We as a KUGlobalAid went to Tunisia to complete waterworks in Umnum Bişne village which is close to Algeria border and far 400 kilometers from Tunis. With our help dwellers in that village can easily reach the water. In addition to that, we also visited UNDP Tunisia and got information about the revolutionary process in Tunisia and what is their role and their actions about current issues. After that we visited Ennahdha Movement, they are part of the provisional government and executive power for making a new constitution in there we talked with the head of political affairs and discussed how Tunisia develop itself after the revolution. We observed the constitution-making process and suggestions from university students. We organized a “Kermes” and get some money for our waterwork projects. Finally, we interviewed with Turkish Embassy and talked about how can we make our project sustainable for the future because our main goal is making projects sustainable.
Tunisia is the smallest country in North Africa. It is a Maghreb country bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east.
The Tunisian Revolution was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations taking place in Tunisia. The events began on 18 December 2010 and led to the ousting of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011 eventually, leading to a thorough democratization of the country and to free and democratic elections which saw the victory of a coalition of the Islamist Ennahda Movement with the centre-left Congress for the Republic and the left-leaning Ettakatol as junior partners.
The demonstrations were precipitated by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption a lack of freedom of speech and other political freedoms and poor living conditions. The protests constituted the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest in Tunisia in three decades and have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of which were the result of action by police and security forces against demonstrators. The protests were sparked by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010 and led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali 28 days later on 14 January 2011, when he officially resigned after fleeing to Saudi Arabia, ending 23 years in power.
“This made me realize that Tunisian really are a peaceful people. They do not dwell in past injustices. They move on, like in the present. Not one person here was focused on how bad they had it before the revolution. When asked, they talked about it. But on their own, Tunisian would rather focus on their joy now and their hope for the future. I think both Turkey and America could learn from this Tunisian way.”
“Meaningful discussion”, that’s all he needed to say to reach sensible, negotiated decisions in a democratic society. Today we held an impromptu round table with the members of Tunisian youth societies. I realize now why Koç students love talking to me about U.S. politics. It’s because they can. Every single student I have encountered and spoken with longer than twenty minutes has initiated by my discussion of American politics. I always insist I don’t know much… but they want to talk about it anyway. What I realized today is that because talking about U.S. politics is safe. Any discussion about Turkish politics has been initiated by me and has always been prefaced by a cautious look to the right and left to see who may be listening. Meaningful discussion is not a right to the Turkish Citizen. In America, not once I have stopped myself and thought “can I express this right now?”
“Before, girls could not choose to wear headscarves since it was forbidden. Today four girls proudly wore these head coverings. I asked, since I am an American exchange student and admittedly largely ignorant about Islamic culture if a law was to be passed stating the opposite – which all women had to wear the covering – if that would please her. Her immediate answer was “No, of course not. I believe in choice. Just because I practice something does not mean everyone should have to. We fought for freedom, freedom to choose, freedom to express ourselves, freedom from fear. What be the use of all that if me, like the previous government forced people to do things against their will?”
“We heard the voice of Tunisian people in the video clip “We are the Voice” which we watched in UNDP. It was the first moment when the tears were running down my cheeks. It was a call for voting, for democracy, for acting this time to rebuild a country to be “proud.” The first elections and the first freely democratically elected government, Ennahda… Like a baby, they are in their first steps of becoming a political party. Then there was chaos in my mind as I thought: “what is the democracy? What are human rights for them and for us? Is there a universal truth?”
“I define today with one word: Historical. A bunch of young university students with sparks and hope in their eyes was gathered in the university for a reason: to have a say in the making of a new constitution. There were extremist views that can be defined as extreme left and right. However, what was touching as they are the ones who made this revolution and they are still going after their rights.”
“I saw that despite their problems, many in the village believed they had everything they needed to stay happy (with the promise of clean, accessible water). It made me what if ‘what we have’ can turn more into a problem for us if we too often fatten our lives with things we think are for our own good.”
“When I talk to them I see their desire for freedom; liberty once again.”
“There is an unbelievable passion for freedom, hope, for future hand happiness, for the success presented during the revolution.”
“Having the opportunity to watch a discussion organized by Tunisia’s constitutional assembly and student delegates yesterday was more or less like witnessing history in the making.”
“What struck me the most yesterday was that given our exhaustion and like of time, the first thing that Amin wanted to show us was the Jewish synagogue and a restaurant run by a Jewish family. It is not difficult at all to see the importance these people attach to diversity and co-existence.”
“We went to a remote Tunisian village up in the mountains yesterday and I am still struck by one man who offered us half of the bread he had at home when we showed up at his doorstep as “guests”.
“Today I was in the middle of a battle of brains. One part is saying yes, the other is saying no! Even if Turkey is counted as a liberal country and we always defend that we have so-called “freedom of thought”, I feel like what I saw in Tunisia cannot happen in Turkey. I respect these people because of the courage they brought on to the streets.”
“This city smells like history, anger, and courage. Its odor is the revolution. They seem like all those people are uneducated but it is not true. In Tunisia, what you see when you look at something is very different from what reality is.”
“During the whole time we spent at the village, talking to those kids, I realized that the amount of help does not matter as long as you do help. Are we going to change the world by putting that little help in it? Yes.”
“…we knew where all the money we raised in ‘kermes’ going to, we knew that the people we met yesterday from the village will definitely benefit from it. We knew that our effort would change something. It may sound like a cliché but helping really makes feel great!”
“… I saw how masses can get power if they get organized.”
“Today was really the most touching day in this journey to Tunisia. We made a long road trip during which we got very hungry, but I learned how to deal with my hunger. I had to learn it because I would see poverty. I could have been born in such a village, so this was the only thing I could do to empathize; to understand them better.”
“The house we went did not have that much food but only bread and they shared their bread with us.”
The past two years marked a historical shift in Middle Eastern politics. The successive revolts throughout the Arab world signal a new era for the social and political affairs of the region. Sparked by the popular upheaval in Tunisia in November 2010, the Arab world is now witnessing a historical stage that offers many opportunities for a more hopeful future, but one which is at the same time threatened by various issues and challenges. That’s why as a part of its project in Tunisia, KU GlobalAid organized a panel named “Tunisia and the Arab Spring: Two Years On” where three speakers – Koç University International Relations Professors Özlem Altan Olcay, Murat Somer and NTV Reporter Can Ertuna – specializing in this field discussed the current situation in Tunisia and the Arab world two years after the uprisings. The panel took place on December 3, 2012, and it was a big success.