“Did you see men with long beards during the demonstrations in Tunisia?” asked a middle-aged Tunisian woman, “No? Indeed! We don’t need them to liberate ourselves from tyranny”. This woman was demonstrating on the streets of Brussels together with some 800 others, mainly Tunisians.
Some Algerians, Moroccans, Iraqis and Palestinians had also joined in. More than a demonstration, it was like a festival of jubilant and exuberant Tunisians, the kind of activity where everybody talks to everybody, especially with those they don’t know. “Enfin libre” (finally free) was heard in all conversations. Surprise was mixed with pride of being the first of the Arab peoples to have succeeded in freeing itself from its dictator – “alone and without foreign help”. At one point the slogan “contagion, contagion, let there be contagion” came booming out from the crowd, as well as “We are all Tunisians now”.
The regional impact of the uprising was well understood by the demonstrators. Other slogans, besides the much repeated national anthem, were: “We are not afraid anymore”, “Justice, Ben Ali should be put on trial”, “Give back to the people the goods Ben Ali has stolen”, “Maghreb united”, “Thanks to the Tunisian soldiers”, “Power to the people” and also “Down with Gannouchi “(the very temporary president who took over from Ben Ali).
The leaflet of the Vonk/Unité Socialiste (the Belgian Marxists, supporters of the IMT) called for an end to the whole regime and not only of one or two dictators and his lieutenants. Some 400 copies were distributed promoting also the Arabic Marxist website, Marxy.com. It was worth noting how many people understood that the revolution had to go further. Another demonstrator explained ‘that if you have cancer you cannot limit yourself to cutting out the most visible part of the illness. You have to cut out the roots of the disease. If this is not done, the cancer will come back”.
When some Moroccan youth showed up with the banner of their country they added at the top of it “Down with tyranny, down with oppression”. They stood suddenly still when an old man approached them with a severe look in his eyes. After a short silence he said “If we have to change things let’s do it well. We do not only have to get rid of the top. We need to clean everything up, from the attic to the basement and back again”. Then the youth started to chant again emboldened by the advice of the old man. Another young Moroccan activist told us: “They (the Tunisians) needed only 4 weeks to get rid of Ben Ali. It would be great if we could get rid of one tyrant every month now in the Arab world”.
Hours after the end of the demonstration many Tunisians were still discussing. Nobody wanted to go home. Many of them wanted to get the maximum out of this moment of joy. Discussions on the streets were interrupted by spontaneous chanting of slogans. However, from these enthusiastic discussions there also emerged a sense of realism: “Let’s make sure that nobody steals our victory, the victory of the people”.
Website of Belgian Marxists: Vonk (Dutch)