Unrest In Tunisia Continues

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There is a daily struggle over flags outside the Libyan embassy in Tunisian capital these days — a sign of the instability across the border. That unrest is wreaking havoc on Tunisia's interim government as it tries to manage thousands of refugees. Meanwhile, the people of Tunisia are still not satisfied that their own revolution was a success. Several thousand protesters remain in the streets of the capital demanding a free election.


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The wave of uprisings in the Arab world began in Tunisia in January. Now, that country must reckon with the challenges of life after revolution. Tunisia's interim government is becoming less stable by the day. In the last 72 hours, six top officials have stepped down, including the prime minister.

Meanwhile, demonstrators remain on the streets, as NPR's David Greene reports from Tunis.

DAVID GREENE: As you go around the capital, it really is a story of two different worlds. Much of the city is operating normally. There are cars on the streets and businesses are open. But if you come into the main plaza, in the center of the government buildings, it still feels like a protest. People are camped out in tents. They plastered signs in Arabic on the walls of government buildings, and there's a lot of music playing.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. HARABE KALIFA(ph): This is the music of the revolution.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: (Singing in foreign language)

GREENE: Many people in the world thought that the revolution here was over. It's done.

Mr. KALIFA: No. That was not true.

GREENE: This is Harabe Kalifa, a 31-year-old schoolteacher who remains camped out here. It's been six weeks since President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced out. His longtime prime minister stepped down Sunday. Yet like many on the street, Kalifa says too much of the old guard remains in the caretaker government. He's not leaving the square until they leave power.

Mr. KALIFA: Because they have the same way, the same tactics. It's to repress, to muzzle people. And people now, this is the time to get what we dreamt of so long ago.

GREENE: The protests have been mostly peaceful, though last weekend, several people were killed in street violence. A human rights activist named Sehem Benzadrin(ph) is investigating the incidents. She works in an office with paint peeling from the wall and a Muslim call to prayer echoing outside.

She fears the interim government isn't committed to a new constitution and may just rush to hold a presidential vote.

Ms. SEHEM BENZADRIN: We will lose our revolution because it's a way to reproduce the old regime.

GREENE: The interim government lost more credibility today when two opposition figures quit as cabinet ministers. They've been welcomed into the interim government as a show of political openness. Yet, there are ways the new government is signaling change. Today, it extended legal status to an Islamist political party that have been banned for some two decades. And Sehem Benzadrin's human rights group, the Tunisian Council for Liberties, said it, too, received government recognition.

Ms. BENZADRIN: For the first time, we are legal. We worked illegally during 12 year.

GREENE: Whatever lies ahead, Benzadrin says she's proud her country inspired other uprisings. You can certainly feel the effects of the one taking place next door in Libya. In Tunis today, the loudest anger was at the Libyan embassy.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

GREENE: A crowd of Libyans rushed to the embassy when they heard Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was offering cash payments to citizens, and they wanted their share. If this was Gadhafi's way of gaining support, it backfired with Ishmael Zawi(ph), the 60-year-old engineer from the east Libyan city of Benghazi. He said he'd use the money to get home and fight Gadhafi.

Why do you want to go back to Benghazi? Is your family still there?

Mr. ISHMAEL ZAWI: I'm going to my family and support my people there. He will never win, you know, because all the people is trying - waiting for this day.

David Greene, NPR News, Tunis.

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