News / Middle East

    Assassination Roils Tunisia

    Tunisian riot police run towards protesters during a demonstration in Tunis, February 7, 2013.
    Tunisian riot police run towards protesters during a demonstration in Tunis, February 7, 2013.
    Lisa Bryant
    Tunisia's political crisis deepened on Thursday as police clashed with protesters and lobbed tear gas after the ruling Islamist Ennahdha party rejected a plan to form a new government.

    The protests now spreading across the country come after the assassination of Chokri Belaid, a leading secular opposition politician.  He was a staunch opponent of the moderate Islamists in power - and the growing clout of hardliners that Tunisians call Salafists.

    The scenes are eerily reminiscent of Tunisia's revolution two years ago.  And like then, Tunisia's leaders bowed to public fury and announced the government's dissolution.

    Addressing the nation Wednesday night, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said he would form a new Cabinet of technocrats with no political affiliation. He said this government would be in place until new elections are held - which, he said, would happen as soon as possible.

    But hours later, the ruling Ennahdha party rejected the dissolution, but said talks were underway to form a coalition government.

    • Supporters of the ruling Ennahda party shout slogans in support of the party during a demonstration in Tunis, Feb. 9, 2013.
    • A tear gas canister flies in the air as thousands of Tunisians gathered at el Jallez cemetery to attend the funeral of slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid, Feb. 8, 2013.
    • A Tunisian woman walks past burning cars during clashes with the police near the funeral of slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid, Feb. 8, 2013.
    • Riot police clash with protesters next to the cemetery where thousands of Tunisians gathered to attend the funeral of slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid, near Tunis, Feb. 8, 2013.
    • Mourners carry the coffin of opposition leader Chokri Belaid during his funeral procession, Tunis, Tunisia, Feb. 8, 2013.
    • A sticker with an image of the late opposition leader Chokri Belaid is seen as a woman mourns during his funeral procession, Tunis, Feb. 8, 2013.
    • Mourners carry the coffin of slain opposition leader Chokri Belaid during his funeral procession towards El-Jellaz cemetary, Tunis, Feb. 8, 2013.
    • Tunisians accompany the ambulance carrying the body of opposition leader Chokri Belaid, from his home to his father's home, Tunis, Feb. 7, 2013.
    • A woman cries over the coffin of opposition leader Chokri Belaid, in Tunis, Feb. 7, 2013.
    • Protesters gather on Tunis 'main avenue after a Tunisian opposition leader critical of the Islamist-led government was gunned down as he left home, Feb.6, 2013.
    • A protester gestures to police during clashes in Tunis, Feb. 6, 2013.
    • The body of Chokri Belaid, a prominent Tunisian opposition politician, is carried into an ambulance after he was shot, in Tunis Feb. 6, 2013.
    • Basma Chokri, the wife of assassinated prominent Tunisian opposition politician Chokri Belaid, mourns in Tunis Feb. 6, 2013.

    Motives

    In a telephone interview from Tunis, opposition politician Selma Rekik of the secular Nidaa Tounes party speculated Belaid's shooting death had been planned for a long time.

    Rekik alleged there was a hit list targeting other secular figures. Belaid's family has blamed Ennahdha for his death - which the party strongly denies. Rekik said she was awaiting the results of an investigation.

    But she said the government must dissolve the so-called "League for the Protection of the Revolution" a shadowy group of pro-Ennahdha militants who have been blamed for attacks on secular opposition groups and trade unions in recent months.

    The new flare-up of violence has shaken this once-peaceful and staunchly secular North African country and the international community, which has praised Tunisia's steps toward democracy.

    Speaking from Tunis, regional Human Rights Watch deputy director Eric Goldstein said Belaid's death may be Tunisia's first political assassination in half-a-century. Like others, the rights group is demanding a thorough investigation.

    "The Algerian scenario is not far away," he said. "In other words, Algeria in the 1990s experienced dramatic and extensive political violence. Tunisia never had this - but this killing is something we thought Tunisia would never see. And so people are quite disturbed by it."

    Rekik is among the many Tunisians who are drawing stark differences between the unrest of today and that of two years ago which ousted longtime dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

    During the 2011 revolution, Rekik said, Tunisians were united in wanting the departure of Ben Ali's regime. Today, she said, the country is divided between Muslims and non-Muslims, elections have been delayed, and nothing is certain.

    Belaid will be buried Friday.

    Trade unions have called for a national strike the same day to protest his killing.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Nielsen's, Sina Weibo Team Up for Closer Look at Chinese Social Media

    US-based rating agency reaches deal with China's Twitter-like service to gauge marketing effectiveness on platform which has more than 200 million users

    Despite Cease-fire, Myanmar Landmine Scourge Goes Unaddressed

    Myanmar has third-highest mine casualty rate in the world, according to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which says between 1999 to 2014 it recorded 3,745 casualties, 396 of whom died

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Victor Purinton from: Cambridge, MA
    February 07, 2013 12:14 PM
    Islamists don't believe in democracy. They will use it to take power, but once in power they respond to political challenges with violence. It is their religious duty, after all, to govern. Accepting secular governance is disobeying God.

    Civil war between Islamists and secularists is coming to Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora