As I walked the streets of my Fatherland, I saw the beautiful cities. I saw young people running to beat the traffic. They are on their way to work. I saw the police officers talking nicely to the people. I smiled as I walked.
People, especially younger ones, always ask me, “Pa Usama, why do you smile all the time while you take a walk?” I answer them and tell them the story of Today’s Tunisia.
I think telling the story is not enough. I am writing this so that when I am gone, the younger generation will always remember.
I like to title this,
“Why Pa Usama always smiled”.
Dear young person, when I see the Tunisia of today, I am so glad. It’s better than the Tunisia I grew up with.
We are free today!
Today, obtaining Justice is so common. It was not so in my Twenties.
When I was younger, waking up every morning was a chore. Saying prayers to Allah was the hardest.
Tunisia was green and still is. It is blessed by Allah with fertile soils, rivers, a warm climate, beautiful vegetation, natural resources like Petroleum, and even wildlife.
But we suffered. Yes, we; the poor masses, suffered amid plenty. My friend, Ibrahim Abu died of hunger.
Young people and old people faced different sorts of harassment. Nobody seemed to care till December 17th, 2011. It’s memorable for me because I was born on 17th December.
You see that space where the High Five Company now stands… It used to be the Municipal office in our Town, Sidi Bouzid. The Municipal office was supposed to be a place where we could make reports and get them addressed. But no. They were all ignored.
Dear young person in Central Tunis, you live in the place where the Tunisia you see today was born. It all started here in Central Tunis.
Just in front of that High five company building, Mohamed Bouazizi, a young man, 26 at the time, a fruit seller, full of life, vitality, vigor, and everything you can think of set himself ablaze. Mohamed doused himself in it and lit the matchbox.
I was with my parents having a birthday party when we noticed smoke ascending to the skies. The Municipal office was in front of my family’s house. Suddenly, the clouds were dark and we heard, “ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” We ran out to see Mohamed burning. “Ahhhhh! Ahhhh!”He screamed as he burned.
Mohamed was harassed by the officials for his refusal to give bribes. They were powerful in then Tunisia. They could do anything and get away with it. So they seized his goods. He came to report the case at the office and he requested for his goods to be released. The officials ignored him just like they did other people.
Mohammed sold fruits in a Cart to support his family. He could not find better employment. There was none actually but they were mouths to feed. Then, I was a cobbler despite being well educated. Like him, I managed to help my aging parents to feed them twice a day.
17th December 2011 was a black day for Tunisians.
As Mohammed screamed in pain, we remembered the hardship, the injustices, the corruption, and everything we had to put up with in President Ben Ali’s regime.
We took to the streets
Freedom! We cried.
Ta! Ta! Ta!Ta!, the soldiers shot at us.
We used masks to cover our noses and protect ourselves from Tear gasses.
We continued protesting.
They continued shooting at us…
We died in our numbers. Halima, my first love, died too.
We didn’t stop till authoritarianism, oppression was brought down.
On 14th January 2011, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali stepped down and left the country. In December 2011, a democratically elected President and Prime Minister took office.
Today, we have a peaceful beautiful Tunisia.
Dear young person reading this, can you wave the Tunisian flag so high that Allah can see it?
What do you think?