News / Middle East

Tunisians Question Future After Politician's Death

Lisa Bryant
The shooting death of opposition politician Chokri Belaid has brought to a head simmering tensions in Tunisia and deep political and religious divisions. The North Africa country, once heralded as a model for Arab democracy, is struggling for a way forward.

A slain politician.  An outpouring of rage and grief.  Thousands of Tunisians attended Friday's funeral for opposition politician Chokri Belaid.  Many blamed the ruling Islamist Ennahda party for his death.

Mourad Habaid showed up with a Tunisian flag wrapped around his shoulders. Habaid says many Tunisians feel that their 2011 revolution has been derailed.  He does not know where his country is going.

Tunis University professor Hamadi Redissi says people are fed up with Ennahda for many reasons.  The once popular party has failed to deliver. "Ennahda has no more credentials.  Ennahda has lost its moral values.  Ennahda did not improve economics.  Did not make what it promised to people. So politically Ennahda is very weak today," he said.

Basic public services have deteriorated. Insecurity has skyrocketed - including attacks by hardline Islamists against secular politicians and artists.

Two years after uniting to throw off a dictatorship, Tunisians are divided on the way forward.  Some, like taxi Fuad Kedimi, are nostalgic for the past. Kedimi says people lived well under the old regime.  There was security and lots of tourism and work.  Life was good.

Ennahda and its supporters say they are being unfairly blamed for Belaid's death - and for Tunisia's post-revolutionary problems.  Some claim outside forces want to destroy Tunisia's revolution.

English teacher Fatah Ousleti, who joined a pro-Ennahda rally in Tunis on Saturday, defends the party. "We think Ennahda is good.  It worked a lot.  It went through difficulties and hardships all along its life.  It went to prison.  It went abroad.  They were deprived of all their rights.  And now they are the ones who rule Tunisia ... it was a gesture of gratitude toward them and their struggle against tyranny and dictatorship," she said.

The divisions on Tunisia's streets are reflected in the government.  Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali threatens to resign unless a new, non-political Cabinet is named to defuse the tensions.  His own Ennahda party has rejected the proposal.

Ennahda's Meherzia Labidi, the National Assembly's deputy speaker, wants the coalition government to find a compromise.  She agrees the country's tensions are worrying. "Tunisia is divided, but not only by religion ... I think we have two extremes.  We have extremists on the side of secularists - they want Tunisia to be without religion at all ... they are a small group.  And there is another small group of religious people that wants Tunisia to be only Muslim, practicing ... but let me remind you of the huge mass of Tunisians who are in between," she said.

That, Labidi says, is where Tunisians can find common ground.

But for now, Tunisia appears adrift.  Unsure of the next step after Belaid's death.

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs