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Saturday, August 6, 2011

ARAB SPRING: In Tunisian Town of Arab Spring Martyr, Disillusionment Seeps In!

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By KAREEM FAHIM / / Published: August 5, 2011.

Samuel Aranda for The New York Times
Unemployed youth in Sidi Bouzid, where little has changed since Tunisia's revolution. 

SIDI BOUZID, Tunisia — It is hard to say for sure who took down the portrait of the revolution’s most famous martyr, Mohamed Bouazizi, from its perch atop a garish gold statue on the street where he set himself on fire, touching off a season of revolt across the Arab world. One man said unnamed counterrevolutionaries did it, and another man said it was damaged by rain.

Mr. Bouazizi’s neighbors say it was taken down in disgust, several weeks ago, after his mother, uncle and siblings left Sidi Bouzid, an act the neighbors considered a betrayal. Their anger stemmed from rumors that the family had accepted large sums of money to move to a fancy villa in Tunis. But more than that, they said they were furious at being left behind, in a place with no jobs, money or hope, without the famous Bouazizis to give voice to their despair.

“She abandoned us, and nothing here changed,” said Seif Amri, 18, a neighbor, speaking of Mr. Bouazizi’s mother, Mannoubia Bouazizi.

It is a measure of the deep frustration in Sidi Bouzid that a few people have lashed out at the town’s favorite son. That anger is misplaced, most residents say, blaming the lack of progress here on the transitional government, which has moved slowly to address one of the revolution’s central complaints — youth unemployment — especially here in the towns of central Tunisia, where the uprising began.

The bitterness here stands in stark contrast to a guarded optimism elsewhere in Tunisia about the progress of the revolution, and it threatens to undermine the gains: Several times in the last few months, disputes over jobs have led to deadly episodes of violence.

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