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Tunisians mark anniversary of uprising amid pandemic

Due to lockdown, Tunisian parties, activists take to social media to observe Jan. 14 revolution's 10th anniversary

Adel Thabti   | 14.01.2021
Tunisians mark anniversary of uprising amid pandemic

TUNIS, Tunisia

After 10 years of the famous Tunisian uprising, the Avenue of Habib Bourguiba, which hosted every uprising anniversary since 2011, appeared deserted Thursday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every Jan. 14 for nearly a decade, parties and associations used to mark the popular revolution that toppled the country’s late President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

This year, however, grief and silence ruled the Revolution street as cafes were closed and traffic suspended due to health measures to stem the spread of the virus.

On Jan. 14, 2011, tens of thousands of Tunisians protested on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, demanding the departure of the Ben Ali regime.

On the eve of the revolution’s anniversary, the Tunisian Interior Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday the movement between the cities will be prohibited for four days starting from Thursday.

The statement noted that the decision excludes movement for the purpose of "basic needs, supplying consumer goods and workers in vital sectors."

The ministry also decided to "completely close all kinds of shops, cafes and restaurants from Jan. 14 to 17."

It called on Tunisians to stop all activities and celebrations in all open and closed places.

Though Habib Bourguiba Avenue seemed empty except for the massive deployment of security forces and journalists, social media platforms were buzzing with glorification of the revolution, despite its economic and social repercussions.

On its Facebook page, the Ennahda Movement published the hashtag “The light of the revolution in my heart is still alive”.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Current, the most prominent opposition party, published the hashtag "Glory to the martyrs and freedom to Tunisia."

In a statement, the Heart of Tunisia party said it “extends its warmest congratulations and best wishes to the Tunisian people, hoping that it will achieve all the goals for which the nation’s martyrs paid their pure blood.”

A researcher on Arab civilization, Sami Braham, wrote on his Facebook page: “On this day at such a moment, the crowds were roaring along the Gray Building Street - the headquarter of the Interior Ministry on Habib Bourguiba Avenue -, the symbol of oppression and terrorism for decades.

“After the tear gas dispersed the crowds, they were dispersing and gathering again in an overwhelming sense that the issue was more than just protest demonstrations that were dispersed by the police, as is the case in all demonstrations.”

Despite severe political polarization, economic and social crises, Tunisia is seen as the only country that has succeeded in achieving a democratic transition among the Arab countries that witnessed the Arab Spring revolutions -- such as Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Syria.

* Bassel Barakat in Ankara contributed to this report

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