Tunisia celebrates the tenth anniversary of its revolution under confinement

Victims, relatives and dozens of Tunisians call for official recognition by the authorities
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AFP/FATHI NASRI  -   Tunisian demonstrators

Despite the confinement imposed on Tunisia, dozens of citizens, including the victims of the repression of the revolution in 2011 or their families, have gathered publicly. They have been banned from walking down Avenue Bourguiba, a symbolic place of the revolution.

It marks the tenth anniversary of the exile of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He was expelled from power in a popular revolt that led to pro-democracy uprisings, conflicts and civil war in the region during the period we know as the Arab Spring. 

There were no festive celebrations to mark the revolution in Tunisia because the government of the North African nation imposed a four-day lockdown starting Thursday to contain the coronavirus. Non-essential meetings are banned as a measure to curb the rise in COVID-19 cases.

The protesters, reacting to the significant security measures in place in central Tunisia, have said that "it is a political and not a health confinement". 

The citizens, together with the victims and their families, are demanding official recognition from the authorities, specifically through the publication of the final list of dead and injured in the Official Journal. This would give the right to reparation, as well as moral affirmation, as it is a remarkable episode in the history of Tunisia. 

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AFP/FATHI NASRI - Tunisian demonstrators

Meanwhile, the trials of Ministry of Interior officials prosecuted for killings in 2011 have stalled. Amnesty International deplored the impunity with which they have emerged and called on the Tunisian authorities to provide guarantees for those accused of murder. It also called for the prosecution of violations against peaceful demonstrators.

"We are still fighting, in wheelchairs and on crutches," proclaims Moslem Kasdallah, 31, in the middle of the street, who lost a leg in clashes with the police in 2011.

Kalthoum Kannou, a former presidential candidate in Tunisia, accused the authorities of wanting to neglect this historic date. He also regretted the absence of an official ceremony and the closure of Avenue Bourguiba. 

A preliminary assessment in 2012 reported 338 deaths and 2,147 injuries. In October 2019, the Higher Committee on Human Rights published a list of 129 dead and 632 injured. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a congratulatory statement sent Thursday, said Tunisia is "an example of inclusive democracy" with rights "constitutionally respected". He mentioned that the United States "sees Tunisia as a partner of choice".

UN Secretary-General António Guterres congratulated the Tunisian people and their leaders on the tenth anniversary, noting "significant progress in consolidating democracy and promoting socio-economic development" over the past decade, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"The Secretary-General encourages the Tunisian people to continue to advance democratic reforms, build consensus on national development priorities and promote dialogue to address the inequalities that have increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Dujarric.