Monthly Archives: December 2011

Bouazizi’s family: “We know that Mohamed would be proud of Tunisia today”

Some of Bouazizi's siblings on their way to Sidi Bouzid

On their first visit to Sidi Bouzid since Eid el-Adha a few weeks ago, Mohamed Bouazizi’s family left their new abode in La Marsa, a suburb northwest of Tunis, pn  to pay their hometown a visit. In Sidi Bouzid, festivities are being held all weekend in honor of the young Bouazizi’s sacrifice to the Tunisian uprisings which sparked upheavals against systems of tyranny around the world.

Since their move to  La Marsa however, the family has had little time to reconnect with each other or process how their kin has altered the course of history. The media glare certainly has not left much time for reflection – due to interviews conducted across the globe to recording different shows, their move has barely even sunk in.

Sidi Bouzid has remained on their minds, however. The youngest of the Bouazizis, Zied, a 9-year old with a twinkle in his eyes every time he smirks, expressed longing for his hometown and the people in it. “I miss my friends in [Sidi] Bouzid, so I am very excited to visit,” he said.

But the homecoming has not been as sentimental for the Bouazizis as it may initially appear to be. Upon opening the door to the family’s modest house today for the first time since Eid el-Adha, the family was greeted with trash and broken glass bottles strewn across their front yard. “Maybe it’s the wind that blew all the rubbish into the yard,” one of Mohamed’s sisters said in an effort to detract from the mess.

Bouazizi's sisters cleaning up the mess found in their front yard this evening

One of their neighbors, whom Bouazizi’s mother Manoubia alleges is spreading rumors about the family, also started building a house with an outer wall edging into the Bouazizi household. “See what they have done? They have no shame – we have to deal with this nonsense as we still figure out how to get our life together,” said Manoubia.

One source of controversy in the town is whether or not Mohamed died as a shaheed [martyr]. In Islam, suicide is considered a major sin. Hence, some hold the opinion that Mohamed should not be celebrated as a heroic or exemplar figure. When Salem, Mohamed’s older brother, was asked how he would respond to the statement that his brother is not a martyr, he responded saying, “Listen, only God knows whether he is a martyr. But how do you think he developed the courage to perform such an action? It is from the desperation that he felt.”

For the family, the best way to commemorate Mohamed’s courage is by attempting to go back to life as per usual. “We want to steer clear of any talk and to build our family anew,” Manoubia said. One of her daughters, Laila, 25, aspires to go to Montreal to complete her higher education studies, and one of her sons, Karim, 15, aspires to be a rapper one day.

“Whereever fate may take my children, I only wish for them to work hard and with an honest attitude,” Manoubia said.

Manoubia Bouazizi, Mohamed's mother

Manoubia however ended the night on a hopeful note: “Sooner or later people will organize themselves  and work collectively to serve the interests of the country in such an orderly way that even a president won’t be needed.”

One year later: Sidi Bouzid marks first anniversary of uprisings

Sunrise on the road to Sidi Bouzid. Unlike the one pictured, most of the roads were actually unpaved – full of holes and rocks.

Harsh climate conditions given the region’s rather desert-like atmosphere. The days are very warm, while the nights are near unbearably cold.

On December 17th, 17 kilometers to Sidi Bouzid.

Note the “USA” scribbled onto the sign – although it is uncommon, some Tunisians like to attribute any and all world events to an American agenda.

Ennahda sure got its promotional strategy right.

The monument honoring Bouazizi was unveiled on the eve of the 17th. The monument depicts a fruit cart pushing off chairs – symbolizing Bouazizi’s act as ousting despots and systems of power all over the world.

Waiting for the festivities to begin. Crowds eventually started to become increasingly large…

To the point that many forsake the crowds “down there” and took to some neighborhood rooftops to watch the festivities in full view.

The marching band was the most organized aspect of the festival. With heart, soul, and good coordination, they attracted everyone’s attention.

The conductor wasn’t joking around.

This is another, older monument near the center of Sidi Bouzid. Plastered on it is a poster depicting Bouzizi’s act as one that sparked changes reaching all corners of the world.

Young and old participated in the festivities. Some members of the armed forces were also present to help ensure the day is smoothly and orderly run.

A local Sidi Bouzidi, “Take a photo of me! I’m happy this is happening too!”

More crowds.

People from all over the republic flocked to the city to celebrate December 17th. “The youth of el Kasbah [Tunis] commemorate the uprisings first anniversary.”

Including our Salafi friends [Hizb Ettahrir]. “Dear family, you have created your revolt – complete it with Islam.”

Recently appointed Prime Minster Hamadi Jebali walking in to a conference held that day to discuss the region’s development.

Head of the Constituent Assembly Ben Jaafar, President Marzouki, and PM Jebali.

And course, can’t forget Rached [leader of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party].

From Exile to President

Moncef Marzouki flashing the victory sign

It finally hit me today. As I was watching Moncef Marzouki giving his first speech as president last night, I had tears in my eyes. I then heard his voice crack – as he evoked the memory of the bullets that our young Tunisian men and women suffered for this day. Then came the national anthem, and as against nationalism as I am, watching the scene of an organized cacophony take place among a group of former governmental foes – most considered heros behind doors – so organically sing the anthem was incredibly moving. What’s more touching is Marzouki’s academic background and his unfamiliarity with any sort of grandiosity. He is not eloquent. He does not look, dress, or speak like a “head of state” would. While his words are beautifully written, they are seldom spoken with the level of beauty that they deserve. But I find these little nuances to be so endearing – yet so indicative of how far the country has come. In exile for so long, Marzouki was also jailed in his past, and here he is, about to start living in the presidential palace.

Marzouki dorkily flashing a victory sign as members sung the national anthem reminds us all that, no matter political convictions, one must admit: we have come a long way.

It has been quite busy here at Tunisia Live – I have recently been hired as the publication’s editor-in-chief. However, I will be writing more once all ministerial posts are appointed.

Yours, W

a promenade with nostalgia

took a walk around the neighborhood i went to primary school in today – école primaire claude bernard, established in 1912 under colonial french rule. some buildings in the neighborhood tell stories that are decades old.