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Podium 1: Five years into the uprisings – where are the main actors today and what is their political scope of action?



In the first months of 2011, societies of different countries in North Africa were caught by the momentum of rapidly changing political dynamics. Even though these uprisings took the western world by surprise, the internal developments, and in particular the strike movements organized by the trade unions in both Tunisia and Egypt in the years before the uprisings, had paved the way for a broader uprising. In 2011 spontaneous protests and assemblies lead to demonstrations that eventually became mass movements.

Five years later, the conditions for political activism have evolved differently in each country: while political activists in Egypt are currently facing brutal repression,  Tunisia has ratified a constitution that protects basic human rights. State actors and political parties are negotiating compromises within democratic processes. Civil society as well as other political actors such as the trade unions and the political parties can – at least in theory – refer to the protection of the freedom of expression, assembly and association. In Morocco, the king responded to the uprisings with cosmetic changes that didn’t bring about more democratic participation.
How come that the countries took such different developments? Where are the revolutionaries of 2011 today? What happened in the last years and what is the political scope of action for those agents of change in North Africa of today? What role do the trade unions play today in the respective countries? What are the niches for political activists who operate in repressive environments? What are the new experiences of former activists with pluralism and party politics in Tunisia? Even though in Europe the situation in Tunisia is taken as a model for democratization in North Africa, Tunisian activists seem not to agree with this assessment – is it not enough to have a progressive constitution? What is missing in Tunisia? What has happened to the 20th February movement in Morocco and what is the current state of the Baraka movement against Algerian president Bouteflika?

Together with the Egyptian filmmaker Jihan El-Tahri, the Moroccan activist Jamal Touissi, the Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni, the Egyptian internet activist and journalist Wael Abbas und the Algerian political activist Amina Bouraoui we want to discuss scopes of political activism in North Africa today.

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