Tunisians of all ages remember “tahiyet el-alam,” meaning “salute the flag,” a morning routine ubiquitous in grade schools. Students gather in the school’s courtyard and sing the national anthem in unison as the red and white flag is slowly raised.
The anthem’s words resonated three years ago in Kasbah Square, in front of the government buildings in Bardo, on Avenue Habib Bourguiba in downtown Tunis, and across every other part of Tunisia as voices grew louder to oust former president Ben Ali.
While Ben Ali is now gone, the anthem remains. Its words are repeated by Islamists and leftists alike, a bulwark against rapidly changing times.
Titled “Humat el-Hima,” Arabic for “defenders of the nation,” the anthem speaks of Tunisia’s history of resistance. This began with the fight against French colonialism, continued with the formation of the new state by post-independence leader Habib Bourguiba, and most recently expressing itself in the ouster of dictatorial president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The words of the anthem are inspired by a poem written in 1930 by Egyptian-born Syrian poet Mustafa Sadiq […]