In 2010, the Arab Spring began in Tunisia and spread to other countries such as Libya, Syria, and Yemen. It is characterized by primarily non-violent protests for reform for issues such as property rights, unemployment, etc. Some countries involved in the Arab Spring faced violent backlash, especially Syria, where violent government responses to protests have largely contributed to the Syrian refugee crisis. Protesting groups from other nations, like Tunisia, have been seeing significant progress and even garnering international recognition for their efforts at reform.
On January 22, protests led to private and public property damage that caused the government to impose a curfew from 8 P.M. to 5 A.M. The protests are very similar to the ones that occurred during the Arab Spring -- though instead of fighting for freedom, they are fighting for the ability to survive with it.
In December of 2010 when the Arab Spring started, protests in Tunisia successfully led to the downfall of then-president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The shift in national governance was monumental for the nation, but unfortunately, they have yet to reap the rewards.
Currently, over 700,000 people are unemployed, most of them part of the younger generation. According to statistics from the World Bank, OECD, and Tunisian presidency, 62.3 percent of graduates are without work, 37.6 percent of young people are unemployed, and the overall unemployment rate is 15.2 percent. Saber Gharbi, an unemployed graduate in Tunisia, stated that Tunisians "have the freedom, but you cannot eat freedom."
The inability to find work has led to a recent surge of protests that have forced President Beji Caid Essebi to respond. He claims that over 6,000 jobs will be provided to people in Kasserine, a major city in Tunisia. While it may be a good first step to address the problem, 6,000 is a minuscule number of jobs to be offered to the 700,000 people who need work. However, whether or not these jobs will actually be created remains to be seen.
In the meantime, President Essebi warns protestors that increased violence could be exploited by militant groups, particularly ISIS. When protests get violent, there is more instability in the nation as large urban centers become prime locations for looting, assault, and vandalism. ISIS, which has large occupying groups right next to Tunisia in Libya, could easily take advantage of the instability caused by riots. They have already recruited over 3,000 people as of last year, which is more than they've recruited from any other country.
What the Tunisian people need is reform -- they need the ability to sustain livelihoods, to provide for their families, and not to worry about how they could possibly pay for even just the bare necessities. We can only hope that President Essebi holds to his promises, and can continue to provide jobs for his people and bring Tunisia one step closer to a more free and prosperous democracy.