News / Middle East

Tunisia Braces for Protests Over French Cartoons

Outside view of the French embassy in Tunis, Tunisia, September 19, 2012.Outside view of the French embassy in Tunis, Tunisia, September 19, 2012.
Outside view of the French embassy in Tunis, Tunisia, September 19, 2012.
Outside view of the French embassy in Tunis, Tunisia, September 19, 2012.
Lisa Bryant
A week after Muslims worldwide vented their anger at an anti-Islam film made in the United States, authorities in Tunisia are bracing for more unrest this Friday - this time because of French cartoons making fun of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

Right now it's a typical weekday afternoon in downtown Tunis. The main Habib Bourguiba Avenue is choked with traffic and pedestrians. One thing that is different, however, are the barbed wire and police flanking France's elegant embassy.

The extra security comes ahead of Friday prayers - and a day after a French magazine published cartoons mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

Tunisian authorities clearly don't want a repeat of last Friday, when violent demonstrations by Salafists outside the U.S. embassy here killed four Tunisians and injured dozens of others.  

Anti-U.S. Protests Timeline:

  • September 11: Protesters attack U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt and U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americas are killed
  • September 12: Anti-U.S. protests spread to several Arab countries.
  • September 13: Protesters storm U.S. embassy compound in Sana'a, Yemen
  • September 14: Protests spread further across Africa, Asia and the Middle East
  • September 15: US orders non-essential personnel and families of diplomats out of Tunisia and Sudan
  • September 16: A protester dies during a clash with police in Pakistan
  • September 17: A protester dies during a clash with police in Pakistan
Pausing before the French embassy, Tunisian businessman Hamdi Ashouri criticizes the violence.

But Ashouri said that Muslims respect other religions and they would never mock them. He said he will join any peaceful protests against the French cartoons on Friday.

Like Ashouri, bank employee Jihen Saber is worried about more violence to come. She said there's no security in Tunisia, that it is still recovering from its 2011 revolution. That makes her scared.

Last week's protests against the video, made by a private filmmaker in the U.S., were echoed across the Arab world. They are particularly striking in this North African country, though, where the regime of former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali jailed Islamists.

Today, Tunisia's ruling Islamist Ennahda party is trying to calm the situation - criticizing both the movie and the protesters.

Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi said he was shocked at the violence of last week's demonstrators who destroyed American embassy cars, set fire to an American school and attacked businesses. He said protesters have the right to express their views, but must do so peacefully.

About 30,000 French nationals live in Tunisia. Ahead of Friday prayers, France has announced it will close its embassies and schools in some 20 countries, including Tunisia.

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Comment Sorting
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 21, 2012 1:34 PM
These protests should continue on daily basis. The liberal president was removed with the support of the West to usher in the mad Arab Spring. We are getting what we want from the Arab Spring - extremism! The west have no excuse here. The west should understand that no matter how much you bath a pig and dress it in fine linen clothes, it must return to the sludge. You cannot bring uniform democracy to all countries of the world. Arab Spring was not because of length of tenure, Never! The longest serving potentates also practiced democracy being govt of the people by the people for the people. They practiced democratic principles. But what do we get from their successors of the Arab Spring? A unified force to fight western civilization. Whether you like it or not, all of them are behind Tehran's nuclear program. By the time it's been accomplished..., only God can predict what the next step will be.

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