World Social Forum in Tunis, report

This video from Tunisia says about itself:

Activists stage massive anti-terror march in Tunis

25 March 2015

People from the World Social Forum gather to denounce terror in Tunis, Tunisia on March 24, 2015 and they march from Bab Saadoun Square in Tunis to the Bardo Museum in the capital’s western district, waving banners bearing slogans decrying terrorism. World Social Forum (WSF) activities kicked off Tuesday in Tunisia – they will go on until Saturday – with the participation of 121 countries and some 5,000 organizations, according to earlier statements by the WSF’s organizing committee. (Footage by Raed Hadj Ali / Anadolu Agency)

By James O’Nions from Britain, reporting from Tunisia:

Day One of the World Social Forum

Thursday 26th Mrch 2015

JAMES O’NIONS reports from the global social justice event in Tunis

THUNDER rumbled as we got off the tram at assembly point for the opening demonstration of the World Social Forum in Tunis.

The skies, which had been drizzling on and off all day, let out a full-on downpour. Before we even started marching we were soaked.

The Global Justice Now delegation has come to Tunisia to take part in workshops with activists and social movements from around the world on energy justice, food sovereignty and free trade deals.

The banner we brought to the demo, now soaking wet, reads “No to TTIP: Stop the corporate power grab.”

Yet inevitably, the events of last week at the Bardo museum in Tunis, where a small group of jihadists opened fire on tourists, killing 21, have overshadowed the event. It was the first attack of its kind in Tunisia and shook the country deeply.

An opening demonstration is normal at the World Social Forum — a chance for the global progressive movement to demonstrate its strength, its diversity and its determination to build a world of democracy and justice for all.

But the demonstration now had to respond to the Bardo attack. The tone was set for a demo rejecting conservative ideologies of both a religious and neoliberal variety.

And despite the rain, spirits were high. We chanted against corporate power and for climate justice. We marched in solidarity with the people of Palestine and of occupied Western Sahara.

Peasants of La Via Campesina marched alongside anti-debt campaigners and rural African women — many nationalities united in saying that another world is possible, and in our wet socks.

The World Social Forum first came to Tunis two years ago. It was a fairly successful attempt to bring the anti-globalisation movement together with the Arab Spring in a country where the revolt against an authoritarian government had had a reasonably successful outcome.

The Tunisian trade union federation and other progressive forces had been keen for the World Social Forum to boost the left in the country in a context where the first free elections had been won by a moderate Islamist, economically centre-right party.

Two years later subsequent elections have brought a secular coalition to power but in a domestic context of growing jihadist activity in the south of the country.

In many countries the Arab Spring is in retreat, with reactionaries gaining the upper hand.

The streets of Tunis are full of police, many of them heavily armed and the university where the social forum takes place is no exception.

Clearly this is a reaction to last week’s attack, but it is also hard for the World Social Forum to feel like a liberating experience with so many guns around.

But for this reason, the forum is needed in Tunisia more than ever, to demonstrate an alternative not just to the violence and oppression of fundamentalists, but to repressive state power which otherwise seems like the only other option.

The Tunisian movement know this, which is why it has put so much effort into it for a second time.

This sense that the 2015 World Social Forum takes place at a crossroads for the world was not lost on Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras, who has sent greetings to the event.

He said: “Our common responsibility to build a different prospect for the world is much greater these days, at a time that blind fanaticism, violence and social regression appear as alternative perspectives before the menacing force of the markets … The movements ought to block decisively the way to them by winning the hearts and minds of the poor and the oppressed.”

Syriza is full of people who became politically active as part of the anti-globalisation movement, and in some ways Syriza’s election victory in January has its roots in that movement’s high point around 14 years ago when the World Social Forum first emerged.

A lot has changed since that time but the forum remains a vital challenge to global capitalism as well as a place where movements can plan their struggles across borders for a better world.

That’s what we’re going to be doing in the next few days — whatever the weather.

James O’Nions works for British campaigning organisation Global Justice Now.

5 thoughts on “World Social Forum in Tunis, report

  1. Pingback: World Social Forum in Tunisia, report | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: World Social Forum in Tunisia discusses TTIP | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Moroccan women protest anti-miniskirt policies | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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