“I AM the free and fearless. I am secrets that never die. I am the voice of those who will not bow…” The voice in question, raised in song amid the crowds packing Avenue Bourguiba, a promenade in Tunis, at the beginning of 2011, was that of Emel Mathlouthi. For a moment of calm in a month of clamour, she gave voice to the aspirations of hundreds of thousands of her compatriots.
On January 14th those protesters forced Zein al Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s dictator for the previous quarter-century, from office. What followed was not easy. Terrorism hindered both economic progress and deeper political reform. But in 2015 the country became the first Arab state ever to be judged fully “free” by Freedom House, an American monitor of civil liberties, and it moved up a record 32 places among countries vetted by the Vienna-based Democracy Ranking Association. In December Ms Mathlouthi sang before another spellbound audience—this time in Oslo, as part of celebrations surrounding the award of the Nobel peace prize to four civil-society groups that shepherded in the new constitution of 2014.
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