Nous sommes Bardo!
Forum Social Mondial 2015
Dragon of global warming
Arab revolutions "fishbowl" conference
Women's rights people's movement assembly
Women in revolution
Bahrain tent: reminder of a revolution crushed
Caricatures by Oussama Bardaoui
Volontaires: hundreds of enthusiastic student volunteers made the WSF possible
Palestine! in the grand march to the Bardo Museum on 29 March 2015
The closing march on 28 March 2015 was along Avenue Habib Bourguiba to the Place du 14 Janvier (date of the Tunisian revolution overthrowing Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011) included a particular emphasis on solidarity with Palestine.
But many World Social Forum participants joined yet another larger march against terrorism the next day where over 100,000 people marched from the Saadoun Gate to Bardo National Museum. Among the many chants and slogans was "Je suis Bardo," mirroring the response in France to the recent terrorist attack on the offices of the journal Charlie Hebdo.
While the global Left generally focuses its opposition to foreign military interventions and social inequality, this World Social Forum has identified the dual right-wing dangers of Western military aggression and Islamist terrorism as threats to social progress and creating an alternative world.
An estimated 40,000 people from all continents -- but with a high participation from Africa, Europe, and the Middle East -- gathered at the El-Manar campus of the University of Tunis to discuss alternatives to neoliberalism, free trade, terrorism, global warming, among many other issues. The one uprising of the Arab Spring that has advanced socio-political democracy, even if only a little, has created a space to host the World Social Forum at an otherwise very unsettling time for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
The venue gave this World Social Forum a heavy focus on Northern Africa (Tunisia, Western Sahara, Morocco, and trans-Mediterranean migrations, but less about Algeria, Libya, or Egypt) and the Middle East (especially Palestine, and struggles in Syria, Bahrain, and the Kurdish region). Sometimes controversies erupted as between Moroccans and participants from the Western Sahara, or between different groups of Syrians -- one favoring unity to fight ISIS and another to support the Syrian revolution. While Tunisian grassroots organizations were many, European NGO money was much in evidence. The WSF is staunchly secular left, yet the Islamic Republic of Iran had a booth here. While U.S. participation was almost invisible, there was a workshop here on "From Ferguson to Palestine".
Most impressive was the sheer magnitude of the organization -- greeters at the airport, taking virtual possession of a major university campus during a break period, hundreds of local student volunteers, a sea of exhibit tents, an exhibition of political caricatures, free travel on the tram lines, and the confluence of so many peoples, cultures, and differences in political perspectives within the Left.
Sharat G. Lin