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Tunis, the Berber rebel city with an aroma of jasmin, amber and roses

The WSF activities began with a mass march.

Thousands of anti-capitalist demonstrators showed their solidarity with the revolutionary process that began in Tunis, with a grand march for "dignity" through the centre of the Tunisian capital on 26 March, marking the beginning of the World Social Forum (WSF).

Social activists, left-wing groups, trade unions, feminists and environmental activists from across the planet, but particularly from North Africa, came together in a tumultuous, colourful and unprecedented march in defence of "democracy, work, liberty and dignity" for the people.
For the first time since the downfall of the former President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, and just over a month since the assassination of the main opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, the Tunisian rebels who rose up against poverty and oppression marched shoulder to shoulder with activists from across the world, to remember the causes of their struggle.In 2010 in the city of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the people's uprising during the rebel Tunisian spring, the revolutionary song "Enti essout" was cheerfully intoned while thousands took to the streets to demand democracy. Then, the protests, meetings, and strikes taking place across the country, with the slogan "The people want the regime to fall!", succeeded in overthrowing a dictator. However, two years later, many citizens, full of controlled rage, have come up with new slogans: "Ennahda is torturing the people!" and "The people want a new revolution!". The Tunisian government has responded by repressing and criminalising social resistance. Today the Arab Spring is stained with blood after the death of the Popular Front leader, Chokri Belaid.

It is worth noting that the 20th of March is Independence Day, and for the second year in a row the government has cancelled the celebrations. They expect the people to lose their historical memory, three thousand years of cultural diversity. The people, in spite of this, have risen up heroically to demand the restoration of their human rights. Against this background, the international committee agreed to call for the World Social Forum to be held from 25 to 30 March 2013.

On 26 March in the evening, the WSF activities began with a mass march. A beautiful, shining, full moon rose proudly in the deep blue sky of the east. Youth contingents from more than 87 countries marched down Avenida Bourguiba, towards the Plaza 24 de Enero, where a clock nestled in a rusty metal tower was just striking 6. Twenty thousand banners represented the global resistance of black people, indigenous people, women, students, environmentalists, artists, trade unionists, inhabitants of city, peasants and young people of yesterday and today.

The combative style of the Arab peoples was on display, with an enormous Palestine banner, and people jumping, singing, running, dancing, and shouting with one voice, "Free, free Palestine!". Above all it was a vindication of the social revolutions, demanding liberty for all the peoples of the world and condemning the predatory imperialism that devours society from the inside. They also held up huge photos of Che Guevara, Yasser Arafat and Chokri Belaid, recently assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists.

The march kept growing, as more and more contingents joined it in Avenida Habib Thumeurs, lined with date palms, full of aromatic fruit and other sweet things, calling on mouths to sample them with pleasure. The sparrows, recently arrived in the palm trees, accompanied our chants with their joyful song.

The march came to a stop for a few seconds and the International Alliance of Inhabitants, with its shirts, flags and red hats occupied a corner with its monumental banner calling for the unity of continental struggles, towards the Urban and Community Way. Next stop, the World Assembly of Inhabitants as part of the WSF. The IAI members, laughing and smiling, shouted the slogans "¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!", "The people, united, will never be defeated!".

The march ended in a small stadium with a musical performance led by Gilberto Gil, composer, singer and representative of the music and social politics of Brazil.

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Juliette Rutherford


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