Q&A: Tunisia’s teach leaders jabber to back up rigidity


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Tunis, Tunisia – Neat protests broke out one day of Tunisia this month over a government resolution to impose strict economic and tax reforms that elevated the price of frequent items.

The anti-austerity protests come as Tunisians imprint the seventh anniversary of the autumn of longtime leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who turned into forced from power after a usual revolution in 2011.

Rallies were held in Tunis, the capital, and in assorted locations one day of the country, led by the civil motion « Fech Nestannew » (What are we ready for?). Nearly 800 protesters were arrested, in step with United International locations figures, including 200 other folks between the ages of 15 and 20.

A 2016 deal between Tunisia and the World Monetary Fund (IMF) is a mountainous reason within the abet of the austerity measures, critics impart. The four-year, $2.8bn IMF mortgage is tied to a promise by the Tunisian government to produce economic and social reforms.

The federal government’s 2018 budgetary regulations, which came into slay this month, has been the center of attention of protesters’ anger, as it introduced mark hikes to frequent items, such as meals and fuel, and the price-added tax.

Al Jazeera spoke to Tunis-based entirely mostly teach organiser Warda Atig, 25, about how the Fech Nestannew motion took tell, its demands, and whether or no longer the Tunisian government would possibly perchance well moreover revise its economic insurance policies.

Al Jazeera: What is the premise within the abet of Fech Nestannew?

Warda Atig: Fech Nestannew is a motion created by Tunisian youth after the government’s finance act of 2018 came into slay. Following this act, the prices went up and the tell stopped recruiting for public sector jobs.

That’s the reason we made up our minds to produce this motion, so that you can push the government to murder this financial measure.

Al Jazeera: How did your protests starting up and when?

Atig: When we first heard about this regulations, in November and December of final year, several youth factions from the assorted modern political parties organised discussions [about] what the regulations turned into and what the impact of the regulations would be on society.

We were ready for the government to develop the regulations professional and we selected the date of our first motion to be January Three. The date is awfully symbolic because, on January Three, 1984, there turned into the Intifada al-Khubez (bread insurrection) in Tunisia [over an increase in the price of bread].

On January Three, we made a declaration in entrance of the municipal theatre [on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in downtown Tunis] and we dispensed pamphlets with our demands. We were about 50 activists.

‘We can not wait to any extent extra,’ says Tunisia teach leader Warda Atig [Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera: What are these demands?

Atig: We favor the government to full the develop bigger in prices, murder the moratorium on recruiting within the final public sector, present security and healthcare, conclude privatisation and recommend a nationwide technique to counter corruption.

These demands [are in response to] decisions taken by the government … [and] they are internal the context of the finance act of 2018. So we are asking [the government] to murder this act.

If they develop no longer murder it, they’ll privatise nationwide companies, they would possibly perchance perchance perchance moreover no longer fight corruption, they’ll continue to develop bigger prices. We are explaining to these that we must at all times divulge no to this act.

Al Jazeera: Protests be pleased taken tell one day of Tunisia. How did these assorted regions rep inviting about your motion and carry out you be pleased a coordinated approach?

Atig: First, we created a group on Fb. Then, there were many reactions from other folks in other regions. Participants began to rely on themselves, « What are we ready for? »

Participants from pupil unions and other kids that were very active regionally also obtained eager.

It started right here (Tunis) with assorted groups, including pupil unions and groups of unemployed graduates. Everybody right here helped unfold this campaign … and what came about in Tunis came about in your whole other regions.

This is no longer solely [a movement] for Tunis; it be for all of Tunisia.

Al Jazeera: The federal government has accused protesters of looting and finishing up acts of violence. How carry out you acknowledge to other folks which be pleased criticised your protests as violent?

Atig: First of all, our campaign has no relation to violence or breaking issues.

In Kasserine, the police caught somebody while he turned into giving money to protesters and urging them to fracture issues … This form of thing is identified to occur, even within the center of Ben Ali’s time, when other folks from the ruling rep together relief other folks to commit acts of violence so that you can discredit social actions.

The federal government’s response to our motion has been to arrest us. They broke into our properties within the nighttime. There are Fb pages belonging to the ruling parties that distorted our reputations. Even the governmental media tried to present a unsuitable image to our campaign.

Al Jazeera: This motion seems in mountainous phase to be led by trained, urban youth. How carry out you bridge a that you perchance can moreover imagine gap between the organisers and the routine Tunisian public most littered with the tell’s austerity measures?

Atig: The criticism solely comes from other folks that belong to the ruling parties. They impart these other folks of Fech Nestannew belong to the [block of leftist opposition parties called the] Standard Entrance.

They impart, [we] are desperate to steal over the authority [and we] are desperate to be in power so for that reason [we] are taking honest correct thing referring to the opposite folks.

But our relationship with routine other folks is awfully moral. We selected Fech Nestannew, a phrase within the native Tunisian dialect [of Arabic], so it’d be straightforward for each person to imprint.

Al Jazeera: Why carry out you imagine the 2018 finance act is spoiled to Tunisians?

Atig: The federal government itself confessed that the tenets of this act would develop other folks suffer … unemployed other folks, the sorrowful and workers.

Unhappy other folks pay taxes and price-added tax, while they develop bigger the salaries of ministers and participants of parliament. Many folk that were contemptible within the center of the Ben Ali era were granted pardons within the context of a reconciliation act.

The sorrowful are footing the bill.

Al Jazeera: These anti-austerity protests are coinciding with the anniversary of the 2011 revolution that toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Became once this done on reason and if that’s the case, carry out you hope to make snort of the timing to galvanise enhance?

Atig: January is awfully notorious [for protests] in Tunisia. In 2011, and even final year, there turned into a motion in January. Moreover to that, the finance act came into slay in January. January Three is also the anniversary of the [1984] bread protests.

All these instances contributed to our motion coinciding with the anniversary of the revolution.

Protesters bawl slogans in opposition to rising prices and tax increases in Tunis [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

Al Jazeera: What occurs if the government agrees to murder the finance regulations? Will this motion continue?

Atig: If they murder this finance act, OK, the campaign will dissolve. But when they murder the act and as a lot as the moment the same procedures solely under a uncommon name, we can continue.

Al Jazeera: Are you hopeful they’ll murder it?

Atig: No. [Laughs]

Al Jazeera: Why no longer?

Atig: We are doing this so that you can develop other folks mindful that the ruling other folks honest now are right here to effect in drive the dictates of the IMF. No longer no longer as a lot as we are continuing the modern assignment.

As long as Tunisia continues these deals with the IMF, we can continue our fight. We imagine that the IMF and the pursuits of different folks are contradictory.

Al Jazeera: The Tunisian top minister no longer too long within the past urged these who 2018 stands out as the final no longer easy year and after this, issues will get better. How carry out you acknowledge to that?

Atig: We can not wait to any extent extra.

That’s the reason we known as [our movement], « What are we ready for? »

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