Two Years After The Tunisian Uprising: Strikes And Tension Mount
19 December, 2012
Two years after the uprising against the autocrat Ben Ali, the present day Tunisia is increasingly gripped with socio-political tension. The Islamist president and speaker in the country were stoned. The president was heckled by the people in another incident. At the same time, assaults on non-Moslems are on the rise.
Protesters on December 17, 2012 hurled rocks at Tunisia's president Moncef Marzouki and parliamentary speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar in Sidi Bouzid, cradle of the revolution that erupted exactly two years ago .
The incident began after a speech by Marzouki in the central Tunisian town, where celebrations were taking place to mark the anniversary of the revolution, and as Ben Jaafar was about to speak.
The security forces swiftly evacuated the two men to the regional government headquarters, an AFP journalist reported.
The protesters invaded the square where the head of state had been addressing the crowd. The people started shouting: "the people want the fall of the government."
The police held back, after violent clashes over the past few months, which have often followed attempts to disperse protesters angry over the Islamist-led government's failure to improve living conditions in the poor region.
Clashes and strikes as well as attacks by hardline Islamists have multiplied across Tunisia in the run-up to the second anniversary of the start of Tunisia's revolution.
As the president took to the podium many in the crowd started shouting "Get out Get out!", one of the rallying cries of the revolution that toppled the regime of former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Marzouki promised economic progress within six months to the people of Sidi Bouzid, where poverty and unemployment were key factors behind the uprising that began there on December 17, 2010, after Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor set, himself on fire in protest at police harassment.
"I understand this legitimate anger. But the government has diagnosed the problem. In six months, a stable government will be in place and will provide the remedy to heal the country's problems," said the president, who was jeered by the crowd.
Marzouki had been heckled earlier in the morning, when he visited the grave of Bouazizi.
Threat of general strike
The government says it has reached tentative agreement with country's trade union confederation to call off nationwide strike planned for revolution's second anniversary .
President Marzouki, meanwhile, postponed trips to Poland and Bulgaria scheduled for this week as tensions mounted ahead of the strike.
The General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) called the strike amid tensions with the ruling Islamist Ennahda party following what the union said was an attack by the party's supporters on a union demonstration in Tunis and an attack on its headquarters by Islamist militants close to the Ennahda.
A union leader told AFP the UGTT demands the dissolution of the pro-Ennahda League for the Protection of the Revolution, which it accuses of carrying out last week's attack.
Many Tunisians feel bitterly disappointed by the failure of the promises to improve their lives, especially in the marginalized interior which suffers from a chronic lack of development and high unemployment.
Clashes, strikes and attacks by hardline Islamists have multiplied across Tunisia.
The nationwide strike call is only the third to be made by the half-million strong UGTT since its foundation in the 1940s.
Disappointed by the failure to improve their lives, four volatile regions in Tunisia – including the part where the Arab Spring began – went on strike amid rising tensions with the ruling Islamic party .
The closure of the main private and public companies in those areas was called by regional branches of the main labor group, the UGTT.
Meat cleaver-wielding Salafists attack hotel bar in Tunisian city of Subaytilah in growing struggle between ultra-conservative Muslims and their more secular-minded compatriots .
An estimated 15 Salafists destroyed the hotel's furniture and bar and burned a vehicle parked in front of the building. Bearded men threatened hotel guests with meat cleavers and called them "infidels," eyewitnesses said.
The country has witnessed numerous violent incidents linked to hardliners, prompting opposition activists to accuse the Islamist-led coalition government of not doing enough to rein them in. There has been a complex domestic struggle over the role of religion in government and society during the post-revolutionary period.
The bar-related incident in Subaytilah comes after a similar attack on a bar in Sidi Bouzid. Bottles were smashed and customers were chased away with cries of "God is Great" and "drinking is forbidden."
Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the uprising that toppled former president Ben Ali last year, is a stronghold of the Salafist movement, which has grown increasingly assertive in recent months.
Violence later spread to the capital where there were clashes between alcohol sellers and Salafists, wounding a police commander.
Ennahda, a moderate Islamist group lead by Rachid Ghannouchi, formed a coalition with two non-religious parties and has promised not to ban alcohol, impose the veil or use sharia [Islamic law] as the basis of Tunisian law.
It is under pressure from both Salafists calling for the introduction of Islamic law and secular opposition parties determined to prevent this.
Ennahda's stance carries weight. Its secretary-general, Hamadi Jebali, is prime minister, and the party controls more than 40 percent of the seats in the constituent assembly. Salafists are not fully represented by any bloc in the assembly, but have stepped up street protests to press for their demands.
Secularists apprehend that Ennahda has been too soft on the Salafists who since the revolution have attacked or threatened theatres, cinemas and journalists, and most recently Tunisia's tiny Jewish community.
 “Stones thrown at Tunisian leaders in Sidi Bouzid”, Dec. 17, 2012, http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/60713/World/Region/Stones-thrown-at-Tunisian-leaders-in-Sidi-Bouzid-A.aspx
 “Tunisia government says draft deal to avoid general strike”, Dec. 11, 2012,
 “Workers strike in volatile Tunisia regions”,
 Ahram Online , “Tunisian Salafists attack bar, call drinkers 'infidels'”,Friday 14 Dec 2012
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