegal parties. This book also details Ben-Ali’s rise to power, and the changes he made to Tunisia once he became president. While some of his ojectives sound good such as women’s rights, he still ruled as an authoritarian. By the time of the revolution, Ben Ali couldn’t fix the high unemployment and food hikes. Even though Ben-Ali asserted some rights, he still imprisoned political members of oppossing groups, particuarly those of Ennahda. He also limited the freedom of the press and was guilty of mass corruption. This particular book describes what Tunisia was like under Ben-Ali and has proven to be a big help for me.

Unfortunately, I am not able to get the book, or its chapters online. But the Book is called, Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb by Christopher Alexander.

Tunisia Tests the Water of Democracy

This is a piece from the Middle East Institute. Here, author Yasmine Ryan discusses the implications of democracy for Tunisia, and states, “In many respects, Tunisia is the ideal country to give democracy a “test run” in the region. The North African country has neither the geostrategic importance of Egypt, nor the enormous petroleum riches of Libya, and a population of just ten million people.” Ryan discusses the events leading up to the revolution in Tunisia, starting with Mohammad Bouazizi, the man who lit himself on fire after his fruit and vegetable cart had been confiscated. Ryan’s paper also discusses briefly the political parties in Tunisia that were running during the election and states that there were around 111 parties running. In a previous post I had said that I believed Ennahda had won because they were the only political party (even though they were illegal under Ben Ali) that the people of Tunisia were familiar with. All of the other new parties sprung up after the revolution so people were not familiar with them. Ryan says something very similar, ” Opinion poll after opinion poll has shown that Tunisians have never heard of most of the parties and politicians. More than half of voters remain undecided. This is hardly surprising in a country where the president was the only politician to have a public profile. Tunisians have had just a few short months to learn what democracy means.” Like many other article, Ryan discusses the fears that people have about Ennahda winning the elections, particularly those of women’s rights. But Ghannouchi has said that he does not plan on diminishing the rights of women, and that his party believes in equal rights for both men and women. This article is helpful in giving a BRIEF background on the revolution and the elections that followed.

Click here to read it!

An Interview with Rachid Ghannouchi

This is an article from Foreign Policy Magazine that contains an interview with Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the Ennahda party in Tunisia. I found this article/interview to be really interesting because there has been a lot of talk and speculation regarding how Ennahda will govern Tunisia. But Ghannouchi does a very good job at reassuring people that Ennahda will govern as a progressive, moderate party. Ghannouchi stresses the importance of having a coalition to write the consistituion because he doesn’t want the people of Tunisia to feel that they are in another position where there is only one ruling party dominating political life. Ghannouchi seems to grasp the importance of letting everyone’s voice be heard in the construction of Tunisia’s new constitutuion. I think this goes back to the idea of an earlier article I posted about “Can the West Learn to Love the Islamists”. In that article, it stressed that Islam and democracy can go hand in hand, and thus far, Ghannouchi has done very well at advocating this, and stressing that he and all of his party member believe in equal freedoms and rights between men and women, and that jihad is not the way to spread Islam around the world – this seems to be a main concern for the Western world. Listening to Ghannouchi, it is hard to disagree with his speaking points. In fact, Foreign Policy named him one of top 100 global thinkers of our time. But rights now, Ennahda and Ghannouchi are using just words, it is when these words are put into action that I will be able to make a better decision about Ennahda as the ruling party of Tunisia.

click here to read the article!

History of Algeria, Part V

Finally, a look at the Arab Spring, using Al Jazeera’s Eye on Algeria page.

December 29, 2010: Protests began in Algiers with resistance from police, leading to injuries and arrests. The protests had been ongoing, ranging from the rising unemployment (mainly among university graduates) and corruption within the government. President Bouteflika had amended the constitution in 2009 to allow another election term to the current president in which he won. Food prices also soared with an increase of imports of basic provisions.

January 2011: Protests spread to other cities and towns throughout Algeria, and riots a couple days later sparked arson and looting in local business, government buildings and town halls. Over 800 people were injured, over 1,100 arrested and 3 were dead. After a man set himself on fire in Tunisia (in which is considered the technical start of the Arab Spring), Algerians also participated in self-immolation and suicide. The police and tried to suppress the protests, riots and marches by claiming that they were not authorized by the government. Demonstrations flared more when Ben Ali from Tunisia fled, and Algerians waved the Tunisian flag to show their success.

Political parties tried to rally and make claims as to why the protests were occurring. One party extremely urged the government to lift the 19-year state of emergency which severely limited freedom of the citizens.

February 2011: University strikes started when students claimed that they were given poor education. Paramedics were also on strike. After the resignation of Mubarak, protests in Algiers intensified. Police cordoned off the borders of Algiers to contain the demonstrations, and protesters could not reach the main square by being fired with tear gas and water cannons. Similar demonstrations also cropped up in Oran, Constantine and Annaba. Finally on the 22nd, the government officially lifted the state of emergency ban and began to allow demonstrations as long as there was a fair notice.

March and April 2011: Protests continue against unfair wages and pension packages, but they are met with pro-Bouteflika supporters who tried to lynch another democracy group leader. President Bouteflika released a statement saying he planned to “reinforce representative democracy” and create changes within elections, the government and the press.

While there are still sporadic protests and demonstrations throughout the country, it looks as though there hasn’t been a collective action against the state unlike the other Arab Spring movements. While the state is still plagued with problems, the government has taken some serious steps to mending the situations (making peace with Morocco, holding new elections, etc.).

History of Algeria, Part IV

First this last part of Algerian history, I’m going to summarize events following the War for Independence, the Civil War and the protests from the end of the civil war. I will be using the Library of Congress website and Al-Jazeera for the more recent events.

Continue reading