Tunisians Plan 'Day of Rage' Tuesday to Mark Start of 'Arab Spring'

Monday, 16 Dec 2013 10:07 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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Three years to the day after a 26-year-old street vendor immolated himself and began what is now known as the "Arab Spring," Tunisians plan a “Day of Rage” Tuesday in Sidi Bouzid, the poor town in central Tunisia where everything began.
 
Organizers say they want to show their anger at new leaders who  have done little to improve their lives, the Saudi Gazette reported.

“Tuesday will be a day of rage and protests against the policies of the government which did not keep to its word and betrayed the promises of the revolution,” said activist Youssef Jlili, who said the protests in Sidi Bouzid will be peaceful.

On Dec. 17, 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a local vendor frustrated by police and bureaucratic harassment, set himself on fire.

Within days, the protests around the country went viral. In less than a month, protests across Tunisia drove President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had been in office since 1987, out of office and into exile.
 
Over the next few years, revolutionary fervor would spread to other Arab countries. and topple veteran autocratic rulers in  Egypt, Yemen, and Libya. In Syria, reform demands would lead to insurgency and a war aimed at toppling President Bashar Assad which continues to rage.

Like many other parts of Tunisia, Sidi Bouzid has been the site of angry protests in which demonstrators have clashed with police and attacked government buildings.

“Our lives have gone from bad to worse. We are poorer than before and our children are out of work,” said Hasnia Mnasri, a merchant with a small stand near police headquarters.

Three years after the revolution began, unemployment in the country is close to 15 percent, and future prospects are bleak in view of continuing political turmoil that has rocked the country. In the Sidi Bouzid area, home to approximately 500,000 people, unemployment is at 24.4 percent, the highest rate in Tunisia.

The Sidi Bouzid protests will also pay tribute to two opposition politicians killed earlier this year by suspected jihadists. Their slayings led to calls for Tunisia’s elected Islamist government, headed by the En-Nadha party, to resign.

Tunisian authorities say Ansar al-Sharia, a group with links to al-Qaida, committed the murders, the Daily Star reported.

The assassinations plunged the country Tunisia into a political crisis. Two months, Tunisia’s major political parties agreed to form an independent interim government pending new elections.

On Saturday, the parties agreed on a compromise, choosing Industry Minister Mehdi Jomaa to form a new government, the Saudi Gazette reported..
Organizers of Tuesday’s say that President Moncef Marzouki should stay away.

“We categorically refuse their presence . . . because they have done nothing but impoverish our region. They are not credible,” said union official Lazhar Ghmoudi.
 
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