When Tunisians rose up to defy Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, their long-time president who had ruled with an iron fist for decades, they did not know that they were sparking a major upheaval throughout the Arab world.
Tunisia inspired ordinary people from Morocco to Baghdad to take to the streets, and similar revolutions have toppled the leaders of Egypt and Libya.
It was also the first post-revolution country to hold free and fair elections, and the plurality of seats were won by the Islamist Ennahda Party, which had been banned up until the revolution.
The Tunisian constituent assembly has 217 members, and it has a year to decide on a new constitution for the country.
Full of hope for their future, Tunisians also realise that they face major challenges ahead.
Their country’s economy was dominated by Ben Ali’s cronies, and unemployment was rampant. Finding jobs for hundreds of thousands of Tunisians - many of them well-educated - will be tough.
In The Cafe, we speak with a group of Tunisians to find out what they think about their new leadership and the direction their country is going.
Our Coffee Mates in Tunis:
- Yusra Khreegi, the daughter of Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi, who spent the last 20 years in exile in England. She also serves as a spokesperson for the party.
- Olfa Lajili, an energy consultant who founded the 24th October Movement, a citizen group that aims to monitor the new Tunisian government and maintain a strict divide between religion and state.
- Yassine Labidi, a graduate of Tunisian universities who has spent years doing odd jobs in the hopes of finding permanent work in his country.
- Amine Allam, an investment banker who campaigned for the most secular party in the country, Afek Tounes.
- Jawhara Al-Tees, a professor of English at the University of Carthage. She is a member of the National Constituent Assembly representing Ennahda.
- Moncef Sheikh Rouhou, also a member of the National Constituent Assembly, representing the Democratic Progressive Movement. He was exiled in 1999, after running the country’s biggest Arabic-language newspaper, Assabah. He is also a professor of international finance.
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