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General Strike In Tunisia : Thousands March To Protest
Assassination Of Progressive Politician

By Countercurrents.org

26 July, 2013

Undated Mohamed Brahmi

Brahmi was a vocal critic of the governing Islamist Ennahda party

Tunisia goes through a general strike and thousands march to protest assassination of Mohammed Brahmi, a leading progressive politician of the country. As anti-Islamist protests have erupted in Tunis and Sidi Bouzid protesting people have raised slogan: "Down with the rule of the Islamists". The assassination has set off violent protests against the Islamist-led government.

Media reports from Tunisia said:

The country's largest union the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) has called the general strike after the killing of Brahmi in the capital, Tunis .

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tunisia . In Sidi Bouzid, Brahmi's hometown and the birthplace of the Arab Spring, people have blocked roads and set tyres alight. In Sidi Bouzid, the headquarters of the Ennahda party were attacked and set on fire.

Reports are emerging of police firing tear gas to disperse demonstrators. Police fired teargas to disperse protesters who stormed a local government office in the Mediterranean port of Sfax .

Protesters have gathered in Tunis and other cities across the country calling for the government to resign. Airlines including the National airline Tunisair and British Airways have been forced to cancel all flights to and from Tunisia due to the general strike.

Tunisia 's Tamarod or "rebellion" organization modelled on the grouping that helped lead to the overthrow of Morsi repeated its call for Tunisia 's parliament to be dissolved. It called for mass protests inspired by Egypt 's and stated "the streets are the solution".

Brahmi, 58, was killed on July 25-morning by two gunmen as he sat in his car outside his home. He was hit 11 times before his assailants escaped. The killing was reportedly witnessed by members of his family, including his wife and handicapped daughter.

The politician's wife said Brahmi had left the house after receiving a telephone call. She heard shots and found his body lying on the ground outside as two men fled on a motorcycle.

"He was shot in front of his house when he was with his disabled daughter," said Mohamed Nabki, a member of Brahmi's secular party.

"This criminal gang has killed the free voice of Brahmi," his widow Mbarka Brahmi said in a statement to the media.

The family of Brahmi has accused the governing Islamist Ennahda party of being behind the killing. The party has not responded to the claim. Brahmi's sister later accused the main Islamist Ennahda party of being behind the killing. "Ennahda killed my brother," Souhiba Brahmi said.

The shooting prompted fresh protests across Tunisia as Brahmi was taken to hospital.

The Echab newspaper allied with Tunisia 's UGTT union carried a full page picture of Brahmi's face describing him as a martyr.

Brahmi, a member of Tunisia 's constituent assembly, had been a loud critic of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, which is now on power. Brahmi belonged to the secular Arab nationalist Popular Front party, whose then-leader, Chokri Belaid, was killed in a similar way on Feb. 6.

The killing comes amid emerging tensions in North Africa after the Egyptian army's overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Morsi on 3 July, an event that has energized secular opposition parties in Tunisia .

Following the killing of Brahmi, largely secular supporters demonstrated outside the ministry of the interior in Tunis and in the central thoroughfare of Avenue Habib Bourguiba.

Others gathered outside the hospital where Brahmi's body was taken. People there raised slogan "Down with the rule of the Islamists".

Hussein Abbasi, secretary-general of UGTT has predicted that the assassination would lead the country into a "bloodbath".

The killing has striking similarities to the murder of Belaïd whose death provoked a political crisis that nearly derailed Tunisia 's political transition.

Opposition supporters blamed Ennahda for not doing enough to bring to justice Belaïd's killers.

A BBC report said: Many Tunisians, particularly the young, complain that their quest for secular democracy has been hijacked by intolerant Islamists.

Amnesty International said the killing was a "blow to the rule of law in Tunisia ", which was experiencing a "worrying tide of political violence".

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay called for the killers to be brought to account.

The National Constituent Assembly, which is drafting a new constitution for the North African nation of 11 million announced Friday as a day of mourning.

Ennahda is facing growing popular unrest over a faltering economy and a rising extremist Islamist movement.

Divisions between Islamists and their secular opponents have deepened since the popular uprising against Ben Ali.

Big crowds accompanied Brahmi's body when it was taken later for autopsy at another Tunis hospital. Despite the presence of hundreds of soldiers and police, protesters smashed cars and broke some windows of the hospital in Ariana, witnesses said.

The Islamist-led government has come under fire from secularists who accuse it of failing to curb the activities of radical Salafi Islamists.

Cultural shows, including the Carthage Festival, were suspended following Brahmi's killing.

Brahmi's killing is likely to reactivate the mass protests and strikes across multiple sectors that followed Belaid's assassination.

Ennahda is losing popularity and might seek to delay adoption of the constitution and the holding of elections.





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