Tunisia will forever be remembered as the birthplace of the Arab Spring in 2011. That has been both a blessing and a curse for the country.
The upside is that democracy and reform have become focal points of national pride in a region badly in need of both–especially after the architects of the transition won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015. The downside is that Tunisia’s halting progress continues to disappoint those who hope others will follow its path. Egypt’s retreat into dictatorship, Libya’s fragmentation and Syria’s catastrophic war make Tunisia that much more important for those who insist that the awakening continues.
Eight years after the uprising, many Tunisians are angry at how their newly democratic state is faring. The unemployment rate for graduates is about 30%. For those who have jobs, wages remain stagnant, and GDP per capita is down since 2014. Tens of thousands have fled the country in search of better prospects. Little wonder then that demonstrations have become commonplace in recent years. According to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, their number has surged from 5,001 in 2015 to more than 11,000 last year.