“If the Revolution is a crime, then charge all of us”
The world has been applauding Tunisia for its new progressive constitution and new consensus caretaker installed government of technocrats that is administrating the country until elections later this year. However, this celebration seems exclusive to the leadership, members of the National Constituent Assembly, political parties and their allies. In fact, the unemployed, the poor, the student, the worker among other Tunisian citizens are yet to celebrate.
Tunisia, Feminist Paradise?
A bit tattered, but flying proudly today.
I wouldn’t believe it if I weren’t sitting here in Tunisia’s parliament building. But I just watched the nation’s constituent assembly adopt, 116-40 with 32 abstentions, an amendment to its draft constitution requiring the government to create parity for women in all legislative assemblies in the country, national as well as local. After the vote, the assembly and audience stood up spontaneously and sang the national anthem. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house — including mine.
This historic moment is embedded in another historic moment of still greater scope. For the first time in the history of an Arabic-speaking country, a freely elected assembly is publicly debating and finalizing a constitution without an occupying army, a king or a dictator anywhere. The Arab Spring has either struggled or failed everywhere else, but in Tunisia, a democratic constitutional victory is in view.
The process has been slow and not always steady. A draft text was painstakingly worked out in six committees, then released for comment in June 2013. Then there was a break for political crisis after the assassination of secularist assembly member Muhammad Brahmi. Gradually, politics returned, and a consensus committee — which never stopped meeting through the crisis — has been editing and proposing changes. The provision for gender parity came out of the consensus committee.
Fighting for Democracy: Street Art in Tunisia
Forget New York, Paris and London. Sparked by the 2010 Revolution, Tunisia is where all things cultural are happening. The city is currently home to a booming street art scene, at the forefront of which is Elektro Jaye, who has become one of the most talked about artists in the country after he claimed that his work was censored at the 2012 Tunis Printemps des Arts (Tunis Spring of Arts). Passionately fighting for free speech, he is living proof that the revolutionary spirit has not vanished.
Elektro Jaye, like most street artists, began by creating his art illegally, practicing on the A6 highway and on suburban train tracks in Paris in the early 1990s. What was only a hobby developed into a serious activity and Jaye progressively got a taste for the medium, sharing his passion with fellow street artists.
In 2009, the artist moved back to Tunisia for an exhibition at the Gallery Artyshow. Since then he has collaborated with international brands such as Adidas, Benetton and Avirex, producing frescos, paintings, graphics and graffiti for their advertising campaigns. Jaye, who sees himself as a ‘visual composer’, is widely appreciated for his skilful typographic works and delightful calligraphy. The bold, uncluttered colours he uses and smooth characters he designs render a vivid and almost joyful impression of the serious topics he tackles through his art.
The cover of the current issue of Time Magazine calls Egyptians “the world’s best protestors” and “the world’s worst democrats.” The startling ignorance of this cover highlights a fundamental question that — in the current climate of frenzied analyses of Egypt — is not being asked:
Is it more democratic to elect a dictator, or to topple one?
Democracy alone was never a fundamental demand of the Egyptian revolution. Bread, freedom and social justice: These are the demands of the revolution. Freedom. Not representative democracy. Freedom. Hundreds were killed for freedom, not for a ballot slip. Morsi was elected because he was the lesser of two evils. He stood in Tahrir Square and promised he could deliver the goals of the revolution. And he imprisoned and raped and tortured and killed his citizens like every government before him. And now he has fallen.
Democracy — which at the very least would mean an independent judiciary, citizens’ rights, freedom of the press and transparent elections — will not be won in Egypt through elections, because there is a historical and geographical context that determines what is and isn’t possible through the ballot box alone.
The current state structure within which he country operates is based on layers of colonial and military history, each layer building on the last to obscure the state and place it above — and separate from — the people.
The End of the “Leaderless” Revolution
A Global Fallacy and the Military Intervention in Egypt
More than 10 million people in Egypt mobilized against a clumsy autocrat. Yet, their mobilization ultimately led to a military-judiciary seizure of power, with the support of centrist politicians and clerics. Call this what you like: coup d’état, elegant coup, or people’s power. None of these labels change the nature of the intervention and its aftermath: popularly supported military rule, by more or less the same military-police-judicial-business elements who were in power during Mubarak’s reign and who had struck a (shaky and incomplete) coalition deal with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Tunisian and Egyptian revolts of the recent years sparked the imagination of many activists around the globe as “leaderless revolution”s. Yet, the strange amalgam of revolution, restoration, coup, democratization, and authoritarianism that persisted throughout the Egyptian process hints that different lessons need to be drawn from the Egyptian situation.
From a people’s campaign to the reassertion of elite rule
Tamarod, an unprecedented people’s campaign, collected millions of signatures and called for the downfall of president Morsi. Huge crowds gathered all around Egypt on June 30, 2013 in order to enforce the campaign’s call. According to estimates, around 15 million people took to the streets, making this the biggest rebellion in Egyptian history.
Uniting for the Mediterranean:
A Look at Tunisia
Tunisia’s Internal and Regional Politics
A Turning Point; The Arab Uprisings
Spillover in the Mediterranean
Ever since the European community came together to form agreements based on common needs, the countries along the Mediterranean looked like a promising region for Europeans to partner up with as well.
Relations between the European Union (EU), or back when it was still the European Economic Community (EEC), and the countries along the Mediterranean therefore have been constantly developing over the years. These relations have been both in the form of bilateral agreements with individual states and multilateral treaties between European states and Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPC). The most important of the agreements are the Barcelona Process, which was given the name of Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (1993), the European Neighborhood Policy (2004), which targeted Eastern European countries and Mediterranean countries with individual bilateral agreements, and the most recent Union for the Mediterranean (2007), which was proposed by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and labeled as being there to improve on the Barcelona Process.
However, the development of relations between countries in the Mediterranean and European states never fully fulfilled all the goals that were put in place, leaving agreements like the Barcelona Process far from being as successful in integrating the member countries as compared to in the EU.