Tunisia is no longer a revolutionary poster-child

Rachel Shabi writes: Amid the shock and grief at a terrible murder, there is an angry accusation. When forthright opposition leader Chokri Belaid was gunned down in broad daylight outside his home in Tunis, furious protesters marched on the offices around the country of the ruling Ennahda party. Belaid’s brother, Abdel Majid, accused the Islamist party – which dominates the three-way coalition government – of the murder. Ennahda has denounced the assassination. Chillingly, Belaid, a secularist and vocal critic of Ennahda, warned of the rise of political violence when he appeared on Tunisian TV the night before he was killed.

Jalila Hedhli-Peugnet, president of the NGO Think Ahead for Tunisia, reflected the prevailing sentiment on Wednesday when she told France 24 that Belaid “was not assassinated under the dictatorship of Ben Ali, now he is assassinated under the democracy of Ennahda”. If the government didn’t kill him, she said, it also didn’t protect him from such a tragedy.

Tension has been building, then, within a revolution that is too often billed a success story. Tunisia has not suffered the level of turmoil and violence of Egypt, or the agonising death and displacement of Syria, and so it appears to be handling the transition from dictatorship to democracy well. Other post-uprising countries look to Tunisia as both inspiration and weathervane. But Tunisians themselves bemoan their role as revolutionary poster-child as it can lead to the outside world ignoring or dismissing the very real problems there.

One such problem is the escalating political violence in Tunisia in the past year. A report just released by Human Rights Watch cites attacks on activists, journalists, intellectual and political figures – all the incidents apparently “motivated by a religious agenda”. [Continue reading…]

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