Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Tunisia: Is this the return of the spirit of Ben Ail? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

Has the Tunisian Ennahda movement begun to quickly lose what it invested in the revolution, in a manner that many gambled upon?

This is at least what is suggested by the irony of the new authority supposedly coming to power through a popular revolution, and then dealing with peaceful protestors with force and cruelty.

The demonstrators who marched up Avenue Habib Bourguiba on Martyr’s Day faced harsh suppression by the security services, whereby the protestors were beaten and a number suffered serious injuries, in an incident reminiscent of the painful memories of the reign of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. What increased concern further was the fact that journalists were prevented from documenting the security services’ attack on the demonstrators. According to the accounts of the activists, the majority of those who participated in the attack were Islamist militants, and these militants prevented photographers from documenting what happened on Avenue Habib Bourguiba. There are even reports of infiltrating elements attacking photojournalists and destroying their equipment, because they were trying to record the details of the attack on the demonstrators.

What happened set a new precedent in post-revolution Tunisia.

This prompted the union of Tunisian journalists to threaten to resort to the international judiciary, to provide protection for the Tunisian media. This seems to reflect the sentiments of a video made by the activists and posted on Facebook, which compares the statements made by Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali at the start of the revolution, when he accused the demonstrators of being terrorists, and the words of the current Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, who also condemned the protestors along a similar line.

The film doesn’t distinguish between the fact that the former was a tyrant, and the latter emerged from the tyrant’s prison to supposedly bring the revolution to power.

The recent demonstrations in Tunisia have not received prominent media attention, either because of the attack that prevented the documentation of the violence against activists, or because the authorities were able to control the material presented to the public. Here we can only praise and give thanks to YouTube, which has made means of social networking available to us so we can hear, see and know the truth.

Through YouTube we saw the blogger and activist Fatima Riahi from her hospital bed in Tunis, where she was lying as a result of a broken back and shoulder at the hands of the Tunisian security services. Riahi is a prominent revolutionary figure. She recounted what had happened to her, telling us that the security services are still the same as before, and the security mentality is still applied to public life.

The Tunisians in Avenue Habib Bourguiba experienced features of what life was like in the country under the reign of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. These features have not been forgotten yet, but they were believed to be a thing of the past. However, it seems that the Tunisians have begun to reconsider the opportunity they have granted to the Ennahda movement, which has begun to test the limits of its power and its grip, and how easily figures such as Marzouki can drift along behind the choices of the movement.

This is the current image of Tunisia, as if the revolution was undertaken purely in order to elect the Ennahda movement.

A lot has changed [since the revolution], but the suppression that occurred on Avenue Habib Bourguiba is only a new sign of the fundamental cracks affecting the relationship between the Ennahda movement and the Tunisian public.