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Nonviolence and the 2011 Tunisian uprising : the instrumental role of the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT)



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Beginning in December 2010, Tunisian citizens used techniques of protest, resistance and intervention in a struggle for freedom from the systems that had for decades denied them agency, autonomy and dignity. As a result of their resistance, in January 2011 the Tunisian people successfully deposed the authoritarian president Ben Ali after 23 years in power. Though this movement began spontaneously and operated without designated leadership, the role of the national labor union - The Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT) - was vital in mobilizing and directing the uprising. This thesis will interpret the events of the 2011 Tunisian uprising through the framework of civil resistance, as defined by Gene Sharp and Hardy Merriman. Through the use of political defiance and noncooperation, civil resistance employs nonviolent tactics to challenge and remove entrenched political leaders and systems. This study will analyze the Tunisian uprising and the role of the UGTT in the movement using three indicators of civil resistance success: unity, strategic planning, and nonviolent discipline. Despite sporadic incidents of violence, this thesis asserts that the 2011 Tunisian uprising successfully enacted nonviolent civil resistance, and the implementation of nonviolent political action has made the establishment of a genuine and lasting democracy a real possibility for the future. The UGTT were invaluable in the 2011 uprising as facilitators and collaborators with the Tunisian people, and currently function in a pivotal nonpartisan and objective intermediary political role. Though the outcome remains uncertain and the conclusion of the revolution in flux, the 2011 Tunisian uprising has set an example and a precedent for civil resistance to the rest of the world.



Tunisia, Arab Spring, Ben Ali, nonviolence, UGTT, social movement, civil resistance, uprising, protest, unity, strategic planning, discipline, democracy



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Political Studies


Political Science


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