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The End of the Beginning

I feel that this article by Fatma Benmosbah expresses in eloquent terms many of the same themes I explored in my recent post, Three Revolutions. It is a translation from French, idiomatic in places, of an original I found on nawaat.org, an excellent source for testimonials by Tunisians about their revolution-in-progress.

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On the ground today, a face-off is occurring between yuppies and proles: two revolutions, two forces on the scene.

On one side, the urban middle class. These are the young and the less young who very quickly sided with the rebels. Fed up with censorship, lack of freedom and repression, sickened by the material gluttony of the Ben Ali and Trabelsi clans, they immediately seized the opportunity to express their thirst for independence and their hatred for the regime. They didn’t always go out into the street, but through their manipulation of the internet, particularly social networks, they played the role of citizen media perfectly, relaying information, posting live videos of the situation on the ground. It is often thanks to them that the big media networks like Al Jazeera, France 24 or Al Arabia completed their coverage of the events of early January. By swelling the ranks of the large demonstration of January 14, they provided the necessary contribution to win the last round, the fatal blow that finished off the Ben Ali presidency. Their mission accomplished, they returned to their garrisons to try to resume a more or less peaceful life, leaving to the new team the responsibility for getting things back on track. […] It is clear that this sector of the population serves as the base of the Prime Minister and his team. Nothing can tell us yet how strong their support will be.

On the other side is the population of the nation’s interior. Left behind since the era of Bourghiba, they are the ones who provided the spark that set off the powder keg. It is these people who, although unarmed, went out into the street. They are also the ones who, prepared to receive real bullets in the stomach and head, confronted the bloody police machine. Like the young city dwellers, the young and the less young of the interior were just as fed up and sickened, but for different reasons. Democracy and liberty were among their demands, but they added to these insecurity and unemployment. As well-educated and well-trained as their fellow citizens from the city, they found themselves forced to accept marginal jobs in order to get something to eat.

Having known the brutal and often deadly repression of the government as a result of having occasionally risen up and proclaimed their despair, these people place no confidence in anything that reminds them, either more or less, of the dark years of the Ben Ali regime. They want, require and demand the departure of Ghannouchi and his entire team without delay. They haven’t forgotten the unkept promises [of the past]. Cut off from material comforts which in any case they don’t possess, they are ready to go all the way for what they call “their revolution.” Armed with convictions deeply rooted in the hearts of all their members, supported by a very strong labor union, they are camped in the streets around the Prime Minister’s office with the purpose of evicting its tenants. How much longer will they hold back?

The revolution of January 14 hasn’t said its last word. It is certain that Tunisia can expect further events whose impact will be even more profound than the departure of Ben Ali. It seems that as Winston Churchill said so well, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

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