World Social Forum 2013: Marching with the spirits of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Bouazizi
On 26 March we descended on Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the epicentre of Tunisia's Jasmine revolution. We came from all the four corners of the square “Place du 14 Janvier 2011”, John Hilary, Sidua Hor and I travelled across the city to square. The chanting began with movements and organizations showing diversity in gender, race, outfit and slogans. This march was something inspiring and moving. Tunisian activists showed their presence with slogans and chants on Mohamed Bouazizi and Chokri Belaid.
For my readers who have not come across both Mohamed Bouazizi and Chokri Belaid, here is my brief introduction.
Mohamed Bouazizi popular known as "Basboosa" is an ordinary Tunisian street fruit seller whose cart was seized by the police on 17 December 2010. "Basboosa" felt humiliated by this act and set himself ablaze, he died 17 days later. And 10 days after his death the government of Ben Ali was brought down as a result of protest across the country.
Chokri Belaid was lawyer and leader of the Popular Front coalition this is the left wing faction of the Tunisian revolution. He was assassinated 7 weeks (6 February) before the World Social Forum; his funeral was attended by over a million mourners.
The strong voices of youth and women movement
This is my third appearance at the World Social Forum, from Mumbai to Nairobi and of course Tunis. There is something radically advanced in this particular forum, which is the strong voice of women.
I was moved to see the Oxfam International Youth contingent, they made the most progressive and radical slogan that I ever heard from Oxfam. The chants “Don’t Teach Me What To Wear, Teach Your Son Not To Rape; Woman Right is Human Right; Stop The Violence Stop The War; Liberte Egalite Solidarite; No More Silence The Voices Must Be Heard; Anti Capitaliste” blended rhythmically with Irene Banda thumping a small drum leading the charge. They attracted attention and drew other marchers into their group especially the Tunisian youth. Occasionally they share chants with other groups, a common practice on such marches.
Syrian flags, in solidarity with the Syrian people, during the WSF2013 march in Tunis.
Given that there were at least more than a million people on the march and other members of the public who stood by the side streets cheering us on, the youth group have place shown the side of Oxfam that is willing and capable of working in the movements.
A call to action
I am proud to witness the Tunisian night when women took over the stage of #WSF, this was the high point of the march. Basma Khalfaoui Belaid (widower of Chokri Belaid) did not climb the stage to mourn but rather call people to action.
I have not seen such a spirited person like her who in the face of sorrow could show courage and charisma. The Palestinian women who followed suit were equally to the task as well as those from Venezuela, USA as well as Amita Toure (Mali). Each of them carried a message of defiance and hope for the struggle.
While we were fired up to carry on the struggle, we were reminded that about 100 Algerians were blocked from attending the forum by their government. It shows the mountain of challenges that activists face in the region.
Tunisia has rekindled the spirits of the World Social Forum, Tunisians had a made a huge sacrifice and it is time to show solidarity.
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World Social Forum 2013 wesbite: www.fsm2013.org
Oxfam International Youth Partnerships (Oxfam Australia) at the WSF2013