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The New Arab

Tunisians mark five years of Arab Spring

Many Tunisians feel their rights are threatened [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 18 December, 2015

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As Tunisians mark five years since a street vendor set himself on fire, unwittingly setting in motion upheaval across the Arab world, many now fear their achievements are under threat.

Tunisia marked the fifth anniversary of Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation on Thursday, which put into motion a popular revolution that ousted Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abdine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011.

Bouazizi, a street vendor who carried out his act of protest and desperation after being harassed by municipal officials and having his vegetable cart confiscated, resonated not only with Tunisians but also with desperate populations across the Arab world, sparking what has become known as the "Arab Spring".

However, five years after a poor Tunisian man set himself on fire due to his humiliation at the hands of government officials, Tunisians are left wondering: What happened to our revolution?

Threatened freedoms

On the eve of the of the fifth anniversary of the start of the Tunisian revolution, a coalition of 60 Tunisian rights group and trade unions issued a statement warning of the erosion of civil liberties in their country.

The organisations that include the Tunisian General Labour Union and the Tunisian Human Rights League warned that anti-terrorism measure were being increasingly used to violate rights and civil liberties.

They also warned that such measures threaten the hard earned freedoms that Tunisians enjoy, which are most important achievement of the Tunisian revolution.

The statement comes days after six Tunisian students were given a three-year jail term on charges of homosexuality, under a controversial article of the criminal code that criminalises sex between males.

However, on the same day the 60 organisations released their statement, 17-year-old student activist, Afraa Ben Azza, from the northwestern city of El Kef was violently arrested as she demonstrated the demolition of a historic cafe on her city.

Ben Azza was then taken to a police station were she was beaten in the presence of her mother and sister and was interrogated without being permitted to call a lawyer, according to a statement by Manich Msamih (I do not forgive), an activist collective Ben Azza belongs to.

Afraa who has been previously detained by the police for her activism was charged with insulting public officials, which is a charged regularly used by police officers according to Afraa's lawyer Hassiba Daraji.

Tunisians quickly took to social media, which was their main tool of communication during their revolution, to publicise the case of Ben Azza and demand her release.

After increased pressure on the government, Afraa was released at 5pm Thursday afternoon, having spent the country's most important modern anniversary in a jail cell.

She is to appear in court at the end of the month according to local news reports.

Such practices will only increase Tunisian fears that their revolution is slowly slipping away from their hands.

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