Just 20K away from La Marsa, a very interesting development is unfolding. Tunisians from all walks of life have gathered in Bardo to express different concerns at their political leaders, as the real hard work of writing a constitution unfolds. In fact, what’s happening in Bardo is a preview of the challenges ahead.
As I look at the situation unfolding in Bardo, I find it absolutely amazing that the term Bardo in Sanskrit literally means “intermediate state” or in “in-between state”. The dialogue, or the lack of it, going on right now in Bardo is a microcosm of the larger conversation taking place among Tunisians concerning the role of Islam and its place in the new system of governance. Since Tunisia is seen as a model for the rest of the Arab Spring countries, the results of this dialogue will have larger implications for the entire region.
Right now, the conversation between the two major camps, loosely labeled the secularist and the Islamist, is not exactly productive. Kept apart by barriers and a cautious security force, they recently had to be dispersed by tear gas due to a rock throwing incident on the part of the Islamist.
The Tunisian version of the Occupy Protest should not necessarily be linked to the worldwide Occupy Movement. Instead, from a security perspective, one can view the “Occupy Approach”, as a method of protest being used more and more throughout the world for its effectiveness. As one Occupy Enthusiast put it: “Protest, demonstrations, civil disobedience and other such mass displays of disaffection are not merely tactics. They are essential elements of a strategy for social change.”
The situation in Bardo will change as the assembly moves forward with announcements, power deals, and constitutional wording. It is still unclear if the changes will be for better or worse, but what is clear is that the debate is strong and has no signs of cooling off.
Large gatherings and protests are nothing new in post revolutionary countries. It is said that during the drafting of the U.S. constitution, people waited outside of the constitutional hall and shouted questions at the founding fathers as they concluded their discussions and proceedings. At the close of the convention, legend has it that a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what type of government the Constitution was, “A republic“, he stated…“if you can keep it.”