Souqs in Tunis - from the time when “the walls had ears,” to post-revolution struggles seven years later.


Tunisia's post-revolution struggles

Inside a cafe in Tunis suburbs, a crowd of men sit around plastic tables covered with coffee cups, as heaps of discarded cigarette butts pile underneath. Solitary puffs of shisha add a sickly sweet fragrance to what’s left of air in the cigarette-smoke filled room.

“This is how unemployment looks like,” says one of the regulars inside.

At least three visitors in the small cafe have been deported from Italy, as over 6,000 Tunisians reached Italy’s shores in 2017 alone; over a third came in the space of two months, forming the sharpest increase since the 2011 revolution.

“We departed together with five boats; three made it to Lampedusa,” says Marwan, who joins the table moments later. He spent four years in northern Italy, dealing drugs and saving enough for a house and marriage back home. Meanwhile, hundreds of Tunisians - as those in the two other boats - perished in the Mediterranean.

Renewed self-immolations and clashes with the police have marked the start of 2018 in Tunisia, fuelled by the same anger, which preluded the opening salvo of Arab Spring back in 2010.

Failed by stalling reforms, and faced with widespread unemployment, Tunisians are left with an increasingly desperate situation at home, and a solidifying border with Europe.

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