Tunisia: Protests, repression as gov't repeats Ben Ali approach

Issue 

On January 5, another Tunisian set his body on fire. This happened in Gafsa and the date corresponds to the beginning of the social movement in the mining basin in 2008.

The self-immolation coincided with the visit of three ministers, who visited the city in the hope of negotiating with people staging a sit-in for their social rights. Clashes started between the inhabitants and security forces.

The day before, security forces and the army used violence against university teachers and students demonstrating peacefully outside the building housing the higher education ministry to ask the education minister to allow students to resume courses at la Manuba University.

The Faculty of Literature, Arts and Humanities of la Manuba has been closed since a group of Islamists engaged in violent acts against the Dean and some teachers. The Islamist group has been occupying parts of the faculty for weeks to claim the right of female students to sit for exams wearing the "niqab".

On January 5, security forces evacuated the faculty. Three journalists covering the event outside the ministry were also beaten by security forces.

Days earlier, a sit-in began in Menzel Bouzayene, the city that witnessed the first martyrdom a year ago after the use of live ammunition during the uprising that overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The inhabitants are struggling for the development of their area.

Many sit-ins and demonstrations are taking place in other areas, such as Gabes, Jendouba, Thala and Kasserine.

In Sejnane (in the north-east), inhabitants complained after the establishment of an Islamic princedom. Salafi Ismalists have even established a jail and have been arresting people they judged to be infringing Islamic rules.

Some of the inhabitants were arrested and beaten for celebrating the end of the year or for drinking alcohol. Security forces did not intervene at all.

Instead of discussing the real problems of Tunisia, the problems that drove people to the streets last year, the Constituent Assembly (elected in October) and the government have been trying to divert Tunisians' focus towards identity and religious problems. After the ouster of Ben Ali, the rulers chose to hide the truth and spread lies in the manner of the old regime.

Instead of facing the real problems of the people protesting everywhere, they preferred to hold the opposition — and especially the left parties — responsible for occurred. They have been trying to deceive people again by pretending that the aim of those people asking for their rights is to spread chaos in the country.

Their sole argument is that "sit-ins are destroying the economy" — the same argument used by Ben Ali. However, they allowed a group of Islamists to occupy a section of la Manuba University for weeks while other students were prevented from studying.

Now, they have openly declared they will use violence to end sit-ins.

[Reprinted from A Tunisian Girl blog.]

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