This week marks the tenth anniversary of the flight of fallen strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the first to fall as the Arab Spring of 2011 took hold in North Africa and the Middle East. Although democratic progress has been made, many Tunisians believe that the promise of a better life from the revolution never really materialized. This is especially the case in the poorer interior of the country, where much of the anger has started to boil over. TBEN presents the third part of a series of four reports this week in Tunisia, a decade after the dawn of the Arab Spring.
Little has changed in the Ezzouhour district of Kasserine over the past decade. However, this town, near the Algerian border, was one of the epicenters of the Tunisian revolution, where bereaved families live for whom bitterness remains.
“It was our children who brought freedom to this country. People are proud of them, ”said the father of one of the protesters who died ten years ago. “But their parents, they’re just pushed aside. We owe our son, so do him justice.
Kasserine has a brand new roundabout, but many of the structural issues behind the Arab Spring’s wave of anger persist. They include poverty, unemployment, corruption and a shortage of public services.
“Today there are positive aspects, like freedom of expression, the freedom to create campaign groups and associations,” said Bassem Salhi, a young local activist. “But Kasserine remains one of the poorest and most marginalized cities, and that is the responsibility of successive governments.”
Since the revolution, the mountains around Kasserine have witnessed violent clashes between security forces and jihadist groups. In a small hamlet about fifty kilometers from Kasserine, we meet Mustapaha Dehbi, whose nephew was murdered last month by jihadists who suspected him of being an informant.
“It was our home, then the terrorists came and took over,” he says. “This is my brother’s house – look, he doesn’t even have electricity. Look at how my mother lives. My daughter has nowhere to sleep. Kasserine has many martyrs of the revolution and his campaigns are starving.
Karim Yahiaoui, Mohamed Farhat and Chris Moore of TBEN have this report from Kasserine. To watch, click on the video player above.