The thing is that we were living under oppression, but no one had the right to talk or to speak or to say, “No.” And we realized that the situation was so crucial and the situation was so bad, that we didn’t take any action before, and the [Jasmine] Revolution was like a wake-up call for us, and it didn’t come – I really want to emphasize this idea that it didn’t come from us. [The Jasmine Revolution refers to the 2011 uprising in Tunisia that toppled the regime of the former dictator, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.]
I mean, people, I’ll consider myself as an ordinary person. I mean, I get to go to school, I live with my family, I am educated, I can afford living in Tunisia, I have a job, I’m active in Tunisia, but this is not the situation for a lot [of people] within Tunisia.
I mean, we – people in my situation represent only 20 percent of the population. Because the rest of us live in really hard situations. I mean, we are in the 21st century, and people were really lacking some of the most important and inherent rights. And as a law specialist, I can distinguish the different rights that people may enjoy, like there are those basic rights – the right to dignity, the right to freedom, the right to house, the right to food, to water – to safe water, healthy life – and those are only basic rights. And there are also those “luxuries”, I call them, rights – like economic rights, cultural rights – people who made the revolution – who started the revolution – are those lacking their basic rights. People in the regions, people in the south of the country, who were jobless, unemployed, who lacked those basic rights. They didn’t enjoy them.
So at a particular point, I saw some people enjoying 90 percent of the wealth in the country, they were asking for a house to live under. And for safe water to give to their children – so it made them furious, and at a particular time, they were exhausted from keeping silent. They wanted to say, “No,” and they wanted their life to change. So we had – I mean, we gathered together. We heard them – it started with a man burning himself and it affected all of us.
[Mohamed Bouazizi (1984 – 2011) was a Tunisian fruit vendor who set himself on fire in protest of the government’s harassment and unlawful confiscation of his products.]
So how did we participate? We were unified. We gathered the day of the revolution, and I will make a long story short. We gathered the day of the revolution in downtown [Tunis], before the Ministry of Interior Affairs, and we said, “No.” We practically asked the President to leave us – to go away, and to leave us alone. We can make our future. We can decide for ourselves that you don’t represent us. Neither you, nor your government, nor your family – we need to enjoy our rights and to enjoy the wealth of our country. And this is how it started. And then it affected another class or range of the population – people started to ask for their freedom to speak, their freedom to think, their freedom of belief, and they were all together – I mean, we spent days and nights in the street, just screaming and yelling and asking him to leave. And we were repeating the same sentence for days, which is, it means, [!Ø®Ø¨Ø² Ù Ù
Ø§Ø¡ Ù Ø¨Ù Ø¹ÙÙ ÙØ§] – I will say it in Arabic - Ben Ali is our former president.
[Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (1936- ) served as President of Tunisia from 1987 until 2011, when he was ousted in the Jasmine Revolution.]
Meaning that we’d rather live on bread and water rather than live under your governance. And we asked him, we could say, “Go away, go away, go away,” and yelling all the day long until he was afraid, because people threatened to go directly to where he lived and to ask him and his family to go away. So it was a crucial – I mean, it was a catalyst in the country, and everyone – we were unified, asking for this one thing, and all the ages – I mean, old people, young people, even children in the street for days. And rich people, poor people, together – educated people and illiterate people together, and we were all asking for the same thing. We want to say, “No,” for the first time. We want someone in the government representing us. And this is what we asked for – he got afraid, and he ran away.
Yes. And things changed from that day. From that day. It was so important.