This week it is ten years since the deposed strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia, the first to fall when the Arab Spring of 2011 took over North Africa and the Middle East. Although democratic progress has been made, many Tunisians feel that the revolution’s promise of a better life was never really realized. This is especially the case in the country’s poorer interior, where much of the anger first boiled over. Jowhargives you the third part in a series of four reports this week from Tunisia, a decade after the dawn of the Arab Spring.
Little has changed in Kasserine’s Ezzouhour neighborhood over the past decade. Yet this city, near the Algerian border, was one of the epicenters of the Tunisian revolution, home to bereaved families for whom bitterness persists.
“It was our children who gave freedom to this country. People are proud of them, says the father of one of several protesters who died a decade ago. “But their parents, they’re just pushed aside. We owe our son, so give him justice. ”
Kasserine has a completely new roundabout, but many of the structural problems behind the Arab Spring’s outpouring of anger remain. They include poverty, unemployment, corruption and lack of public services.
“Today there are positives, such as freedom of speech, the freedom to set up campaign groups and associations,” said Bassem Salhi, a local youth activist. “But Kasserine is still one of the poorest and most marginalized cities, and that is the responsibility of governments.”
Since the revolution, the mountains around Kasserine have witnessed violent clashes between security forces and jihadist groups. In a small village 50 kilometers from Kasserine, we meet Mustapaha Dehbi, whose nephew was murdered last month by jihadists who suspected he was an informant.
“This was our home and then the terrorists came and took over,” he says. “It’s my brother’s house – look, he does not even have electricity. Watch how my mother lives. My daughter has nowhere to sleep. Kasserine has many martyrs from the revolution, and its countryside is starving. ”
FRANCE 24’s Karim Yahiaoui, Mohamed Farhat and Chris Moore have this report from Kasserine. To watch, click on the video player above.