After Another High-Profile Assassination, Tunisia Lurches Toward Crisis

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MOHAMED MESSARA / EPA

Tunisian medics carry the body of slain opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi, as protesters gather at the hospital in Tunis, Tunisia, on July 25, 2013.

Is Tunisia headed for Egypt-type turmoil? The prospect that the small North African country which ignited the entire Arab Spring movement could spiral into violence seemed more plausible on Thursday, after gunmen killed an opposition politician outside his home in the capital Tunis. The attack, which appeared to be the work of several gunmen, was almost identical to the assassination of a beloved secular politician nearly six months ago—suggesting that this time around, quelling public anger against the government could prove more difficult.

Mohamed Brahmi, a 58-year-old member of parliament and a fierce critic of the ruling Islamist Ennahda Party, was shot outside his house on Thursday morning, by what local reports said was about 11 bullets. His distraught colleague Mohsen Nabti told a Tunisian radio station: “He was riddled with bullets in front of his wife and children.” Stunned at the news, Tunisians poured into the capital’s main tree-lined street, Habib Bourguiba Avenue, where giant protests drove out Tunisia’s dictator in January 2011, to some degree inspiring the Egyptian revolution that began days later. In Brahmi’s small hometown of Sidi Bouzid—the same town where the Tunisian Revolution first sparked to life in December 2010—residents burned tires to block roads, according to Reuters. The country’s largest trade union, UGTT, called for a general strike in protest of Brahmi’s death on Friday, which, unlike other parts of the Muslim world, is a work day for many in Tunisia.

For many Tunisians, there is still raw anger and shock over the death on February 6 of Chokri Belaid, a hugely popular politician who had earned both wide support and lethal enemies through his fiery ripostes against the Islamist government, and his dire warnings about rising Islamist militancy.

The Islamist government has long feared that Islamic militants could be working to destroy its new democracy. But secular critics, like Belaid and Brahmi, who represent a collection of liberal parties, have blamed the ruling Ennahda party for cozying up to Salafists and other hardliners, in an effort to broaden its base and squeeze out liberal Tunisians. The Salafists have rapidly risen in strength, and were able to storm and ransack the U.S. Embassy in Tunis last September, breaching the compound wall long before security forces intervened. In twin interviews with TIME after that attack, President Moncef Marzouki, whose party is a junior partner in the Ennahda-led coalition, accused the Islamist party of wanting “to be on good terms with the Salafists.” In a separate interview, Ennahda’s chief Rachid Ghannouchi responded, “We don’t judge people based on what ideology they follow, but on their actions.”

After the two high-profile assassinations of Belaid and Brahmi, those actions are under even more scrutiny—although as yet, there have been no indictments for the murders.

Brahmi was a member of the National Constituent Assembly, which is deep in a contentious political battle over a new post-dictatorship Tunisian constitution. The maw of the argument is over what kind of Tunisia will emerge from the revolution: One that welcomes Western tourists who drink alcohol and wear bikinis, or one that is  guided by far more stringent Islamic laws.

Perhaps fearing that street protests could spread, Ennahda quickly issued a statement after Brahmi’s death on Thursday, saying that it felt “immense sadness and shock,” and demanding that the Interior Ministry “urgently arrest those who committed this crime.”

Judging by the pursuit of Belaid’s killers since his assassination last February, the chances of quick arrests do not look good, however.

Last April, officials appealed for help in tracking five suspects in Belaid’s murder, but the appeal led to no arrests. And it was not until Wednesday that Noureddin B’Hiri, senior adviser to the prime minister, announced that the government had “identified the sponsors and the authors” of Belaid’s February murder, and said the Interior Ministry would soon name them.

But less than one day later, Belaid’s colleague Brahmi lay dead in a Tunis suburb, another victim of Tunisia’s increasingly violent politics.

12 comments
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Vitafoamshop

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Ahmed Zakzouk
Ahmed Zakzouk

Subject: Egypt in a Nutshell What if it happened in the U.S.? Dear all: Received this from an Egyptian friend and would like to share it with you. In a nutshell.... A lot of my dear American friends still ask me what on earth really happened in Egypt. For their benefit, and anyone else on earth genuinely trying to make heads or tails of us "crazy Egyptians," here's exactly what happened in Egypt over the past 12 months, but expressed in "American" terms... There are no exaggerations or lies. All these events took place. Try to imagine if: On June 30th 2012, democratically elected Barack Obama wins the election with 50.7% of the vote, takes the oath, and is sworn in as president of the United States. First five months of his term go relatively smoothly, where he makes almost no decisions (except for some dubious presidential pardons to a dozen convicted terrorists, including some convicted for their part in the assassination of a former U.S. President , and pardons to a number of convicted criminals of drug dealings ). Suddenly, on November 21, 2012, president Obama issues a presidential decree giving himself sweeping powers, to the extent that his future decrees become un-contestable in any court, in effect his decisions henceforth are akin to the word of God. His laws are a new Bible... Nationwide protests erupt as a result of this decree and 1.5 million people organize a sit-in at the White House to peacefully request he rescind it. Some of Obama's democratic party supporters attack the peaceful sit-in outside the White House with guns & shoot 5 peaceful protesters dead. A few weeks later demonstrators of the hard core democratic party surrounded the supreme court, preventing judges from convening so as to prevent judging the president's decisions. Instead of protecting them, Obama dissolves the US Supreme Court and labels its members all "traitors to America." One short week later, he fires the United States Attorney General and personally appoints a Democrat to replace him without going through the constitutional procedures . A month later he annuls the US Constitution and forms a 'constitutional committee' to draft a new constitution in four days , (committee includes no Republicans or Independents, no Moslems or Jews, and only a handful of women... and is composed primarily of Democrats & religious preachers). In a referendum not supervised by any judicial branch, ( as judges all over the US boycotted the process ) this constitution narrowly wins, and President Obama ratifies it the very next morning (despite it having only gotten the approval of 18% of all Americans). Within a month he invites top global terrorists, known Jihadists and Al Qaeda members from all over the world, to a rally in Yankee Stadium, where he cuts ties with and declares war on Canada. Throughout this whole time, the US economy is sinking, the stock market collapsing, foreign investment has all but stopped, tourism has died, and electricity, fuel, and water shortages are a daily occurrence. Unemployment has almost doubled, and the US dollar has lost 20 percent of its value globally. Oh, and president Obama also outlines his new plans to lease the entire Silicon Valley area to China for 50 years (with full administrative control)... Democratically elected president Barack Obama has done all the above in his FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE!!! Ultimately, on June 30th, 2013... 110 million Americans take to the streets in 50 States peacefully and politely demanding - for four straight days - that democratically elected Obama leave office immediately, and that he not serve his remaining 3 years.... That's it in a nutshell. Who would you say had "legitimacy" in this case if it had been America? "Democratically" elected Barrack Obama, or the 110 million Americans who fired him?

meetGsonEbuka
meetGsonEbuka

@TIME @TIMEWorld I've com 2 realise dat ur obstacle&problems doesn't matter rather d size of ur faith. Hw BIG or SMALL is ur faith!

dori1mega9
dori1mega9

@TIME @TIMEWorld Sad, as this little country was not a threat to any nation,but lost money when Libya went down.

spot60spot
spot60spot

@TIME How is Islam helping to make the world a better place with acts like this?

reallife
reallife

how is that obama inspired arab spring working for you?


LOL

itellitasis
itellitasis

What's new in the Arab world?

Another Assasination.


What's really new in the Arab world?

Nothing.