With only one phone call, you can find yourself behind bars without charge, having committed no felony or misdemeanour other than asking for your rights or calling for the law to be respected. Once arrested, you'll go through a humiliating procedure that includes punches, slaps and curses. This is what poor people in Tunisia who have no relatives among the country's ruling gangsters face from the police state which Ben Ali's regime passed down to those in charge in Tunis.
A poor tourist guard found himself arrested recently simply because a counter-revolutionary parliamentarian contacted her friends in high places to put him behind bars because he caught her in an illegal and immoral situation. The incident itself was reported widely on Tunisia's social media sites. The danger is not simply linked to the sexual aspects of what took place; what's worse is the predominance of injustice; the spread of contempt for the law and other citizens; the abuse of power; and the oppression of ordinary people which confirms, along with the miserable economic situation, that the country is heading towards a second social explosion.
In Tunisia nowadays, you can be shot and killed just for being suspected at a crossroads or checkpoint. One of the judges' sons can run you over in his car and leave you to die on the road, and the killer's father will use his influence so that his son won't be arrested; that actually happened in Sidi Bouzid last week. It is also possible that you could be run over by a security officer's car and killed, which is what happened on the island of Djerba.
The problem is not limited to the fact that poor citizens are unable to get their daily bread after the gangsters in charge have destroyed the economy and looted public money, selling the country's wealth to international companies. It is that these crimes represent the most flammable of social fuel because they are crimes for which the perpetrators are not held accountable and do not get punished for two reasons: they are either above the law because of their political and class affiliations, or because they themselves are representatives of the law.
The city of Ben Guerdane is one of Tunisia's poorest and most marginalized place in the south-east. This gateway to Libya is currently witnessing a storm of serious social protests that portends a very politically hot winter. As for Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the Tunisian revolution, its situation is similar to that of its neighbour Kasserine, which lost nearly twenty martyrs to the terrorism of the corrupt state infrastructure after the recent stand-off between the army and local people.
The deep moral degradation of the Tunisian political system and society is both advanced and terrifying, and can affect social cohesion and internal unity. It has reached the level of the head of state and the executive.
A recent leaked tape showed members of the ruling party drunk and dancing while toasting the presidential coup during the previous rigged elections. With them was the new head of the government and former employee at the American Embassy singing dirty words and cursing the deceased mother of the ex-president, revealing an unprecedented level of moral decline.
It is true that all these incidents constitute only tiny drops in an ocean of large-scale corruption, especially after things have settled-down for the new tyrannical regime, whose media outlets are trying to cover the cracks and mislead the world into thinking that the Tunisian experiment is unique in terms of social peace.
The danger does not lie in the victims of the new regime's crimes, whether symbolic moral crimes or material and real, despite their serious nature. Rather, the danger is at two levels: the first is represented by the fact that these drops can easily change into a great flood destroying everything in its way, as happened on 17 December 2010 with martyr Mohamed Bouazizi. Moral decline and social injustice, along with contempt and humiliation, are the most flammable of fuels in the Tunisian context, wherein a large explosion only needs another spark.
The second level is no less dangerous than the first and can be found in the collective silent shock waves created by these individual cases of injustice leading to extremism and terrorism against the state. Such injustice, contempt and marginalisation provide a potent mix which pushes the youth to join terrorist groups. Terrorism is an extreme reaction to behavioural and societal formats that come from the absence of the state and the rule of law, when the law of the jungle prevails with the strong overpowering the weak and the rich dominating the poor.
There's no escape from the application of the law for those who want safety for themselves and their positions, whether in parliament, the ministries or the presidency. Activating laws of individual and group safety regardless of social class and political affiliation, is the only way to escape the upcoming flood and the spread of death squads who are only waiting for the next spark before springing into action.
Translated from Arabi21, 8 September 2016.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.