In Tunisia, the new faces of anger

By Olivier Piot

Posted today at 01:45

Tataouine, the exotic gateway to the Tunisian desert, a city at the “end of the world”, as the saying goes, closer to Libya than to the capital, Tunis, more than eight hours drive to the north. Known for its Saharan excursions, the architecture of its granaries, the ksour and its Berber culture, the city of 68,000 inhabitants has long remained sheltered from the anti-establishment spasms which have agitated the country’s large agglomerations for ten years.

But, here too, a curious poster ended up defying the tranquility of the place. Like a banner, dominating the sandy tones of the alleys and facades, a design stands out with its colorful graphics. On the red of a Tunisian flag sits the clear face of a young boy, jacket and black hair, his twenties, his chin high and his eyes proud. On the lower part of the panel, two slogans in Arabic: “The martyr of the country” and “We will not let go! “.

El-Kamour, hotbed of anger

El-Kamour is the name of an oil site and a village nestled 160 kilometers south-east of Tataouine, in an area as military as it is desert. In 2017, young people in search of employment launched a social movement there which swirls in the main cities of the governorate of Tataouine.

Disappointed by the broken promises of the 2011 revolution against the Ben Ali regime, marginalized by unemployment that hits a third of those under 28, battalions of young people have decided to come out of the shadows. In a country paralyzed for months by a political crisis at the highest point of the state, El-Kamour embodies one of these new angeres which are tearing Tunisia apart. Protests that led in January to the arrest of nearly 1,300 people in the country.

In Tataouine, a panel of the El-Kamour protest movement.  In Arabic, we can read

Street demonstrations, clandestine meetings, sit-ins in tents in seven delegations (communes) of the governorate … The actions of the coordination of El-Kamour have, from the outset, escaped the control of the political parties and of the large trade union center Tunisian, the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT). “Since we are talking about democracy, there was no question of letting others than us act and decide”, explains the second spokesperson for the coordination, Khalifa Bouhaouch, 33 years old.

“Either you go or you fight. Between the two, there is nothing here. “Khalifa Bouhaouch, 33, a spokesperson for the coordination of El-Kamour

At the beginning of March, seated in a lively café in downtown Tataouine, the activist recounts the social movement under the admiring gaze of the waiters. He looks like the figure on the downtown poster: a jacket as black as his beard, keen eyes, features sharpened by months of struggle and nights of discussions. Born in the small neighboring town of Bir Lahmar, Khalifa Bouhaouch passed his baccalaureate and then obtained, in 2015, a diploma as a security officer on oil sites. A future all mapped out in the region… except that no employer has hired him. “Either you go or you fight.” Between the two, there is nothing here ”, he laments.

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