In the framework of recognizing the important role played by human rights and political activists in the political change that paved the way to the 14thof January revolution, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) organized a conference on the 18th of October Movement on Saturday October the 22th, at Africa Hotel, Tunis.
Mr Radwan Masmoudi, president of CSID, commenced the conference by stressing the need to revive the spirit of 18th of October Movement by calling for unity between other political parties and unifying the efforts between those who believe in the revolution and democracy and fought for them for years.
Mr. Samir Dilou, member of Ennahda party, initiated his intervention by expressing his happiness in meeting the different members of 18 October since it has been long that they did not meet because of differences in their political positions and aims.
He indicated that what has united the 18th of October movement was the lawyers strike in the House of Lawyers calling for the release of Mohamed Abbou. This led to their agreement to unite in order to disconnect former president Ben Ali mediatically during the World Summit on the Information Society in that period. This was possible through a hunger strike that united Mr Dilou, Hammami Ayahi, Lotfi Haji, Mokhtar Yahiaoui, Mohamed El Nouri, Hamma Hammami, Ahmed Nejib Chébi and Abderaou Ayedi.
Abderraouf Ayadi considered that the of 18th of October forum is a political work of ‘outdated history’. In his words, “It is of interest for historians more than for politicians”. He pointed out the important role of lawyers in the different political transformations that the country went through. Mr Ayadi referred to the possibility that if the 18th October movement was transformed into a political one, it could have had played an active role in the political life.
He also stressed that the movement was calling for the bare minimum of liberty, the right to the freedom of movement and freeing political prisoners. When the revolution came, Mr Ayadi indicated that Tunisia was still living under the European guardianship and that the biggest problems of unemployment and precarious economic situation was not solved in addition to other questions that the political parties could not resolve.
Mr. Ayachi Hammami then enriched the conference by his intervention as he recounted the happenings of the October Movement by dwelling on the role played by each of its members. He compared the movement to an ‘ugly duck’, which existence and role in the political transformations that the country witnessed was ignored by all political parties because of the difference in interests between the past and the present. He added that the movement of October the 18th published a book entitled ‘Our way to Democracy’ and when it was printed the first spark of revolution started. Mr Ayachi concluded his key note by asking whether the unity that the political community aspires to achieve will cover movements’ members or not. He indicated that relying on the mainstream mindset will end the unity of political life.
Mr Lotfi Haji initiated his intervention by talking about the movement of 18th of October in the present and not the past context and considered this movement as a part of history and not “outdated history” as a response to Mr Ayadi. For Mr Hajji, the movement has left a print on history and led to a momentous historical event, the revolution. Mr. Hajji inquired on what has been left of the movement by answering that its spirit remains which is the converging point of all those looking for freedom and democracy. He added that this spirit rests on the real democratic forces that will prevent the coming back of dictatorship and win over the fight against corruption.
Mr Hajji also insisted on the need to protect the media as one of the assets freedom of expression of the revolution from foreign lobbyists that can use it to serve foreign agendas. He reiterated as well that what remains from the 18th of October movement is the freedom to organize considering what he noticed in the protests of some NGOs that were pressured because of their Islamic ideological affiliations. Finally, Mr. Lotfi Haji concluding by considering that the spirit of the movement resides in the desire of establishing institutions not based on exclusion.
In the end of the meeting, Mr Tarak Nouri, son of Mohamed Nouri- President of the International Association for the Defense of Political Prisoners and who could not attend due to health issues, initiated his intervention by paying tribute the souls of the martyrs. Then he indicated the role of Mr. Mohamed Nouri in the political struggle and the success of the strike of the members of the movement of 18th of October. He stressed that the struggle of the 18thof October was a strong pillar in the foundation of a Tunisian political house.
During the debate, one of the participants indicated the role of foreign powers in impeding the democratic transition of the political life in Tunisia while another participant stressed the need to overcome ideologies today, precisely what the movement has originally called for its foundation text. He indicated as well the necessity to guarantee the spirit of unity in the face political and financial corruption. Another participant called for the need to document this period because of its importance in the Tunisian history. Another one called for dialogue and convergence between all political trends to guarantee the transition of democracy, as one good example of this is the 18th of October Movement.
The members of the 18th of October Movement agreed that the only way out of the current political situation, which is to a certain degree complex, is dialogue primarily between the Islamic front and the left as well as all the constituents of political life. Equally, efforts must be united by eschewing prejudices and making the political of moving Tunisia ahead a priority in addition to ensuring the success of the revolution and guaranteeing the achievement of its social and political demands.