- Posted March 20, 2012 by
SLIDESHOW: Confetti, Islam and Democracy: Tunisians Celebrate Independence Day
- ssesha, CNN iReport producer
Today, a crowd of a few thousand filled Avenue Habib Bourguiba, the main and picturesque Tunis thoroughfare named for former Tunisian president, Habib Bourguiba. Bourguiba became the first president of Tunisia after the country won independence from France on this day in 1956.
Tunisia’s Independence Day—the second since its political revolution—has a new emotional weight after the country ousted the oppressive President Ben Ali on January 14, 2011 in a popular uprising. Tunisia’s successful revolution was the first in the Arab Spring and sparked protests in other countries throughout the region.
Today, many liberal Tunisians dominated the crowd with chants, songs and taunts directed largely at the leaders of Ennahda, the Islamist political party now controlling the Tunisian government after the October 2011 election.
Tunisians directed “dégage!,” French for “get out”—a popular slogan during Tunisia’s revolution—at the new Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali, and party leader Rached Ghannouchi, both of Ennahda.
The now popular Arab Spring chant used in Tunisia, Egypt and other nations, “ishaab ureed isqat al-nizam”, or “the people want to take down the regime”, had a different twist today. Tunisians chanted instead, “the people want a civil state”.
The anti-Ennahda, pro-democratic tone is largely in response to a protest last Friday outside the Tunisian parliament where a crowd of a few thousand demonstrated in support of sharia (Islamic law) becoming the main source of legislation in Tunisia.
Before the revolution, President Ben Ali and previous President Habib Bourguiba both established strict policies enforcing secularism in the tiny North-African country. The newly elected National Constituent Assembly is in the process of rewriting the Tunisian constitution, and the question of religion in the new government is polarizing the country.
Although the tone today was critical of the new government and Islam’s place in the liberal and largely secular country, this serious debate did not stop Tunisians from celebrating their independence and their revolution.