One of the most interesting parts of the trip was the visit to the Ennahdha Head Quarters, where the group spent time with Abdelhamid Jelassi, the Vice President General Coordinator.

Tunisia Trip 2013: A student's perspective

In the final week of March 2013, ten postgraduate and undergraduate students travelled to Tunisia on a study trip led by Dr Afshin Shahi.

A student's perspective

By Emily Houseago

If there was anywhere to go to learn about the Arab Spring, it was Tunisia. Full of people eager to share their thoughts and feelings, liberated from years of political repression. Quick to criticise, and quick to praise, everyone held an opinion. The liberation of political thought meant everyone was now empowered with the opportunity to share their opinion. There appeared to be a very engaged population who were keen to make a difference. The young Tunisians who we became friends with were quick to tell us of the political party they were setting up; they had views and ideas, and were really doing something about it.

The country was such a welcoming one, the people we met constantly went out of their way to help us out and make sure we got the most out of our experiences. Experiences which were rich and varied - from learning about the ancient sites of Catharge with an old and withered guide who was clearly passionate about the history of his country - to the chance to play traditional music with a young and enthusiastic host, clearly passionate about the ethnic identity of his country.

One of the most interesting parts of the trip was the visit to the Ennahdha Head Quarters, where we were invited to spend time with Abdelhamid Jelassi, the Vice President General Coordinator. We spent an hour and a half with him, as he informed us of the great things that the party had done in the new political environment. We had many discussions about what he said, and how he answered our questions, concluding that the country has a long way to go before the reforms which need to be brought in are implemented. 

Our more cultural experiences became intertwined with the politics of the country; there seems to be no escaping it (perhaps being politics students made us a little over analytical), the visit to Berber homes saw us debate Arabisation, and the discussions of the political leanings of these groups. A visit to a stunning oasis in Tozeur made us think about the more economically disadvantaged, and how things varied from the desert to the city. Social time may have been such, but sitting on the Champs Elysees of North Africa; Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis, made it impossible not to discuss the legacy of colonial intervention.

Tunisia proved to be incredibly varied and full of interesting people, we went out there having read journals and books and news articles, we came back having really understood and applied the knowledge we had. Theories we could only theoretically apply came to life, and we all understood how complicated this new political liberation was, for not only the politicians, but for the people. High, and perhaps unrealistic, expectations from the population meant that discontent was rife, but the discontent indicated the engagement of these now empowered people.

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