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The Arab Spring, 10 years on: In Tunisia, 'the powerful are still stealing from us'

Wadii Jelassi formed an enduring image of Tunisia’s uprising when – as an unemployed 21 year-old protesting against Ben Ali’s regime – he was photographed holding aloft a small cage. “Ten years after the revolution, nothing has happened,” he said.
Wadii Jelassi formed an enduring image of Tunisia’s uprising when – as an unemployed 21 year-old protesting against Ben Ali’s regime – he was photographed holding aloft a small cage. “Ten years after the revolution, nothing has happened,” he said. © France 24 screengrab

This week marks ten years since deposed strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia, the first to fall as the 2011 Arab Spring took hold across North Africa and the Middle East. Although democratic advances have been made, many Tunisians feel that the revolution’s promise of a better life never really materialised, particularly in the country's poorer south and interior. FRANCE 24 brings you the fourth and final instalment of a series of reports from Tunisia, a decade after the dawn of the Arab Spring.

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Wadii Jelassi formed an enduring image of Tunisia’s uprising when – as an unemployed 21 year-old protesting against Ben Ali’s regime – he was photographed holding aloft a small cage.

“It wasn’t me who held up the cage on January 14,” he said, “It was the Tunisian people, the young. I attached the flag to it, the cage opened up, and the dove flew away like it was freeing itself. For 23 years we were imprisoned, downtrodden, marginalised and poor.”

With the old regime gone, Wadii turned his hand to politics but swiftly became disillusioned. Now he has returned to activism.

“Ten years after the revolution, nothing has happened,” he said. “In fact, it’s the opposite. We’re poorer and even more marginalised. There’s more unhappiness, the country’s heading for the wall. The powerful are still stealing from us.”

Myriam Bribri also participated in the 2011 uprising, and has a more positive image of the revolution’s effect on contemporary Tunisia. “The revolution wasn’t just one moment, it’s an ongoing process,” she said.

 “The revolution took away the fear factor,” Bribi continued. We weren’t scared any more ... I feel like there are so many things I can do.”

FRANCE 24’s Karim Yahiaoui, Mohamed Farhat and Chris Moore report.To watch, click on the video player above.

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