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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: le jasmin est fané mais il refleurira

by Jean-Paul Piérot

The Jasmine Has Wilted But It Will Flower Again

Translated Sunday 16 September 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

The Islamists are trying to extend their hold on the country, but they are running into resistance. After having won new liberties, journalists and artists are refusing to let themselves be stifled. The feminists are not backing down.

Sometimes, the most beautiful springtime is followed by a rotten summer, but other springs will come, perhaps heralding better days. In Tunisia itself, and elsewhere, among the friends of the Tunisian democrats, it would be wrong to think unjustified the climate of worry which has fallen on the country since the Ennahda party, supposedly “moderate” Islamists, came to power following the Fall 2011 elections. From attacks targeting a television network that broadcast Marjane Satrapi’s film Persepolis to violent antifeminist operations perpetrated by Salafist obscurantism, to the imbecilic theses asserting that woman is “complementary” to man and not at all his equal, the jasmine of the January 2011 revolution, which put an end to the Ben Ali clan’s dictatorship, seems sadly faded. And yet, the popular uprising that started in Sidi Bouzid, after the suicide of a young unemployed man in December 2010, was greeted with an enthusiasm that extended beyond the Tunisian border by all of the youth living on the southern shore of the Mediterranean, all the way to the Arabian and Persian Gulfs.

President Moncef Marzouki, who was a resolute opponent of the fallen dictatorship and a fighter for human rights when Tunisia was just one big police station, certainly has some reason to put the situation in perspective, as he did in an interview in the French daily Le Figaro, comparing the present situation, as dangerous as it is, with the Ben Ali past. For all that, the news that comes at regular intervals from Tunisia is not just a “French phantasm.” Above all, the news torments the democrats, the trade unionists, the women, the left,— in short, all the men and women who, like the lawyer Radhia Nashraoui, shared Marzouki’s hopes and struggles through a quarter-century of tyranny.

What is true is that Le Figaro – and it was not alone in the French politico-media world to do so – long shut its eyes to the crimes of a freedom-killing regime that was the object of the most laudatory and similar compliments from former president Nicolas Sarkozy and former IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The French foreign minister of the time, Michèle Alliot-Marie, wanted to deliver means of repression to that execrable regime, at a time when the Tunisians were massing in Boughiba Avenue in Tunis, pitting the force of their numbers against the violence of the dictatorship.

For its part, l’Humanité, which was often the only newspaper to condemn the Ben Ali dictatorship and to communicate the information sent clandestinely by the Tunisian democrats, including Moncef Marzouki himself, is continuing the same struggle for freedom, in solidarity with the defenders of a press that is independent of the political and religious powers-that-be. Is one to despair of the capacity of the democrats to eradicate the false alternative – police dictatorship or the dictatorship of “the bearded ones” – from their country? By crushing the democratic opposition, by muzzling the trade union movement, the despots in Tunisia, as in the other countries of the region, in Egypt and Syria notably, have created the conditions for a duel – which they hoped to win easily – with the Islamists, who are strongly supported by the monarchies of the Arabian Gulf. This configuration has slowed down the democratic process triggered by the springtime of the peoples that the jasmine revolution heralded. It has slowed it down, but it has not annihilated it.

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