The Fire that Lit Up Tunisia Ten Years Ago
Ten years after Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid — a courageous act of civil disobedience that sparked unprecedented mass demonstrations across Tunisia and triggered an uprising around the Arab world, many locals feel disappointed at the perceived lack of economic progress since the event.
Feyda Mnasri, a local pastry trainer in Sidi Bouzid, gives her take on the political situation of the country, "There is a lot of (corruption) in the country. People in power keep on stealing. When we hear about aid coming from abroad, we never receive it, and we only hear about it on television. The authorities say we are in debt, but we did not see any projects being done in the country."
Khalil Chouraibi, a pharmacist in Sidi Bouzid, explores the progress or lack thereof, "Freedom exists and we breathe it when we are outside. There is a change in the system, and a lot of things have also changed. We feel that there is freedom, but it is not giving us anything. Everyone is now thinking about immigrating. Everyone wants to illegally immigrate."
Still Much Room for Change
The revolt brought down the country's long-time ruler Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and installed a fragile democratic system.
Leila Bouazizi, sister of the Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi who set himself ablaze in protest ten years prior, shares her stance looking in from abroad in Canada, "The revolution began because of unemployment and poverty. That's the most important pillar. We want the government to get a plan, to get a strategy to change and improve the unemployment rate. We now have freedom of speech, we can speak, we can demonstrate, we can say what is good and what is not good but that's not enough."
Dozens of Tunisian youth still set themselves alight each year in protest and the country has also seen a spike in numbers of illegal immigration to Europe.
Nevertheless, Leila Bouazizi believes that Tunisians should keep up the fight for their rights until all concerns are adequately addressed towards the existence of a country in which citizens can thrive.