Tunisia’s Saied says he will change anniversary of revolution

President says anniversary to mark the beginning of the uprising, rather than the deposing of former dictator Ben Ali.

Saied sacked the government and seized wide-ranging powers on July 25, 2021 [File: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has said that he intends to move the official anniversary of the country’s revolution, a symbolic shift suggesting that the revolt is unfinished.

Tunisia’s uprising broke out on December 17, 2010, when Mohamed Bouazizi, a vegetable salesman angered by police harassment, set himself ablaze in the marginalised rural town of Sidi Bouzid.

Four weeks later, after vast nationwide protests, veteran longtime ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile on January 14, which later became an official day of remembrance and a public holiday.

But Saied told his cabinet on Thursday that he would order the holiday moved to December 17, the day “the revolutionary explosion burst out of Sidi Bouzid”.

“Unfortunately the revolution was usurped,” he added. “The people were even prevented from expressing their desires and slogans.”

Saied sacked the government and seized wide-ranging powers on July 25. His moves appeared to enjoy widespread popularity, with thousands of his supporters taking to the streets to celebrate the sacking of the prime minister and suspension of parliament.

However, several prominent politicians have been arrested and hundreds have faced travel bans, while a former president living outside Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki, faces prosecution for his verbal attacks on Saied.

Saied’s support is also waning among large segments of civil society, including groups that initially backed his power grab.

Since 2011, January 14 has been a public holiday across Tunisia – except in Sidi Bouzid, which marks the revolution every year on December 17 in homage to Bouazizi.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies