Tunisia: Protesting Austerity, Demanding Sovereignty

Source: Roar Magazine

The recent protests show that Tunisia is still a cauldron of popular resistance against neoliberal and neo-colonial attacks on the country’s sovereignty.

round 800 people were arrested, dozens were injured and at least one person was killed in a violent police crackdown on the protests that rocked Tunisia for over two weeks in January. The protesters, who stemmed from a wide variety of social and economic backgrounds, took to the streets in response to the government’s announcement of its 2018 budget. A new round of harsh austerity measures are predicted to inflate prices of basic foods, fuel and energy and to further undermine crucial public services such as health care and education.

Compared to other mobilizations in Tunisia in the post-2010 era, these recent events had a much wider geographical spread, with people taking to the streets in sixteen out of 24 governorates. The January protests drew in a wide array ofdifferent social groups, from the precarious middle classes to the most marginalized groups at the bottom ranks of society. The protests were initiated by the youth movement Fech Nestennaw? (“What are we waiting for?”), which is associated with the left-wing Popular Front coalition, but they were joined by many other young people living in the neglected regions of the interior and in the poor neighborhoods at the margins of Tunisia’s urban centers, where the protests were most violently repressed.

So, what are the immediate triggers that led people to revolt? What are the underlying causes of this short-lived uprising? What framework shall we adopt to analyze the multiplication of protests, social movements, occupations and the intensification of discontent and resistance in the last few years in Tunisia? Should we be content with merely lamenting the fate of the 2010 revolution and how elites have treacherously managed that so-touted “transition” to the better days of “democracy” and “good governance”? What really happened to the promises of the Arab uprisings?

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