‘Incomplete revolution’: Tunisia crackdown criticized by critics

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By Webdesk

Experts and relatives of those arrested say the North African country is no longer an Arab Spring success story.

London, England – After the Arab Spring protests in the early 2010s, Tunisia experienced a short period of democracy.

But that changed in July 2021 when President Kais Saied froze parliament and dramatically dismissed the government.

Since then, the North African country has been cracking down on opposition leaders, critics and activists.

Since February this year, more than 20 people – including opposition politicians, journalists and businessmen – have been arrested on various charges such as “conspiracy against state security” and “terrorism”.

Those arrested include Rached Ghannouchi, head of the Islamist Ennahdha Party, its member Said Ferjani, and prominent radio journalist Zied el-Heni, who many believe penned the term “Jasmine Revolution.”

While freedom of speech and the media were crucial achievements for Tunisians after the Arab Spring revolution led to the overthrow of then-leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, activists and journalists say those freedoms are under threat under Saied’s rule.

People wave national flags during celebrations marking the sixth anniversary of the 2011 Tunisian Revolution on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis
People wave national flags during the celebration of the sixth anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring Revolution in Tunis, Tunisia [File: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

Maha Azzam, head of Egypt’s revolutionary council, said at a forum in London on Friday about Tunisia after the Arab Spring: “Tunisians and Arabs have known nothing but tyranny for decades, except for a brief pause in the Arab Spring.”

Azzam said what is happening in Tunisia is no different than in other post-revolution countries, where vested interests avoid political accountability through a regime of oppression.

“The Arab Spring was the first round. It was an intifada, if you will. It was an uprising, it was an incomplete revolution, but there will be other cycles like other revolutions. It was peaceful and I hope it remains peaceful,” she said.

Soumaya Ghannouchi, daughter of the imprisoned Ennahdha chief, said Saied “deprived the Tunisians of hard-won freedoms”.

“You are haunted by your sick suspicion, your power, greed, your fear. Ghannouchi is chasing you,” she said in a message to the Tunisian president. ‘No matter how you try, you’ll never lock up Ghannouchi. You are the prisoner, not him.”

Soumaya added: “He [Saied] gave them [Tunisians] not only dictatorship but also poverty and state bankruptcy.”

Tunisia’s economic crisis has been exacerbated by stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $1.9 billion loan. Without a loan, the country faces a serious payment crisis.

Rachel Ghannouchi
Ennahdha chief Rached Ghannouchi in Tunis [File: Hassene Dridi/AP Photo]

Opposition parties say Saied’s action against opposition leaders is politically motivated as they call on authorities to release political prisoners.

But Saied claims the prisoners were “terrorists, criminals and traitors,” and judges releasing them would approve their alleged crimes.

Kaouther Ferjani, daughter of imprisoned politician Said Ferjani, said when her family asked a judge why her father was in prison, the judge replied, “It was me or him.”

“My father in prison said we have moved from the independence of the judiciary to the use and abuse of the judiciary,” she said.

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