Sofiane Menasri: The Little Hero from Thala

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Women pose in front of calligraphy of a famous poetry verse by iconic Tunisian poet Aboul Kasem al-Chabbi. (Photo: Ali Garboussi)

By: Nizar Maqni

Published Saturday, December 31, 2011

At the age of 18, Sofiane Menasri held in his heart the enthusiasm of youth. But he also exhumed the confidence of experienced men. The lean years of this young Tunisian’s life had toughened him up more than his youthful appearance gives away.

From the very first days of the revolution, he was at the forefront of the uprising against the ousted regime. The revolution had kicked off on the evening of 17 December 2010 in Sidi Bouzid and spread like wildfire from one area to another until it reached the mountains of Thala. Thala represented the turning point for the revolution where the young hero stood strong and proud like Chambi mountain, Tunisia’s highest peak.

Cat and mouse was the name of the game for those struggling against Ben Ali's police, a game in which the inhabitants of Thala stood tall. By cutting off roads and employing guerrilla tactics, they managed to prevent Ben Ali's security forces from occupying their region, even as they were being hunted down by sniper fire.

Menasri was in the midst of these events, leading and participating in efforts to protect the people of the region from vicious attacks by the police.

"If they aren't willing to protect and serve, we are!" he would regularly say as he helped defend the people of Thala while the revolution continued to fight for the peoples’ pride and dignity.

The schoolchildren and university students were among the first to bare their chests to the police's bullets as they called for the fall of the tyrannical regime. Consequently, they were the first to be crowned heroes on 14 January 2011 when the regime finally collapsed.

The young hero is now in his final year of school, preparing for the previously dreaded stage of university which only meant moving a step closer toward unemployment.

"The revolution was triggered and kept alive by youth, this is the youths’ revolution. We will build the future, not like those fighting for a position in the new Troika establishment who took advantage of the revolution and the martyrs."

Menasri says that the revolution is still ongoing. "We didn’t raise religious nor communist slogans, we led the revolution for our pride and our bread only," he says with a small tear running down his cheeks. "We deposed Ben Ali and we will fight until we achieve our goals. We are humans and we want to live like humans. Enough tyranny. We want life."

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