The lawyer gained international fame when he ran through the streets and shouted "Ben Ali is gone!"
Defying the curfew on the fateful night of January 14, 2011, a young lawyer took to the streets and shouted at the top of his lungs, "Tunisians! Ben Ali has run away!” His name is Abdul Nasser al-Uwaini and a three-minute video of him screaming the historic news is one of the best-known images in the Arab world.
Today Abdul Nasser is still as enthusiastic about a democratic and fair Tunisia but he believes that some are deviating from the revolutionary course. He hopes a trend of resistance will prevail and he talks about the challenges and risks in the transitional stage.
One year and four months have gone by since you famously cried out, “Ben Ali has run away." What do you think about the situation in Tunisia now?
I believe there is a political setback and I have always said that the liberation battle was launched on January 14, 2011. We are still facing the problem of the difference between the public mood and the formation of the political scene. This scene is gradually moving away from the course of the revolution and its objectives and aspirations?
How are we moving away from the course of the revolution and its objectives?
The current components of the political scene have nothing to do with the people's concerns, especially since the scene as a whole is suffering from confusion. At the governmental level, there is improvisation in work and decision-making, in addition to the poor performance of the National Constituent Assembly elected on October 23, 2011. It has neither started to play its key role in drafting a constitution that responds to the aims of the revolution, nor has it exercised its control function over the government, even though its structure contains a number of respectable skills. On the side of the opposition, the political scene is witnessing attempts to reform that head in the wrong direction and does not meet the people's expectations.
But politicians stress that the challenges of the transition are still in progress.
The challenge of today is not just political. Public and political freedoms remain associated with the development of the political mentality and delivering the political action from impurities. One of the most important ways to do that is through achieving an economic balance. The absence of any economic and social gains for a people that have fought for a decent life and against marginalization and exclusion during the reign of Bin Ali, which contributed to his downfall, makes the political development just a decoration.
You adopt the opposition's standpoint then?
I am not an oppositionist. I belong to the trend of resistance and I have the right to censure the government or others, because this is a public right and no one is entitled to repress it. In return, I do not want to have this reported as a search for lost score points against the government, as my criticism is based on a systematic approach.
Let us return to what you call resistance, why is this your choice?
I am a resister because I believe the political course in Tunisia today is conflicting with the revolutionary course. There are attempts to terminate the revolutionary course, which has prompted me to follow the trend of resistance and the fieldwork resisting this current political pattern.
But you ran for the National Constituent Assembly elections?
Yes because this assembly was the revolutionists' demand in the Qassaba 2 (a sit-in before the seat of government in Qassaba when Muhammad Ghannouchi was head of the first government after Ben Ali, when the sit-inners demanded a constituent assembly). I defended this demand and it is illogical to call for electing a constituent assembly and not to run for it. I'm not schizophrenic enough to contradict what I previously called for.
Can you evaluate this experience for us?
The government of Al-Baji Qa'id as-Sibsi and the Supreme Commission for Achieving the Objectives of Revolution, the Democratic Transition and the Political Reform have worked on excluding the "revolutionists" by forming an electoral law that suits the right-wing forces, which did not participate in the revolution. This law fails to address several important points, including financing the parties and how to deal with the violations committed by these parties in the elections, such as vote-buying and defaming of opponents. All of these imperfections have caused the exclusion of some of the national strugglers who participated in the revolution.
You and some other strugglers are criticized for your absence from the scene?
I am inside the arena, and I've participated in all the confrontations that took place, starting from the battle for the independence of the judiciary branch last March and ending with the final events on April 9th (on Martyr's Day), in addition to several other movements.
Why have you not joined a party?
I am a leftist and while I do not prefer to remain independent, I also do not want to engage in the political scene of the leftist family, as I believe that it is high time to form a national progressive front that assumes its role in defending the people and its right to live in dignity and happiness; this is what the leftists should understand. In addition, they should take the initiative to develop their previous mottoes and get rid of the leadership crisis.
What are the risks that threaten democratic transition in Tunis?
Everything. Struggle today is between two visions: the first believes that transition should be performed within the heart of the revolutionary course, while the second wants transition to go away from the revolutionary course in order for its bearers to keep their interests without achieving the tasks and slogans initiated by the revolution, at the top of which are citizenship and dignity.
So what are the conditions for a successful transition?
There are economic and social conditions. On the economic side, the state has to regain its economic role and perform its mission in creating mechanisms for urgent intervention in the poor and priority areas where the spark of revolution emanated. On the political side, independence from the judiciary branch and dominance from the executive power should be permanently ensured. The Supreme Electoral Commission (the body that supervised the Constituent Assembly elections last October) should be activated and the principles of local democracy must be approved.