[Globe] A self-taught democracy emerges from Tunisia’s classrooms


Direct democracy in action!

It’s late morning, and the streets of this desert town are impassable because high-school students are, in the words of 16-year-old Haifa Zardeded, “holding our own revolution.”

The entire student population, plus one teacher, have defied their principal’s orders and skipped school to pack the streets in a jubilant and defiant mood. They are demanding a quick move to democracy – not just in the capital of Tunis, but also here in Zarzis, where it is the youth who have forced out the regime-appointed mayor and set up a committee that now controls the town.

Two days after the national revolution, the Zarzis protesters held an election among their ranks to form a 20-person revolutionary committee. Then they held a town-hall meeting, with almost everyone in Zarzis attending, to decide how to create a non-authoritarian municipality.

On Jan. 20, six days after the dictator’s ouster, they occupied the square outside Zarzis town hall and drove the mayor out of office. They kept him around, in exile at his house, to sign the papers that allowed the town’s financing to continue (all municipalities in Tunisia are directly financed by the national government).