The Power of a Blank Page

It was named the Dignity Revolution, an intensive campaign of civil resistance sparked almost two years ago, calling for employment, freedom, dignity and ending corruption.  

338 deaths and 2147 wounded are the results of the uprising according to the National Fact-Finding Commission report, published earlier in May this year, the report does not count those jailed, tortured and or killed during the 23 years long Ben Ali regime.

Huge sacrifices were made in hope to lead a thorough democratization of the Country. Free and democratic elections took place and it was thought that Ben Ali’s notorious regime is gone. A vast majority of the people who voted for the ruling coaling were hoping for the best, for the corrupt machine to be repaired and for fair and democratic institutions to be implemented. These were expected to happen quickly since the leading party is one that fears and praises God.

Yet violence, rise of prices, money smuggling, accusations, endless debates on foreign questions such as polygamy, distractions from real demands and the over growth of the religious aspect is what camouflages today’s Tunisia.

Unemployment rate reached 18.1% on the first quarter of 2012 according to the results of the Labour Force survey compared with 13% in 2010.

Over the past 7 months, the Household Consumption Price Index (CPI) has dramatically increased to 5.5% compared to 1.1% between October 2010 and October 2011, according to the Tunisian National Institute of Statistics.

These are couple of measurable indicators among many others showing the deterioration of the economy in the Country that sparked the often referred to ‘Arab Spring’.

There is a palpable dissatisfaction towards both the Government and the National Constitutional Assembly, thus numerous reactions are being seen: protests, marches, sit-ins, campaigns etc. However, the one that got my attention is a sort of creative campaign carried out by a youth-led group, ‘Sawty’ (my Voice), an organization that seeks to promote democracy and encourage young people to take hold of their citizenship, continuing the demand for the Tunisians most pressing revolution goal beside employment: the new Constitution.

The campaign was simple: distributing booklets near downtown Tunis. The strength of the campaign was in the cover stating ‘The Tunisian Constitution’, however all the inside pages were actually blank. On the back cover it was written: ‘The draft of Tunisia’s new constitution should have been finished by July 15th, 2012 but we are still waiting. The constitution is late, so we must ask for it.’

Speaking to Tunisia Live, 25 year old Ali Bouzwida is ‘Sawty’ Project Coordinator, said ‘the idea of a campaign named ‘Where is the Constitution?’ came about when the Constitution was not ready on the date Mustafa Ben Jaafer, Head of the National Constituent Assembly, announced’.

‘We tried to think of something that would sensitise people to this issue, something innovative. Instead of marches, protests, we wanted something clear that would trigger fruitful debate;’ Added Ali.

A campaign related video, uploaded to YouTube, features people rushing to pick up copies of their long waited for Constitution. Reactions vary between confusion and shock, to flipping through blank pages but they all smiled at the end acknowledging they have got the message.

Now almost 6 weeks separate us from the theoretic end of the Coalition’s (Troika) rule led by moderate Islamic party Ennahda. Meanwhile, new political parties from different spectrums are appearing, others are joining hands in preparation for the next elections, but the questions remain: How long do Tunisians need to suffer the damaged Country’s machine and put up with the human rights violations, insecurity and corruption? And when will we actually have our Constitution?





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