News Release

Democracy Activists at World Social Forum in Tunisia: Rightwing and Western Powers Colluding

The World Social Forum — a global gathering of activists and analysts — has just gotten under way in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab uprisings.

MASSOUD ROMADANI; or via media contact: Sha Grogan-Brown
World Social Forum organizer, member of the Committee for the Maghreb Regional Social Forum, Romadani is a Tunisian researcher on the uprisings in the region. “Chokri Belaid, a hero of our revolution, was assassinated here last month. Our revolution is under threat from rightwing Salafi forces here and Western governments that prioritize economic interests over the things we are fighting for: democracy, human rights, women’s rights, freedom of speech. These priorities led the U.S. to support the dictator Ben Ali and they haven’t changed. The U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia and Qatar is undermining the uprisings.”

HAMOUDA SOUBHI
Executive director of the Moroccan Network for Euro-Mediterranean NGOs, Soubhi said today: “This World Social Forum comes at a pivotal time for the Arab uprisings. We have overthrown dictators, but the struggle is not over. ‘Shock doctrine’ capitalism and religious conservatism are two major forces we are still struggling against, and often they are aligned together. For us this World Social Forum is important because it is rallying all the region’s social actors, from the issues of women, youth, the free media, development, the debt and immigration, and bringing movements from around the world to show international solidarity and support the social movements of the Maghreb/Mashrek region.”

CINDY WIESNER
Wiesner is executive director of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, which just released a statement: “Emerging social movements across the globe (Spain, Greece, and Occupy in the U.S.) followed the footsteps of the movements in the region, and continue looking to Tunisia for inspiration from the stories of how strikes led by miners and women textile workers and extreme levels of unemployment amongst youth with academic degrees contributed to the overthrow of a dictator. However, after a year of rule by a three-party government, the urgent issues of rising prices and unemployment that sparked the revolution remain unresolved.”

Wiesner said today: “We are proud to be working as principled allies to people’s movements around the world, because so many of these problems have their roots in the U.S. … We are also in opposition to REDD [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation] – a carbon trade market championed as a solution by wealthy nations that actually allows companies to continue polluting in communities of color in the U.S., and then take land from indigenous peoples around the world to plant crops that keep their profits high and ‘offset’ their pollution.”

MARIA POBLET
Executive director of Causa Justa::Just Cause in the San Francisco Bay Area, Poblet said today: “What is our solidarity song with the women of the Maghreb/Mashrek? How can we build the kind of solidarity that does not impose from the outside, but instead learns from frontline communities by walking alongside them, looking directly at the imbalances of power and privilege that threaten to fragment our movement, and finding common cause? The U.S. has supported Mubarak and other regressive forces in the region, and is sending drones and setting up military bases. We are seeking a different kind of relationship.”