Tunisia’s forgotten revolutionaries

"Your time’s up," alerts 25-year-old Ayman, competing for one of four computers in a dimly lit internet cafe in Regueb, a town in Tunisia’s poor Sidi Bouzid governorate. He slaps Firaz, 18, and manages to draw him away from a football chatroom. "He spends too much time on there." Ayman and Firaz deem themselves the ...

Lauren E. Bohn
Lauren E. Bohn
Lauren E. Bohn

"Your time's up," alerts 25-year-old Ayman, competing for one of four computers in a dimly lit internet cafe in Regueb, a town in Tunisia's poor Sidi Bouzid governorate. He slaps Firaz, 18, and manages to draw him away from a football chatroom. "He spends too much time on there."

Ayman and Firaz deem themselves the "original" youth of a revolution that brought down Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked uprisings throughout the region, but not before rolling their eyes and listlessly smirking. Their daily stroll to a local café mirrors as a tour through one of Tunisia's most restive revolutionary hubs, not far from the town of Sidi Bouzid where 26-year-old fruit vendor Mohammed Bouazzi set himself on fire in protest.

Since the heady moments in January when they used the internet cafe as an information command center, dispatching updates on Facebook about police brutality and deaths, they've been idling their days away on the backstreets of a ghost town.  "There's one word to describe life then and now: nothing," says Ayman, lighting his fourth cigarette of the hour. "Nothing to invest. No businesses. No land. Nothing." His words make up the refrain to Tunisia's desperately undeveloped and long-neglected interior region, the birthplace of the Arab spring. What have the revolutionaries gotten out of their revolution?

"Your time’s up," alerts 25-year-old Ayman, competing for one of four computers in a dimly lit internet cafe in Regueb, a town in Tunisia’s poor Sidi Bouzid governorate. He slaps Firaz, 18, and manages to draw him away from a football chatroom. "He spends too much time on there."

Ayman and Firaz deem themselves the "original" youth of a revolution that brought down Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked uprisings throughout the region, but not before rolling their eyes and listlessly smirking. Their daily stroll to a local café mirrors as a tour through one of Tunisia’s most restive revolutionary hubs, not far from the town of Sidi Bouzid where 26-year-old fruit vendor Mohammed Bouazzi set himself on fire in protest.

Since the heady moments in January when they used the internet cafe as an information command center, dispatching updates on Facebook about police brutality and deaths, they’ve been idling their days away on the backstreets of a ghost town.  "There’s one word to describe life then and now: nothing," says Ayman, lighting his fourth cigarette of the hour. "Nothing to invest. No businesses. No land. Nothing." His words make up the refrain to Tunisia’s desperately undeveloped and long-neglected interior region, the birthplace of the Arab spring. What have the revolutionaries gotten out of their revolution?

Read on.

<p> Lauren E. Bohn is a Fulbright fellow and multimedia journalist based in Cairo. Follow her on Twitter at @LaurenBohn. </p>

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