Haroun Bouazzi is a member of the group Collectif de solidarité au Canada avec les luttes sociales en Tunisie, and helped organize the thousands-strong rally January 14 in support of the recent revolution in Tunisia, which overthrew five-term President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The Daily interviewed him last Tuesday about the ongoing turmoil in his home country.
The McGill Daily: Mohamed Bouazzi set himself on fire in Tunisia in December, an act which helped spark the protests leading to the downfall of President Ben Ali. In the past week self-immolation tactics have spread to Cairo, Algeria, and Mauritania. In your opinion how does this tactic fit into Muslim beliefs and society?
Haroun Bouazzi: It is really interesting because suicide is totally against Muslim culture. It is clearly prohibited in Islam and really represents how desperate the people are. You know we have to remember that these people that died are human beings that, you know, committed suicide. Now, what happened in Tunisia is showing the way to a lot of people that feel this oppression and feel that the lack of freedom, and the lack of justice, social justice. And we will see more and more of that in all of the Arab world.
MD: Do you think this is an indication of a more widespread influence of the “Jasmine Revolution” throughout the Muslim world?
HB: Oh yes, you know the Arab world has almost exactly the same history for the past 13 centuries. So we have the Ottomans, the Umayyad, the Turkish, and the occupation by the English and the French, and then the English and the French left and we have dictatorships everywhere. And all these events happened at the same time with a couple of years of difference for the past 13 centuries. So if democracy, and we’re not yet there, but if democracy will work in Tunisia through this revolution, this might actually lead the entire Arab world to go on that path.
MD: Some claim the revolution is another example of the influence of WikiLeaks on state politics, while others disagree. What is your view?
HB: I don’t think WikiLeaks played a big role in that. Though it is very useful to know that, you know, the American intelligence knew that Tunisia was boiling and was going to explode at any time. But, for sure, this revolution was made by Tunisian people and just because of a struggle for justice, and it is not because of WikiLeaks.
MD: What role do you think Tunisians living outside of Tunisia have played in the revolution, and what is your next move?
HB: So, the role actually was big because of the fact that we entered the media here was very important – you know Ben Ali maybe wanted to kill Tunisians in the streets, but because the Canadian media, the French media, was watching him closely, he only – if I may use that word, killed 72 persons – which is already, of course, too much. Our next move right now is very hard to tell because the situation in Tunisia is changing every six hours. You know we had two presidents in sixty years and now we had two in 48 hours. People are withdrawing from the government, new faces are coming into the government, and people are still in the streets and we have a new thing, we did this revolution alone. The Tunisian people had no help from any outside power whatsoever, but now there are a lot of powers, especially in the Arab world, dictatorships in the Arab world, that don’t want this experience to succeed. So now we’ll have new things to deal with, which is that intelligence services are going to try to destroy the experience.
MD: How do you feel about the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) still holding 161 of the 214 seats in the legislative assembly? Do you trust Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi’s government to implement change?
HB: The promises of Mr. Ghannouchi are very promising, though we have to be very careful and the pressure has to still be there in the street, in the national movements, so that he actually does what he has said. You know he said that he was going to create an independent institution for the next election under international supervision, which means basically good steps towards democracy. He said he was going to recognize every political party that hasn’t been recognized so far, which is a good step towards democracy. Now we have to be very careful and pressure has to remain so that we actually have real elections and we get rid of anyone that the people of Tunisia don’t want in the parliament.
-—Compiled by Nic van Beek