Tunisia hails National Day, Arab Spring
By Philip Iglauer
Tunisia celebrated its 56th year of independence from colonial rule, Tuesday, as well as the 1st anniversary since youths in popular demonstrations that swept the North African nation toppled the geriatric regime of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his 34 years of iron-hand rule in a reception at Lotte Hotel in Seoul.
Tunisia’s top diplomat in Korea hailed his country’s young people, and pointed out that Tunisia was the first in a line of Arab nations in 2011 to topple octogenarian autocrats in what the world later dubbed the “Arab Spring.”
“The year 2011 was not like any year in Tunisia’s history. Allow me at the outset to pay tribute and to salute the martyrs and youths of Tunisia’s peaceful revolution, a revolution for freedom and dignity that offered to the world an Arab Spring,” Tunisian Ambassador to Korea Ammar Amari said in welcome remarks during the reception.
Ben-Ali fled Tunisia on Jan. 14, 2011, and resides in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Amari marked the one year since the Arab Spring in Tunisia as the “1st Anniversary of its Glorious Revolution, the Revolution of Freedom and Dignity.”
This historical event actually infused a new hope into the conscience of human kinds that yearns for justice and democracy and holds high the values of freedom and human rights.
Amari characterized the mass demonstrations that forced Ben Ali from power as a “spontaneous revolution, free from any political or ideological framing and without any foreign support.”
He called Ben Ali’s more than three-decade regime as “one of the most obnoxious dictatorships in the region,” adding that the democratic revolution revealed Ben Ali’s “practices which blocked for decades all political perspectives, stifled freedom of expression and dashed the hope of youths for a better future, self-accomplishment and participation in the economic and social of the nation.”
Amari said that Tunisia, today, stands at a turning point of its history and on the threshold of a new era, saying that his country yearns for genuine democracy founded on strong guaranties that consecrate people’s sovereignty and the possibility for them to enjoy their full rights and determine their destiny.
Ahn Ho-Young, 1st vice minister of foreign affairs and trade, participated in the reception as the Korean government’s representative, along with foreign envoys of scores of diplomatic missions here, Korean friends and guests and the Tunisian community here.
Korea and Tunisia established diplomatic relations in March 1969. Bilateral trade stands at about $230 million, with the bulk of it Korean exports.
“Tunisia was one of the first African and Arab countries to establish diplomatic ties with Korea,” Amari said in his speech.
He highlighted the work of Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) in Tunisia for special attention in the speech.
Tunisia is a 100 billion-dollar economy with a per capita GDP of about $9,500. KOICA has financially and technically supported development projects in Tunisia since 1991. So, Tunisia is now looking for transfers of know-how form Korea to Tunisia and investment.
“This level of cooperation does not actually reflect the excellent political relations between our two countries. Thus, the first elected Tunisian Governmentis very determined to enhancing our friendly relations with the Asian continent,” he said.