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Tunisia marks five-year anniversary of 'Arab Spring' revolts

Tunisian officials, Nobel Peace Prize-winners and locals have gathered to mark the five-year anniversary of the start of its revolution. Despite progress, Tunisia still struggles with unemployment and the threat of "IS."

Tunisia commemorated the five-year anniversary of the start of its revolution on Thursday with a ceremony in the struggling heartland city of Sidi Bouzid - the site of a self-immolation which ignited the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

"Tunisia has definitely broken with tyranny, with no possible return to it," Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said in a statement. Culture Minister Latifa Lakhdhar also announced that a "museum of the revolution" would be opened.

The ceremony was attended by a few hundered people as well as Tunisian Nobel Peace Prize-winners who helped saved Tunisia's post-revolt transition by promoting dialogue between Islamists and secular rivals.

"Freedom - our major achievement," extolled the local daily "La Presse" on Thursday. But the paper also noted that "if the revolution has led to freedom of expression and public participation, a lot remains to be done to ensure lasting social peace and sustained economic growth."

Watch video 02:06

Nobel Peace Prize-winners pride of Tunisia

'Demands have not been met'

Disillusionment permeated the low-key celebrations on Thursday, as post-graduate unemployment remains high and the country faces the growing threat of radical Islam. The terrorist group "Islamic State" (IS) laid claim to three attacks in the country this year. Two of the attacks targeted tourists, dealing a major blow to Tunisia's economy.

During the commemoration, around a dozen protesters gathered at the regional governor's office calling for "work, freedom and national dignity" - which was one of the main rallying cries during the 2010-2011 revolts.

"Five years have passed and still our demands have not been met," protester Ramzi Hamzaoui told news agency AFP.

Meanwhile, the region's governor, Mourad Mahjoubi, asked for patience: "We have gone through a very difficult period," he said. "Today, we have a development strategy and we will work. It's difficult, but young people must be patient."

Five years ago, on December 17, 2010, 26-year-old university graduate Mohamed Bouazizi, who scraped by as a fruit seller, set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid to protest police harassment and unemployment. He died from his injuries.

The act of protest led to a 2011 revolt which overthrew Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The movement then spread to other Arab countries, leading to the toppling of other autocratic regimes.

rs/msh (AFP, AP)

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