Dear Vice - I'm Revolting In Tunisia
I'm a 23-year-old recent college graduate. Like many recent college graduates, I was only able to get shitty jobs that didn't require a college degree or pay me a living wage. I have very few family connections, and I wrote my college thesis on Iraqi sectarian politics, so I decided to get certified as an English teacher and move to the Middle East.
My first job offer was in Tunisia, so I came here. Tunisia was an extremely boring place for the first eight months I was here. It's a very closed society, and this is in large part because of how tyrannical the government was. The Interior Ministry was brutal in crushing any perceived dissent. I have heard many stories of people disappearing after complaining in a cafe about the economic situation, or even for going to the mosque too diligently (the regime was rabidly anti-Islamist). Sometimes these people would be released after months or years of torture, but many of these people are still missing.
As a result, people generally only opened up to those they had known for a really long time, so it was difficult making friends or even meeting people here. I went back to America for the holidays, and when I got back things were very different.
I don't know how much you know about the situation here, but basically an unemployed young man was selling fruits and vegetables without a permit in the city of Sidi Bouzid. This is extremely common across the country and is how I get most of my produce.
For whatever reason, police took offence and he was fined, beaten, and had his cart confiscated. This caused the man to lose his mind. He went downtown in front of the town hall and began yelling anti-government slogans. After a crowd had gathered (including some people with camera phones) he doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire.
Sidi Bouzid is a real shit hole, and a lot of people identified with the suicidal man. A small but angry protest started. The Regime tolerated absolutely no dissent, so they sent Special Police in and began killing protesters. These murders were also caught on tape and caused region-wide protests. Eventually, the entire country rose up.
This picture was taken last night. While people are staying vigilant, when 10pm rolled around with no violence, a party-like atmosphere settled over my neighborhood.
The Interior Ministry Special Police were very well armed, and completely willing to massacre their own people in the streets. As I'm sure you know, a very large number of people died. However, eventually the sheer size of the protest overwhelmed the Interior Ministry, and about a week ago the "President" Ben Ali, called on the military to come in and support the Special Police.
This kid was handing out mini-pizzas at checkpoints
The military has never had good relations with Ben Ali (he supposedly had several high-ranking generals murdered about six years ago). The Head General put the military on the streets to protect banks and stores, but refused to intervene in peaceful protests. Ben Ali, in a rage, fired the General, who then refused to step down and ordered Military Units to protect protests, causing them to get in firefights with Special Police.
There is widespread looting all over town. This is a photo of police looting a liquor store.
Ben Ali fled the country on Friday (or maybe Thursday) and members of his bodyguard and special police units went underground. They began fighting soldiers, destroying infrastructure, and (most disturbingly) murdering random civilians in drive-by shootings and sniper attacks across the country (including a few blocks from my house).
My apologies, it turns out I'm a terrible cameraman. After about 30 seconds my friend takes over and it's much better. This took place between a relative lull in the drama late Sunday, early Monday.
By Saturday, the army had told the general population to arm themselves, build barricades in the streets, and look for terrorists loyal to the former regime.
I had stayed completely out of the drama until then, but when I learned that men with automatic weapons were driving around killing people in my neighborhood, I decided I had to help stop them. This last weekend has been the most intense, terrifying, inspiring, and exciting experience of my life. I have also made some very good friends.
I decided that I had to record it because even though I didn't have any close calls (thank god), there was a fair amount of death and destruction going on. I called my blog methalif, which is Tunisian for retard, because there were times I felt pretty fucking retarded standing at the barricades with a stick, waiting for murderers with automatic weapons.
Things were good tonight, but the situation is far from resolved, and my friends are still at the barricades and patrolling my neighborhood.
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