By Aya Chebbi, Tunisia
I was once asked by the American freshmen students during the Arabic Cultural Hour: “Do people in Tunisia live peacefully with each other”. My answer was: “We do because we have been raised on a culture of tolerance and solidarity.” I even gave examples of how we saved and hosted the Jews during the Holocaust or how the extended family stands together in crisis.
However, what I see today in Tunisia is none of our culture, spirit or grandma stories about the 50s and 60s. Under two dictatorships, people were exiled, jailed, tortured, oppressed by those in power but NEVER assassinated. The Tunisian society had started to take a political shape, from over 100 emerging parties in 2011 to three major blocs today, from bullshit discussions and unknown figures on media outlets to diverse constructive debate, solid views and interesting figures and leaders’ positions, from a very weak and submissive civil society to an empowered one, from traditional biased media to citizen journalism. Then, yesterday, everything was back to square one…
Every Tunisian is worthy of living – The lives of men, women, children and all people are precious and so are the lives of those dedicated to public service. The assassination of Chokri Belaid is a sorrow for Tunisia and the whole world not only because it is an act of killing a human being but also an act of extreme censorship of a leader who revealed corruption and provided voice to the voiceless. This is not censoring YouTube or Daily-motion, hacking blogs, Facebook Pages and Tweeter accounts, dispersing protests with tear gas or bribing and shutting mouths, this is killing and censoring the heartbeat of a person for a lifetime.
When journalists are arrested because they’ve taken photos for their articles, we ask where is freedom of expression? When everything is denied accessibility, we ask where is transparency? When the corrupt hands are out of jail, we ask where is accountability? When political leaders are assassinated because of their positions, what shall we ask?
While living under oppression and violations for years, Tunisians never resorted to violence as a response to any form of oppression or crisis. They always put forth their demands through hunger strikes, peaceful protests and rallies. However, today, people denounce for terror and violence and the extreme minds call for division.
I wonder who can be happy, by the end of the day, because of this violence, chaos or division! What I am sure of, it can be anyone but a real Tunisian patriot who loves Tunisia’s soil, hold its flag and chant its anthem by heart!