On October 23, 2011, Tunisians headed to polls to elect a national constituent assembly, which will be responsible for the writing of a new constitution and forming a new interim government. That day marked the first free elections of the post-Ben Ali era, and the first democratic test for the Arab Spring, which started in Tunisia.
But before the free elections, there was the so-called “Jasmine Revolution”. Four weeks of street protests, sit-ins, slogans such as the now-famous “Dégage!” (“Go out!”). But also four weeks of unrest that left 300 people dead and 700 others injured between Dec. 17, 2010 and Jan. 14, 2011, according to the United Nations.
I traveled to Tunis, the country’s capital, the day following the resignation of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. An interim government had just been created, including members of Ben Ali’s party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD). Daily street protests continued in Tunis, asking for the resignation of the new government and the disbandment of the RCD.
Protesters’ faces were tense and determined. One could also read a sense of pride on these faces. The pride to have finally “made it”, to have provoked the fall of a 23-year-old autocratic regime. Yet no one at that time could imagine that this was only the first days of a spring later dubbed the “Arab Spring” and that soon after that, Egyptians, Libyans or Syrians would take the streets of their country, too.