Being half English and half Tunisian, living in Dubai, and travelling back home for at least three months every year, I remember the despair that was felt in the country during the uprising and indeed following the revolution in 2011.
Each conversation we engaged in, whether with family or taxi drivers, was centralized around what was happening and the effect that it was having on the country. However, what resonated with me was the belief and the utter strength that Tunisians showed during this time, as example for their neighbors facing similar challenges with their governments.
After Mohamed Bouazizi tragically set himself aflame, after being prevented from selling fruit to make a living, this extreme sequence of events sent ripples through the Arab world. It sparked revolutions in Libya and Egypt, giving light to what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’ by the Western world.
Tunisia has since been recognized for their progressive politics on an international scale. Tunisia won the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize and was praised for becoming the only Arab nation with a functioning democracy coming out of the revolution of 2011.
Seven years later, the optimism of the country and its progress has garnered international attention and leaves me proud as a Tunisian.
Evolution of politics
Since 2011, Tunisia has faced many trials and tribulations in its struggle to become a well-established democracy. Despite becoming the most successful among Arab nations that underwent a political uprising, Tunisia still has a long way to go before it can achieve absolute democracy.
With the election of the current Tunisian president, Beji Caid Essebsi, the country has witnessed substantial progression toward a more socially equal nation.
I personally recall the tension in the country during these elections. It was clear that Tunisians wanted nothing more than a logical and liberal government, far removed from the religious political party.
Essebsi’s election to me was the first move toward healing the country following revolution. Recent progress made, such as ending inequality in inheritance for women, proves that Tunisia is headed in the right direction.
The barbaric terror attacks in 2015 on the Bardo museum and the targeting of European tourists at a beach resort in Sousse, carried out by ISIS, changed the atmosphere in the country.
During my visits after these events, I could sense that Tunisia’s morale had taken a hit and the discussions I was used to having with people abroad about Tunisia became about terrorism as opposed to the success of the revolution.
What I remembered vividly was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office warning British nationals against traveling to Tunisia where they had increased the terror threat level to critical. This hit me hard as I was in Tunisia during the time of the Sousse attack even though luckily I was far away from the scene of the crime.
Even though these unfortunate events took place, the President made it clear that terrorism had no place in Tunisia and that the Tunisian people stood tall in their democratic and liberal convictions. I even remember the popular hashtag #TahyaTounes. Once again social media brought the nation together, mirroring the revolution.
The future for Tunisia looks promising, for all they have accomplished politically and socially they are at the forefront of breaking boundaries in the Arab world and modernizing their way of life. In the years to come there will be several economic difficulties to overcome. However, with a reasonable and liberal government, I believe Tunisia will thrive.
Tunisia is today focusing on social issues and is trying to become a role model and a force to reckon with in the Arab world. Emerging from the aftereffects of Ben Ali’s regime has meant suffering. However, this has also instilled the feeling of liberation in the hearts of Tunisians, for without struggle, there is no success.