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

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Leaderless, Rudderless, Britain Drifts

    Experts predicted chaos would follow, if Britain decided to vote for Brexit, and chaos has

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    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.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora