Tunisians keep fighting for democracy

This video is called Belaid assasination: Opposition leader and secularist shot dead in Tunis.

By Barry Grey:

General strike, mass protests shake US-backed Islamist regime in Tunisia

9 February 2013

Tens of thousands of Tunisians demonstrated Friday to mourn the death of secularist opposition politician Chokri Belaid and demand the removal of the US-backed Islamist government.

A one-day general strike called by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) shut factories, banks, offices, schools and shops in the capital and other cities, and state-owned Tunis Air cancelled all of its flights. Bus service continued to run, however.

It was the first general strike in Tunisia in 35 years.

Belaid, 48, a leading member of the left-liberal Democratic Patriots’ Movement, one of 12 parties that make up the Popular Front coalition, was shot and killed Wednesday as he left his home in the Jebel al-Jaloud district of Tunis and headed for work. He was gunned down by an assassin who fled on a motorcycle.

While no one has taken credit for the killing, Belaid’s widow accused the Ennahda party government of colluding with far-right Salafists to murder her husband. Belaid had sharply criticized Ennahda, an offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood, for allowing Salafists to attack cinemas, theaters, bars and secularist groups in recent months. He had made known that he was the target of repeated death threats and had requested police protection.

Over 50,000 people gathered near Belaid’s home on Friday and marched to the Jallaz cemetery, where he was buried. They shouted antigovernment and revolutionary slogans such as “The people want a new revolution,” and “The people want the downfall of the regime.”

Mourners also demanded “Bread, freedom and social justice,” one of the main slogans of the 2011 revolution. At the funeral, demonstrators called Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda, “a butcher and a murderer.”

Ominously, an Ennahda official appearing on Al Jazeera television blamed the violence on “foreign hands” and said, “There are foreign intelligence apparatuses operating in Tunisia.”

Two security helicopters hovered overhead and the regime mobilized the army, rather than the hated security police, to contain the huge march. However, police fired tear gas at protesters on the fringe of the march outside the cemetery, as well as at demonstrators who marched to the Interior Ministry. A ministry spokesperson said the police arrested 150 demonstrators in Tunis.

Police fired tear gas to disperse antigovernment protesters in the southern town of Gafsa, a center of the county’s critical potash mining industry and a stronghold of support for Belaid. In Sousse, protesters demanded the resignation of the provincial governor.

Some 10,000 marched in Sidi Bouzid, the southern town known as the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution. It was there in December of 2010 that Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in protest over the confiscation by police of his vegetable cart. Bouazizi’s death sparked an explosion of mass protests and strikes that could not be contained by the pro-regime UGTT and led to the flight of US–backed dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali the following month.

Just weeks later, revolution broke out in Egypt, leading to the downfall of US- and Israeli-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak. The current eruption in Tunisia, the most widespread since the events of late 2010 and early 2011, occurs just days before the second anniversary of Mubarak’s fall.

Belaid’s murder stunned the country and became the trigger for an explosion of pent-up social anger that had been building since shortly after Ennahda came to power, having polled a plurality of votes in October 2011 elections for a constituent assembly. The source of the anger was not only the government’s use of police repression and Salafist violence against its opponents. More fundamentally, it stemmed from the lack of any relief from the mass unemployment and grinding poverty that had sparked the working-class uprising that toppled Ben Ali just over two years ago.

The Islamist regime in Tunisia, like the Muslim Brotherhood Mursi regime in Egypt, is a bourgeois regime supported by Washington. The Ennahda government backed the US-NATO war for regime change in Libya. It is currently negotiating the terms of a standby loan with the International Monetary Fund, which will include austerity measures directed against Tunisian workers.

Within hours of news of Belaid’s assassination on Wednesday, barricades went up in Tunis and crowds attacked Ennahda offices in at least 12 cities. On Thursday, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, secretary general of Ennahda, announced on nationwide television that he planned to dissolve his government and replace it with an unelected government of technocrats to rule until parliamentary elections, scheduled for June.

The announcement, intended to calm popular outrage, only fuelled it. Hundreds of youth stormed a police station in the center of Tunis, throwing furniture, files and equipment into the street. The police responded by firing tear gas.

In Gafsa, hundreds of stone-throwing demonstrators confronted riot police firing tear gas. The army was deployed to contain mass protests in Sidi Bouzid.

The crisis of the Tunisian regime was compounded late Thursday when Prime Minister Jebali’s call for a “nonpartisan” and technocratic government was repudiated by his own party. The Ennahda party issued a statement declaring that Tunisia needed a “political government” based on the results of the October 2011 elections.

The same day, four opposition groupings, Belaid’s own Popular Front bloc, the Call for Tunisia party (Nidaa Tounes), the Al Massar party and the Republican Party, announced that they were pulling out of the national constituent assembly and called for a general strike. …

On Friday, Prime Minister Jebali repeated his call for a new government in a somewhat altered form. He said he would not require the approval of the constituent assembly and was confident he would have the support of his party because he was not dissolving his government, but merely replacing all of its members. However, he indicated that if his plan were blocked, he would step down as prime minister.

Tunisians keep fighting for democracy

This is a video about an anti-government protest in the Tunisian town Siliana.

From Reuters news agency:

Protests in Tunisian town show anger at Islamist government

Sun, 2 Dec 2012 15:15 GMT

By Tarek Amara

SILIANA, Tunisia, Dec 2 – In a remote town in Tunisia‘s interior, protesters angry over joblessness and harsh police tactics call for the downfall of new Islamist rulers, echoing the revolt that ignited the Arab Spring two years ago.

Siliana, 140 km (90 miles) from the coastal capital, has been convulsed as thousands of largely unemployed youth battle riot police firing tear gas and birdshot.

“I lost my eye because of the police, this is what Ennahda has done,” says Anis Omrani, 24, referring to the Islamist party that won the North African country’s first free elections last year after the overthrow of dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

“We don’t have jobs and we’re marginalised, but they attack us savagely … The police of Ennahda just add another problem,” Omrani says, with a patch over one eye.

Of at least 252 wounded, medical sources say 17 have been blinded through police use of birdshot, and U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay condemned the government on Friday for what she called excessive violence.

“You may have taken away our eyes but you can’t take away our voice!” reads a slogan daubed in red paint on a wall.

“The people want another revolution” and “Ennahda, go away! Game over!” say others.

The revolutionary graffiti recall Sidi Bouzid, the deprived town to the south where a street peddler burned himself to death two years ago in despair at the confiscation of his fruit cart.

His suicide provided the spark for an uprising in Tunisia that spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.

Aware of comparisons between Siliana and Sidi Bouzid, the government temporarily removed the local governor on Saturday and promised jobs to victims of the 2010 uprising. Police stopped using birdshot.

“Siliana will be the second Sidi Bouzid, we’re going to get rid of these Islamists who know nothing of Islam,” Omrani said.

Ennahda was late to respond to the protests, after first accusing leftists who lost last year’s elections of fomenting the unrest by provoking Tunisians in impoverished areas into confrontations that would drive away foreign investors.

The protests began on Tuesday after a call by the leftist labour union UGTT to take to the streets to demand jobs, investment and the removal of Ennahda’s Islamist governor.


The shift to slogans against the Islamists has seemed to wrong-foot the government, which has been absorbed with violent disputes between conservative Salafi Islamists and liberals over the future direction of a once staunchly secular state.

The protests are the fiercest since Salafis attacked the U.S. embassy in Tunis in September over an anti-Islam film made in California, in violence that left four people dead.

They also mirror conflict in Egypt, where secularists have mobilised in recent weeks against post-Arab Spring Islamist rulers whom they accuse of doing little to reform security policies and treating non-Islamists with disdain.

Leftist opponents of Ennahda have been a clear presence on the ground in Siliana, though most protesters seemed to be apolitical youth angry over their economic prospects.

“The government is reproducing the behaviour of Ben Ali’s regime,” said Iyad Dahmani from the centre-left Republican Party.

“It’s an arrogant government that thinks its election victory means it can use tear gas and birdshot on people instead of giving them jobs and investment.”

The Western-backed government secured international funding last week for an economy suffering from the financial crisis in the European Union, Tunisia’s main trading partner.

Clashes broke out again on Saturday between around 3,000 people throwing stones and security forces firing tear gas and live rounds into the air from inside armoured vehicles.

Young men gathered outside the local branch of the UGTT, chanting the revolutionary songs of Sheikh Imam, a famed leftist cleric in 1970s Egypt.

One protester, a teacher who did not wish to be named, said she had voted for Ennahda last year but felt the Islamists had let people down.

“This is the paradise of Ennahda that we elected,” she said, grasping an empty tear gas canister. “This is what Ennahda has to offer us. We won’t make this mistake again.” (Writing by Andrew Hammond; editing by Andrew Roche)

See also here. And here.

This music video is Sheikh Imam: Guevara.

Anti-worker violence in Tunisia

This is an AFP video on the workers’ movement in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.

By Antoine Lerougetel:

Islamist thugs attack Tunisian unemployed workers’ protest in Sidi Bouzid

29 August 2012

Police stood aside last week as hundreds of Salafist thugs attacked workers and youth in Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia. The town, whose revolt began the revolution of 2011 that toppled Tunisian dictator President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and launched the “Arab Spring”, has again become a centre of opposition to the right-wing government of the Islamist Ennahda party.

The thugs attacked Sidi Bouzid on the night of August 23-24, wounding at least seven people. Witnesses told AFP that the assailants, radical Islamist militants, came in buses at night and attacked around 15 houses in the Aouled Belhedi district. Fighting continued until dawn. The police did not intervene to stop the clashes, “to avoid aggravating the situation.”

Undeterred, the next day youth mounted a sit-in outside the regional education authority to demand jobs.

Australia: Police attack picketing building workers: here.

Police have commenced an operation to break a picket line at a major Melbourne building site after the Grocon construction company flatly rejected a call by the Fair Work Australia (FWA) tribunal for a two-week “cooling off” period: here.

Tunisian Sidi Bouzid unemployed fight for their rights

This video is about a demonstration in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, 9 August 2012.

From Tunis Afrique Presse (Tunis, Tunisia):

Tunisia: Sidi Bouzid – Jobless People Begin Open Sit-in

23 August 2012

Sidi Bouzid — Jobless people from Sidi Bouzid

Sidi Bouzid, of course, is the town where the mass revolt which drove away dictator Ben Ali began.

began Thursday an open sit-in outside the regional education authority to claim their right to employment and development.

Protesters shouted slogans calling for radical solutions to unemployment and equal opportunities in employment.

The Tunisian League for Defence of Jobless Graduates, Sidi Bouzid chapter, released a statement in which it considers employment a top priority for development and social justice.

The League suggests organising competitions and ensuring their transparency, adopting objective criteria for selecting candidates and reactivating the website dedicated to recruitment in public service.

Tunisia: Security Forces Suppressed the Demonstrations in ‘Hammam-Al-Anf’, ‘Sidi Bouzid’ and ‘Djerba’ Cairo On 8 October 2012: here.

Tunisian workers, women fight for justice

Tunisian women demonstrate in Monastir, 13 August 2012

By Jean Shaoul:

Strikes and protests sweep Tunisia

17 August 2012

On Tuesday, several thousand workers demonstrated in Sidi Bouzid. The city in the impoverished interior of Tunisia is where the vegetable vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself on December 17, 2010, sparking the uprising against the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The protest was directly opposed to the interim government led by the Islamist Ennahda (Renaissance) party, an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood that came to power following elections last October.

The Tunisian General Union of Labour (UGTT), the main trade union federation, had called for a general strike. It said that more than 90 percent of workers had joined the strike. Shops and offices in the city centre were closed for the day.

The demonstrators marched to the courthouse, demanding the release of dozens of political activists detained since July following demonstrations that were brutally put down by police firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Some but not all were later released, including 12 of the activists arrested at a protest last week in Sfax, 160 miles south of the capital.

The strikers and their supporters shouted slogans, including, “The people want the fall of the regime!” and “Justice, woe to you, Ennahda has power over you!”

Some protesters smashed the window of a car belonging to an Al Jazeera TV crew because of the Qatari satellite news channel’s championing of Ennahda and Islamism. Qatar heavily funds Ennahda.

The demonstrators also called for an end to the totally inadequate access to water and electricity that is making everyday life an intolerable burden.

Earlier, on Monday evening, National Women’s Day, tens of thousands of Tunisians, mainly women, took to the streets of the capital Tunis and other cities to demand that women’s equality and rights be protected under the constitution being drafted by the Islamist government.

The demonstrations were by far the largest since the government violently broke up a march last April. Protesters fear that the constitution will downgrade the status of women. They carried banners saying, “Rise up women for your rights to be enshrined in the constitution” and “Ghannouchi [Ennahda’s leader Rachid Ghannouchi] clear off, Tunisian women are strong”.

They demanded that the government remove the proposed Article 27, which defines women as “complementary to men”, from the new national charter, in favour of the existing 1956 law that grants women full equality with men.

The 1956 Code of Personal Status outlawed polygamy, established civil law, and gave women the right to vote, open bank accounts and set up businesses without their husbands’ consent. It was later expanded to include, among other things, the right to work and abortion.

According to a translation by France 24, Article 27 in the new charter affirms that “The state guarantees to protect women’s rights, as they stand, under the principle of man’s complement within the family and man’s partner in developing the country”.

This has been widely interpreted as the first step on the part of the Islamists to roll back women’s position in Tunisia in line with Sharia law.

Demonstrators called for the government to address the economic deprivation in the interior regions and to end unemployment.

The Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, the Tunisian Human Rights League, the Republican Party, the Social and Democratic Path, and the Call for Tunisia party organised another rally at the Congress Palace in Tunis, calling for “effective and unconditional equality in rights and duties between men and women” and warning against “a new regression and possible backsliding in women’s gains”.

Protests to mark National Women’s Day on Avenue Bourguiba in the capital were earlier banned by the government, ostensibly over traffic concerns. Avenue Bourguiba was the focal point of the mass protests that led to the ouster of Ben Ali, the longtime ally of US and French imperialism, in January 2011, sparking mass movements all over the Middle East and North Africa.

Demonstrators also took to the streets of Monastir and Sfax.

See also here.

Tunisia: UN Working Group On Women Calls On Tunisia to Safeguard Achievements in Equality: here

Tear-gas in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia

This video is called Sidi Bouzid a year after Tunisia’s uprising.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Tunisian police tear-gas protesters

Friday 10 August 2012

by Our Foreign Desk

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse an anti-government protest in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid on Thursday evening.

In Sidi Bouzid, the revolution which drove away dictator Ben Ali started. Recently, authorities there arrested the mother of the street vendor, whose suicide by fire started the anti-Ben Ali movement.

Around 800 demonstrators – angry at police intervention in a protest earlier in the day – threw stones at security forces who replied with rubber bullets and tear gas.

On Thursday morning hundreds of demonstrators demanding the resignation of the Islamist-led government had forced their way into the provincial government headquarters, before police fired tear gas and warning shots into the air.

The demonstrators chanted anti-government slogans such as “The people want the regime to fall” accusing the ruling elite of hypocrisy and demanding the right to work.

Several opposition groups took part in the protest, including the Republican Party, the Tunisian Workers Party and al-Watan.

The Tunisian Workers Party denounced the tactics used by the police and reiterated its support for the protesters’ demands, including the dismissal of the provincial governor, the head of the national guard and the public prosecutor.

Thursday’s protests mirrored criticism of the government by opposition groups.

Ennahda, which leads the ruling coalition, has been accused of seeking to limit freedom of expression, most recently with a draft law to criminalise offences against “sacred values.”

Another controversy has flared up over a proposed article in the new constitution that refers to the “complementarity” of men to women rather than their equality.

Around 200 protesters from opposition groups gathered outside the National Constituent Assembly in Tunis on Thursday to denounce the proposal.

The Arab Uprisings in Context: An Interview With Middle East Expert Rami G. Khouri: here.

Tunisian government, free Mohamed Bouazizi’s mother

This video says about itself:

Uploaded by AlJazeeraEnglish on Jan 20, 2011

Sidi Bouzid is the Tunisian town that sparked the nationwide protests that eventually toppled the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Just a month ago, protesters brought the area outside the city hall to a standstill, following the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire in despair with a government that constantly failed to meet the needs of its population.

The area has returned to normal, but people say the journey for change is not yet over.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Sidi Bouzid.

From the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (in Cairo, Egypt):

Tunisia: The Authorities Should Immediately Release the Mother of ‘Bouazizi’, and Conduct a Separate Investigation

16 July 2012

press release

ANHRI declares its sever shock as the Tunisian authorities arrested “Monwbeeh Bouazizi”, the mother of “Mohamed Bouazizi“, who started the Tunisian revolution and the Arab spring. She was arrested due to allegations of insulting an governmental official. ANHRI demands the immediate release of her, and the conduct of a seperate investigation.

On Saturday the 13th of July, the public prosecutor issued a decree of arrest, against the mother of “Bouazizi” and send her to the preventive custody, in “El-Qfsa” state, in the southern-west of Tunisia“, due to an argument with an official in the Sidi Abou-Zid Court, on Friday.

“MonwbeehBouazizi” was extracting some document from the Court. “Salem El-Bou-Azizi” the brother of “Mohamed Bouazizi” [says] that, “the public prosecutor issued a decree of sending my mother to custoday, because of allegations of attacking an official in the Court. He assured that her effervescence resulted as a reaction when the official swore at and pushed her out as well as closing the door in her face, with no reasons”. “Salem El-Bou-Azizi” accuses the court’s officials of slowness in providing public services”.

ANHRI said “the arrest of “Bouazizi’s mother” due to allegations of insulting a governmental official, eliminates the remainder of the Tunisian authorities to dignifiy the families of the martyrs, who paid the big price to the freedom of the Tunisian people”.

ANHRI added “after all the reports, that declares the sufferings of the families of the martyrs and injuries of the revolutions, to obtain the appropriate care from the government and now we are surprised by the arrest of the mother of who has started the revolution”.

While ANHRI asserts on the necessity that every one shall be equal before the law, … it warns that it could be settlements of accounts with the figures and activists of the Tunisian revolution. Some of the security bodies, still have some hostility against them, because they were the reason of end of the arrogance of the security and its associates.

ANHRI said “this is not the first incident if its kind, the anti-terrorism forces, in a suspicious manner, arrested the activist “Emad Degaeg” from “El-Karm” area, due comments on Facebook against the security bodies”.

ANHRI said “in the country of the rule of law, every and each one violates the law shall be penalized, but we are amazed of the quickness of arresting “Monwbeeh” and sent her to the preventive custody, although “there is no necessity to do that” according to a lot of views”.

ANHRI compared the strict reaction of the security bodies to this vague incident and inaction in the face of severe attacks by religious extremists on some art works and university buildings, in many in separate and various incidents in the cities of Tunisia during the past months.

ANHRI calls the Tunisian Authorities to conduct a separate and neutral investigation, and the release of Mrs. “Monwbeeh” until, the said investigation is conducted.

Egyptian workers mount mass strikes against US-backed junta: here.

French pro-Tunisian dictatorship minister resigns

This video is called Political Opression and Corruption under Tunisian Dictatorship.

On the same day as the Tunisian Prime Minister, a relic from the Ben Ali dictatorship days, resigns, a French supporter of that dictatorship, Ms Michele Alliot-Marie resigns. I hope her Prime Minister Fillon, involved in an Egypt dictatorship scandal, and her President Sarkozy, involved in too many scandals to mention here, follow suit. And that the whole Rightist French government will collapse.

From CNN:

Embattled French foreign minister resigns

By the CNN Wire Staff

February 27, 2011 — Updated 1925 GMT (0325 HKT)

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot Marie resigned Sunday, saying that public scrutiny of her for close ties to the former Tunisian regime could give the appearance of a weakened French foreign policy.

Alliot Marie has been criticized for taking a private plane during the Christmas holidays to Tunisia during a popular uprising there. The plane belonged to Tunisian businessman Aziz Miled.

a crony of dictator Ben Ali

The controversy gave the false impression that France was somehow compromised in the Tunisian affair, and she resigned for the distractions to stop, she said in a letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy. …

There was no immediate comment from Sarkozy’s office whether he would accept the resignation.

See also here.

Latest reports and videos from Morocco’s day of nation-wide protests yesterday: here.