It’s sometimes hard to imagine how much life has changed in Tunisia since the revolution. Before launching the Social Contract, I wrote to my Facebook friends to describe what it felt like. The thoughts here were not meant for the general public, but looking back on them, I can still feel the emotions from that period. I’ve decided to share these as part of the inspiration for A 21st Century Social Contract.
|From Tunisia 2011|
A couple noteworthy references – one is that I was worried that the government would hack my account, so on the post of January 13th I refrained from making political commentary. Another is that the event was not even being followed by people abroad at that point, just one day prior to the overthrow.
Here are my posts from January 13 and 14.
January 13, 2011 – The day before the fall
I didn’t expect the first post from Tunisia to be about a curfew. For those who haven’t followed, there have been ever increasing protests in Tunisia since mid-December, culminating last night in a curfew for Tunis. Today it has been calm around the neighborhood, but last night we could hear fighting between the police and civilians about 500m from our house. The army is in the streets since yesterday. The amazing thing is the extent to which twitter is the source for information/disinformation. While the foreign press has been reporting on the situation, Twitter (and word of mouth) is the only way to know if your neighborhood has been affected. Despite the uncertitude, life continues. The stores were busy this morning, as most shut down at 11 or noon for the rest of the day. … people are stocking up on everything. I’ll refrain from political commentary – no need to cause any more trouble than necessary – but I’d encourage you to google or search twitter for information on what’s going on here.
|From Tunisia 2011|
January 14, 2011 – A Monumental Day
I woke up this morning with the thought that it might be over. I thought that the speech from the President Ben Ali last night calmed the frayed nerves of Tunisians, and that things might return to normal. But even then, the first thing I did was jump on the internet to see what was happening. At the time, it appeared not much. The twitter posts with the hashtag: sidibouzid (the symbol of where all the protests had started from) were merely trickling in, whereas when I went to bed there were hundreds every few minutes. The newspapers had some stories, but nothing major. Eloise and I decided to see if the gym was open, finding it wasn’t we walked through the neighborhood where we saw evidence of the protests and a lot of military and security people but not much else. The shops were closed and only a fifth of the normal cars and pedestrians seemed to be out. It seemed, as Eloise said, like it might be the calm before the storm. We got back home and went online where we started to see the reports, from the Guardian, le Monde, and BBC, but especially Twitter, that there was a big protest in the center of town. Everyone had been talking about it the night before, but we weren’t sure it would materialize. The first reports said there were a few hundred, then a few thousand, then more and soon we were seeing pictures of the entire boulevard Habib Bourguiba filled with peaceful protesters. Then we started hearing noises outside. The same noises we heard last night, only it was the middle of the day. I was supposed to start working – publishing some webpages and finishing up some loose ends – but after I heard the crowd, I knew it wasn’t going to be like that. I knew that I would be glued to Twitter again, and that things were afoot. The view from our apartment is great, it’s at a high point above our neighborhood which is perched on a little hill between the Corniche (the cliff above of the Mediterranean), and a pretty popular/urban neighborhood where we go to buy our baguettes and newspapers and get our keys made at the hundreds of local shops. There’s a major street running through the neighborhood that connects to our little side street, but the view doesn’t allow us to see exactly what’s happening on the street – but you can hear it, and boy did we hear it this afternoon. On this otherwise beautiful day a battle broke out between protesters and police. Between volleys of tear gas the youth advanced and retreated, lobbying rocks and yelling in Tunisian dialect. After an hour or so things calmed down, but the fires were being lit. The air filled with smoke but the protests quieted down. Meanwhile, the riots continued downtown. The images and videos came in and the repression seemed brutal. And on the internet rumors circulated that the president might be stepping down. As the sun was setting, the word came that the president was leaving the country. Was the military performing a coup d’etat? As it seems to have turned out, it’s been a palace coup – the prime minister was taking over. It’s been a long day with way too much time online. We’ll see what tomorrow brings….Thanks to all for the well wishes. Eloise and I are safe and for the moment our stock of fresh mediterranean food is not depleted, so we’re well fed. More updates tomorrow.