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."
Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.
• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.
• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.
• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.
• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.
• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction
Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.
🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.
😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.
🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.
— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.
🇮🇷🎓 IN OTHER NEWS
Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement
Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.
Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.
The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.
Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.
Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."
Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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