Tunisia: Fresh protests demand ‘new revolution’
The Kasbah in Tunis was once again the scene of violent clashes between police and revolutionary youth after protests on July 15 to advance the revolution were broken up by force.
The protests, dubbed “Kasbah 3”, were demanding the resignation of key ministers in the interim government and the sacking of those responsible for the killings of protesters during the January uprising against dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
The protests also demanded the regime stick to October 23 as the date for constituent assembly elections.
Press TV reported on July 15 that more than 700 people gathered in Kasbah square before being dispersed with tear gas and pushed out of the square by police.
Muslims attending Friday prayers at nearby mosques were blocked from reaching the square.
Reuters reported on July 17 that Mehdi Alharchana, one of the protesters in Sidi Bouzid, said: “People are angry. Nothing has changed and frustration is haunting everyone.”
Demonstrators chanted: “We want a new revolution.”
Journalists trying to cover the sit-in were also attacked by police. In a video circulating on Tunisian social media, Director of Public Security Taoufik Dimassi said journalists should have stayed behind police lines.
The National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists filed a lawsuit against the ministry of the interior, denouncing the assault on freedom of the press.
GlobalVoicesOnline.org reported on July 16 first-hand accounts posted to Twitter that said protesters sheltering at the Kasbah mosque were also attacked, with tear gas rounds being fired inside.
Up to 48 demonstrators were arrested.
On July 16, protests also took place in Sidi Bouzid, the regional town where the uprising that overthrew Ben Ali began, and other cities.
State news agency TAP reported that a 14-year-old boy was killed by a “stray bullet” as police “broke up the protests”.
Protesters occupied Kasbah square, despite a heavy police presence.
A crowd of youths set fire to a police station in the suburb of Intilaka in the early hours of July 17, Reuters said.
The attack on the Kasbah mosque angered many. The Ministry of Religious Affairs called for the neutrality of places of worship to be respected in a statement released on July 19.
Tunisia’s interim government blamed the weekend’s violence on “extremist groups with the aim of harming the climate of security and stability which the country has recently enjoyed”, TAP said on July 30.
In the lead-up to the Kasbah 3 protests, interim Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi told the media it was “urgent to definitively break with all forms of strikes and protests” and condemned the billions of dollars of losses for industry that each day of strikes created.
Since Ben Ali’s January 14 resignation, key sectors of the economy have been paralysed by strikes and sit-ins demanding better working conditions and the removal of Ben Ali-era managers.
Another key demand of the protests has been restructuring the High Commission for the Protection of the Revolution, a unity body established after Ben Ali’s overthrow to oversee the implemntation of the demands of the pro-democracy movement.
The Progressive Democratic Party, a centre-left party and member of the 14th of January Front, has since pulled out of the commission.
The unwillingness of the interim government, which controls the commission, to fulfil the demands of the January uprising — beyond removing Ben Ali and some key regime figures — is clear.
But the movement that overthrew Ben Ali is still strong, and it continues to press for the democratic and economic demands made by the ongoing revolutionary movement.