Summary: “The Rage of Young Martyrs: A Unifying Ideology in the Tunisian Revolution”

Seminar proceeding by Simon Hawkins under the title of “The Rage of Young Martyrs: A Unifying Ideology in the Tunisian Revolution” from the book Muslim Youth and the 9/11 Generation. Below is a summary:

  • Person who started the Tunisian revolution goes by the name Bouazizi. He was an underemployed produce vendor from Sidi Bouzid. His cart was confiscated by the authorities. He lit himself on fire. Protest went off the same day in the same town and later in the nearby towns. He was portrayed on social media at first as a university graduate who wrote poetry on the Internet but had to settle with a lowly job because of the economic and political turmoil in his country. This drew many of the Tunisian youth to participate in the protests and in the revolution.
  • The participation of the youth as the frontal image in the revolution made it widely more accepted since it disconnected it from any political ideologies and labor parties although these were pretty prevalent in the protests.
  • The protests did not hold any religious character which led to increased participation from both religious and none religious people in Tunisia.
  • The proceeding notes the social and cultural divisions in Tunisia between people from the rural areas and those from the city. Those from the villages connected more to their Arab identities, the Arabic language and Tunisian heritage. Those from the city identifies with french as an essential part of the Tunisian identity, regarded people from rural areas, with darker skin as less civilized, less educated and inferior. However, when brought up in a tourism context, they would mention their hospitality, etc.
  • there is a mention of the spread of “mukhabarat” and how Hawkins once heard a walkie-talkie crackle and that meant a spy was around. The Tunisian police forces were always on the watch to stop any sign of trouble. There was a mention of the spread of police buses in he city (Tunis) center, when Israel invaded Lebanon in 2006. There was also a mention of people being randomly dragged and beaten and the spectators not interfering.
  • University of Tunis failing students on purpose to keep them out of the workforce so that the unemployment rate does not worsen. It’s also noted that even though both the students and the underemployed shared a distrust of the system, they also distrusted and looked down on each other.
  • Bouazizi wasn’t the first man to light himself on fire. Most of the previous protests were covered by the media as uneducated behavior, sport clashes, spoiled students… whereas most of them were in fact people fed up with the system and the economic situation. There was also no cross-class unification under one cause that everyone would relate to and fight for. There was also a mention of how
    Arab activism was highly correlated with Islamic Movements which is why the Tunisian youth did not really identify with it.
  • The youth in the city identified themselves as Muslim but non-practicing. They connected religion to their national pride such as Zeitouna Mosque. However, public displays of piety such as the headscarf was regarded as backwards and it was even banned in the classrooms.

    And yet, the uprisings success came from its apparent separation from political organizations, rather than from connections to them.

  • The protest that broke out on the first day was by the UGTT, which used to support the government and to which Bouazizi did not actually belong.
  • The young were disconnected from politics because they didn’t see it as something directly affecting their lives (or that they can affect) but rather a game that was played by foreign parties. The unpolitical nature of the protests is what made it popular among the youth. Another important card was media and the images circulated of the protesters depicted as freedom fighters that all the Tunisian generations can relate to.
  • “Rais Lebled” by El General and “Touche pas a mon Tunisie” by Lak3y were two rap music videos that although adopted western genres and even lyrics, were very nationalistic and gained popularity even among the middle-age population. This nationalism united the nation and then this unity was recognized, the revolution became inevitable.
  • After the revolution, people realized that nothing really has changed. The unification was again chattered. Fake beards spotted in cars of Salafis lol.
  • Dhafer Salhi is a lawyer that was working hard on spreading the protests at first.

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