'We aged for this historical moment': Hundreds of Tunisians mourn revolution icon Al-Hafnawi
Tunisian revolution's icon Ahmed Al-Hafnawi passed away on Sunday, twelve years after saying his iconic phrase, "we aged for this historic moment", in the aftermath of the fall of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's regime.
On 15 Jan 2011, Ahmed Al-Hafnawi was walking the street of Bourguiba in the capital Tunis when the camera of the Qatari channel Aljazeera approached him for a comment on the Jasmine revolution that ended 15 years of Ben Ali's dictatorship.
Al-Hafnawi, overwhelmed with emotion, said, "we aged, we aged for this moment," as he passed his hand over his white hair illustrating the lifetime Tunisians spent waiting for the country's democratic awakening.
Many people around the Arab world related to Al-Hafnawi's words, hoping to witness one day the end of the long-lasting dictatorship in their homelands. It was the start of the Arab Spring era.
However, Al-Hafnawi's latest appearance in 2021 was less enthusiastic about the revolution.
Back in January 2011, he said his iconic line "We grew old, waiting for this historical moment"...— Souhail Khmira (@SKhmira) December 12, 2022
Ahmed Hafnaoui passed away yesterday.
An icon of what is left of the Tunisian "Revolution". May he rest in peace.
هرمنا يا عم احمد و لا نزال ننتظر اللحظة التاريخية.#Tunisia pic.twitter.com/Ni8sLhhLUT
"I asked many times the channel to stop broadcasting the interview. They don't consider how that affects me psychologically," said Al-Hafnawi to the Abu Dhabi-based media Erem last year.
Hit by economic hardship, Al-Hafnawi was forced to sell his small café in the capital Tunis, which was attacked on several occasions due to his "political legacy", according to him.
Al-Hafnawi said he was overly politicised after his infamous slogan. "But I don’t regret saying it because it was at a moment of hope," he added.
Hundreds of Tunisians marched to the funeral of Al-Hafnawi, who was buried in Ben Aarous city in north-eastern Tunisia.
Local media said he died after battling an illness for months.
The legacy he hated continues to haunt him after passing away, as several journalists and activists took to social media to mourn his death by sharing his infamous expression.
More than a decade after the revolution, human rights groups say Tunisia is regressing to the pre-revolution era as repression soared since Saied's power grab last July.