Frustration grows in Tunisian revolution birthplace

Poster of Mohammed Bouazizi hanging across the post office building in the city

If you want to trace the disappointment and frustration among young people in the southern Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid, visit a local market.

Souk al-Khodar is tucked away in one of the city's downtrodden districts.

Many of the traders selling fruit and vegetables have university degrees and had high hopes that the revolution that ended decades of dictatorship in 2011 would herald a bright future. But for most, little has changed.

Saleh, 28, has a law degree from the University of Sousse. Since leaving university in 2005, he has tried repeatedly to get a job, but to no avail.

"My vegetable cart is my only source of living," he says.

He complains that the transitional government's pledges of a better future have proved empty.

Two and a half years ago, another vegetable seller from Sidi Bouzid, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself alight after police confiscated his vegetable cart.

His act of desperation and anger sparked the Tunisian revolution and the Arab Spring.

There is a large poster of Mohammed Bouazizi hanging across the post office building in the city, and on the right-hand side of it is a monument representing a vegetable cart created in his memory.

Image caption Nothing has changed since the revolution, says vegetable seller Saleh

"We thought that when Mohammed Bouazizi set himself alight and sparked a revolution that we would enjoy economic prosperity and see an end to government corruption, and practices like nepotism at work. We were absolutely wrong. Nothing changed," Saleh says.

The price of his goods sums up the country's economic malaise.

"I used to sell 1kg (2.2lb) of potatoes for 1 dinar (£0.40) before the revolution; today I sell it for four dinars," he said before interrupting the interview to serve a customer.

Second revolution

Tensions are running high once more in Sidi Bouzid. The talk in the city is that the second wave of the revolution is in sight.

The sense of hopelessness turned to anger when protesters clashed violently with police on 26 July.

The confrontation was sparked by the assassination of the city's representative in the Constituent Assembly, Mohamed Brahmi.

A left-wing politician, he was shot and killed outside his home in the capital, Tunis, on 25 July. He is the second opposition figure to be gunned down in six months.

The government named an Islamic extremist, Boubacar Hakim, as the prime suspect in Mr Brahmi's killing.

The shocking incident, the second in six months, has set the country on edge as opposition supporters staged an open strike in central Tunis, demanding the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the interim parliament.

The protesters increasingly blame the Islamist Ennahda movement, which leads a governing coalition alongside two secular parties, for the persistent economic malaise and shaky security.

In Sidi Bouzid, dozens of protesters outside the town hall have blocked the main gate of the building and prevented the governor from entering his office for more than a week.

"The current political crisis is the last straw for a government that promised a lot, but delivered almost nothing," shouts Bashir Brahimi.

"There is no government here in Sidi Bouzid any longer. We, the people, are the government from now on."

The Ennahda representative in the city, Mohammed Tahir, argues the transition to democracy is always rocky and that life could not improve immediately.

"It takes years for any government after a revolution to make tangible progress, and given the fact that we have inherited a heavy burden after five decades of dictatorship."

But many citizens in the cradle of the Tunisian revolution are impatient to reap the fruits of their uprising against autocracy.

The graffiti on the wall behind the Bouazizi memorial reads: "The revolution continues."

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