A great piece of writing by my friend David Ferreira on his hopes and fears for the ongoing uprising in Tunisia, and for the overall struggle against colonialism.
January, 14th 2011, this date strikes me as incredibly important to remember. The events of this day could hold the collective value of a year’s worth of historical turning points. It’s an extraordinary point on its own, breathtaking when you appreciate the location. It’s Tunisia, a country where Ben Ali imprisoned political thought for twenty-three years alongside tortured political prisoners.
Going to bed Thursday night, I had many fears for this day. Through scant news reports, discussion with friends in Tunisia, and through citizen journalism, I had an uncertain perspective of where things were headed. Ben Ali’s speech Thursday night appeared like an attempt to impede the movement’s momentum. It seemed orchestrated with the immediate reaction of supposed Ben Ali supporters taking to the streets, despite a curfew for everyone else.
I went to bed Thursday night with profound fears, fears that Ben Ali’s ploy might succeed in dividing those who would accept his “concessions” and those who wanted to go further, to see the movement’s purpose fulfilled. Regardless, today was to be consequential, and that it was. Thousands on the streets of Tunis, whereas before only groups of hundreds had a chance to congregate before being repressed. The tide could no longer be dispatched and it swept Ben Ali out to sea. Good riddance.
Tonight, I’ll struggle with a whole new set of fears. Ben Ali is gone, but it takes more than one man to maintain a repressive plutocratic regime for twenty three years. There is the Tunisian Army that remains the ultimate wildcard. I’ve yet to see video showing it participant to the crackdown. Still, that could mean it was wise enough to watch Ben Ali fall to preserve itself and the rest of the regime.
Most concerning to me, there is still a curfew, there is still a version of shoot to kill, there is still the state of emergency. This is the greatest challenge. Will the opposition be confined to their homes while the regime restructures itself behind the veil of martial law and “transitional” government? My fears tonight are very different from last night with the stakes now much higher. The Tunisians have won something grand, but it’s unclear as to whether they’ll enjoy its spoils.
There is tremendous hope, however. There is a whole new generation of icons and heroes. Heroes and icons who are lawyers, students, trade unionists, human rights activists instead of masked gunmen subject to Western paranoia and suspicion. Further, the autocrats across the world have been given their sharpest warning yet. That no matter how much secret police you may have, no matter how long your iron fisted rule, no matter the extent of your willingness to imprison and torture, you can too be touched, you too can have your unearned regime seized and taken from you.
I intend to write more about events in Tunisia and their impact in the days ahead. The events that have unfolded speak to not only an Arab audience but to a global audience, specifically a disillusioned youth worldwide burdened by social constraints that outdate their own lives. But to conclude I’ll speak to one subject I know is deep in the hearts of all those in Tunisia and those who express solidarity with Tunisia.
Many have asked: Where does the road to a free Palestine start? We must answer: Let it start today in Tunis. Let it start with a popular Arab movement free of neo-colonial puppet regimes. Let it go east and through Cairo, Amman, Riyadh. Let it take every detour, through Algiers, Rabat, Khartoum, Damascus. Let it sweep away every last vestige of European-American hegemony. When the people of Arab World are allowed to express their unbridled solidarity with Palestine, when their government’s foreign policy is set by the Arab Street and not by Washington, then Palestine will be freed.