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A file photo Sidi Bouzid
A file photo Sidi Bouzid
Elodie Auffray

SIDI BOUZID – In town to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire two years ago, Moncef Marzouki and Mustapha Ben Jaffar were greeted with stones and tomatoes.

The President of Tunisia and the Head of the National Constituent Assembly had to leave the stage that was set up for them in the center of Sidi Bouzid. "I understand this legitimate anger," President Marzouki told the crowd. "But the government has diagnosed the problem. In six months, a stable government will be in place and will provide the remedy to heal the country's problems."

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, head of the Islamist Ennahda party, did not attend the ceremony due to a "sudden flu."

Two years after the revolution, the disenchantment between Tunisians and their new political leaders – both in office and in the opposition – has grown deep.

"We have achieved our mission: to get rid of the regime. We have handed the power to those who have experience, but they have not done anything for the Tunisian youths. It is even worse. They are only serving their own interests," says Béchir, 22, one of the many "café residents."

A lot of them even say they “regret having taken part" in clashes with the police. Nizar, 24, has become cynical – he even goes as far as saying that "he preferred Ben Ali's regime over Ennhada's."

"Everybody is depressed because there is still no development," adds Hichem Hajlaoui, a young university graduate.

The situation is bleak, in Sidi Bouzid, where Mohamed Bouazizi's sparked the whole Arab Spring movement by lighting himself on fire in protest. Prices have skyrocketed and milk, for instance, has been nearly impossible to get these past weeks. The police are slightly nicer but tend to intervene too late when there are clashes – like last September, when the last bar in town was ransacked. Unemployment has grown, although to be fair it is starting to decrease. In Sidi Bouzid, one third of the population is still unemployed. Half of people with college degrees are jobless.

“Counting on ourselves”

Selling contraband fuel, moving to Libya or getting "chantiers" jobs – jobs that are subsidized by the state and often fictitious, obtained through bribes – are usually the only option. The investments promised in the first months after the revolution have not materialized yet.

Amara Tlijani, the sixth governor of the southern city of Kebili since the fall of Ben Ali, says he “spends most of his time trying to solve individual social problems instead of taking care of safety, administrative and economic growth issues."

“Since the election, we have heard a lot of speeches but have not seen much action. Confidence has dropped," notes Fahima Noury, a young worker from a development NGO.

“Until now, we haven’t done much,” admits Faouzi Abdoulli, one of the regional Ennahda party representatives. He adds: “we don’t have a magic wand.”

"We can’t rely on politicians – only on ourselves," says Hamida Hamdi, in front of a job center that is overcrowded with young Tunisians. This young textile worker wants to open her own workshop and employ 60 people. She has had this idea in mind for quite while but the revolution "has given her the courage to give it a real go," she says.

Like most people, she lacks funding. The overwhelming red tape can cause young people to lose their momentum, says Akila Hamdi, from microcredit NGO Enda. "Some say that if things are not changing, it is because of instability and lack of initiatives," Hamdi says. "But that’s not true, young people are doing their part. Unfortunately, they don't have the means or the support." Between 220 and 300 projects are believed to be currently on hold.

Frustrated with politics, young people are turning to organizations. A couple of hundred of them were established after the revolution. But there, it’s also a struggle to get things done. This is the case of Abdewaheb, who is a member of hip-hop collective. He wanted to create "a place dedicated to contemporary dance" but can’t even seem to find a room at the local youth center to hold performances. "It is always the same. There are so many things we want to do, but it’s a struggle."

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Society

A Closer Look At "The French Roe" And The State Of Abortion Rights In France

In 1972, Marie-Claire Chevalier's trial paved the way for the legalization of abortion in France, much like Roe v. Wade did in the U.S. soon after. But as the Supreme Court overturned this landmark decision on the other side of the Atlantic, where do abortion rights now stand in France?

Lawyer Gisèle Halimi accompanies Marie-Claire Chevalier at the Bobigny trial in 1972.

Lila Paulou

PARIS — When Marie-Claire Chevalier died in January, French newspapers described her role in the struggle for abortion rights as an important part of what’s become the rather distant past. Yet since the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, Chevalier’s story has returned to the present tense.

A high school student in 1971, Chevalier was raped by a classmate, and faced an unwanted pregnancy. With the help of her mother and three other women, the 16-year-old obtained an abortion, which was illegal in France. With all five women facing arrest, Marie-Claire’s mother Michèle decided to contact French-Tunisian lawyer Gisèle Halimi who had defended an Algerian activist raped and tortured by French soldiers in a high-profile case.

Marie-Claire bravely agreed to turn her trial into a platform for all women prosecuted for seeking an abortion. Major social figures testified on her behalf, from feminist activist Simone de Beauvoir to acclaimed poet Aimé Césaire. The prominent Catholic doctor Paul Milliez, said, “I do not see why us, Catholics, should impose our moral to all French people.”

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