- Naghmi Qasim
- BBC News Arabe
“It is the joy of victory. At this moment, I saw my dream come true after years of questioning. Glory to the martyrs, we are not afraid, be free, Tunisians, breathe freedom. “
This video was shot on January 14, 2011, a few minutes after the announcement of the departure of then Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
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Al-Aweini recounts his reaction as soon as he heard the news: “I could not control myself. I quickly and spontaneously went to rue Habib Bourguiba, to celebrate the departure of Ben Ali, at the same place where people were protesting against him. There is a 40 minute period in the hopes of seeing other protesters join us, but no one has come. “
This video was filmed during the hours of curfew, which has been in place in the country since January 12, from two locations: from the balcony of a house overlooking Rue Bourguiba, and by a group of young people. who were staying in a hotel on the same street and walking down the street to see what was going on.
The Tunisian lawyer says: “I was not aware of what was happening around me, the street became mine, and I could express myself freely because no one was looking at me or following me anymore.”
He adds that what he controlled at those times was: “How did the Tunisians cope peacefully with the fierce oppression to which they were subjected? And how did they resist the confrontation until do they realize their claims? “
According to Abdel Nasser, the day of January 14 was difficult. In the morning, he went out in a lawyer uniform with a thousand other lawyers during a demonstration outside the courthouse in the capital, passing through the old town.
They were subsequently joined by around 10,000 citizens before returning to rue Habib Bourguiba, which was full of demonstrators from all over the Tunisian provinces.
Al-Aweini says he remembers holding his shoulders and chanting: “bread, water – yes but Ben Ali – no”, in front of the interior ministry surrounded by thousands of people.
“I realized at that point that there is no room for return, and that Tunisians insist on change.”
This demonstration, which took place the day after Ben Ali’s speech, was the third since the start of the protests, in which he announced that he would not run in the 2014 elections, and pledged to democratic reforms and respect of public freedoms.
Al-Awaini emphasizes that the crowd on this day was larger than ever, to respond “to the game organized by Ben Ali and his supporters and to the Constitutional Democratic Rally on January 13. After Ben Ali’s speech, his supporters came to express their joy about his commitments “.
Al-Oweini participated in protests in Tunisia from day one. After Bouazizi set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid on December 17, 2010, Al-Aweini and about 7 other lawyers met secretly on the 24 of the same month at the office of lawyer Radhia Nasraoui to create a secret committee.
Help the population of Sidi Bouzid, and form a front to defend the detainees after the demonstrations that took place in the State.
Three days later, they organized a stand up in front of the Courthouse of the capital, to protest against the repression of the demonstrations, which joined thousands of citizens and launched the slogan “Oh, shame on you, Trabelsi, they judge you “.
All of this led to the protests spreading in the capital on January 12.
But did the continuation of the demonstrations until January 14 express the certainty of the demonstrators of the departure of Ben Ali?
Al-Owaini said: “No one could have imagined that he would flee this way and so quickly. I was convinced that the regime had collapsed and his days were numbered, but this particular scenario did not come to me. in mind and no one expected it. “
Al-Owaini added: “As soon as he announced his departure from the country, I was sure he would not come back. He left under the influence of developments and peaceful popular resistance and not conspiracy, for example, and he didn’t leave the country much during the 23 years he ruled Tunisia, and even on official occasions he used to send the prime minister or minister of Foreign Affairs. He was wary of those closest to him, and that is why he preferred to stay in Tunisia while holding the reins. “
Abdel Nasser considered the fall of the Ben Ali regime as a “personal victory” which he dreamed of, since the beginning of his political activity in the ranks of the left in high school, then at the university when he was active and leader in the movement. student, and in the General Union of Tunisian Students in the 1990s. “The militarization of the university and the lack of work put it in the clutches of Ben Ali.”
In 1998, he was arrested with seven other students for his student activity and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 months to two years, but they were pardoned after two months, before Al-Awaini was retried on his own. in the same case and sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment.
After that, he fought to re-enroll in university and continued his process of supporting student activity until he obtained a master’s degree in law in 2004 and joined the legal profession in 2005. .
He began his journey as a human rights lawyer involved in the popular movement at all levels, and a supporter of opponents, workers and lawyers in the mining basin protests in 2008, and the cases of students arrested and tried in the context of their student activity.
Ten years after Ben Ali left, Al-Awaini believes that “the revolution has strayed from its course. The revolution has uttered the slogan of work – freedom – national dignity, and these are related issues, so there is no freedom without national dignity, and no national dignity without work “.
“After the revolution, the Tunisians found themselves without resources, which limits their freedom and diminishes their dignity. The country still lives under the same economic and social scheme, with the same combination and the same unjust policy which gives the minority privileges to the detriment of the majority, and this is the policy that was followed by the Ben Ali regime “.
He attributes this to the fact that “the lack of political competence helped reduce the momentum of the revolution to a process of political transformation from the top. It is a process in which politicians try to change the political scene and change the the way power is managed, without linking this to economic and social achievements that change the quality of life of Tunisians, which was evident in the first elections after the revolution that took place in October 2011. “
Despite this, Al-Awaini did not regret participating in the “Jasmine Revolution” and asserted that “our reality is frustrated with post-revolution expectations, but what happened is up to history and what we are living today is within the framework of historical development, and we must assess our reality and open horizons for the development of the country and the improvement of people’s lives.
Al-Awaini ran in the 2011 Constituent Assembly elections, which was responsible for legislating and writing the new constitution in 2011, but he did not win. Nasser’s concept of how to strive for change has changed a lot between 2011 and today.
“I believed that changing reality could be achieved through daily struggle and pressure on state authority and institutions, even after the October 2011 elections, in which progressives and leftists were defeated by the Islamists, ”he said.
“But after the assassination of leftist Chokri Belaid in 2013, I now see that reality can only be changed by coming to power with a program capable of delivering real benefits to the people.”