Putting up some of my writing from Tunisia's February crisis. Originally published by Green Left Weekly.
Furious protests have exploded onto Tunisia's streets and a general
strike has been called after the assassination of left-wing politician
and lawyer Chokri Belaid on February 6.
Belaid was head of the far-left Party of Democratic Patriots (PPD).
His killing is Tunisia's first reported political assassination since
Belaid was gunned down outside his home. Only 12 hours before, he
publicly denounced "attempts to dismantle the state and the creation of
militias to terrorise citizens and drag the country into a spiral of
violence", Al Ahram said on February 6.
Belaid's brother Abdelmajid told AFP: “I accuse Rached Ghannouchi [leader of the Islamist Ennahda party] of assassinating my brother.”
Although no suspects have been identified by police, most
demonstrators agreed with him, with chants such as "Get out!" and others
targeting the party and its leaders.
Zied El Heni, a member of the Union of Journalists, accused Mehrez
Zouari, an interior ministry official, of setting up a death squad
responsible for the death of Belaid, Tunisia Live said on February 8.
A recent report by Human Rights Watch
cited a "failure to investigate and prosecute physical assaults by
people apparently affiliated with violent groups" from the government.
These groups include the League for the Protection of the Revolution,
which assaulted the headquarters of the main union federation, the
UGTT, in December.
Although party leaders have denied links, the Tunisian opposition widely regards the League militias as enforcers for Ennahda.
Afer Belaid's assassination, thousands of people rallied outside the
headquarters of the interior ministry and other places on February 7 and
8, confronting tear gas and police assault.
across all major regional cities and towns, with a general strike in
Siliana on February 8. Headquarters of the Ennahda party were attacked
in several places.
Siliana was the scene of a regional uprising
late last year demanding regional investment, job creation and
political agency. Belaid took part in the protests, promoting interior
minister Ali Larayedh to accuse him of "stirring up trouble".
The PPD was one of 12 parties that united in October to form the Popular Front. The PF has been active in trade unions and social struggle; the UGTT leadership is largely comprised of PF leaders.
Belaid's funeral took place on February 8. At the insistence of his
widow, Besma Khalfaoui, women were encouraged to take part in the
Nessma TV estimated 1 million were on the streets.
As Belaid's body reached the Jellaz cemetery in central Tunis, Nessma TV displayed footage of looters breaking into cars. The police responded with teargas, which entered the cemetery.
"Rest in peace, Chokri, we will continue on your path," fellow PF
leader and long-term labour activist Hamma Hammami said in a speech at
The general strike was widely respected. Most flights out of Tunis's
airport were cancelled, all schools were shut down, and almost all shops
Ennahda and the other forces of "stability" have jostled ensure the
outrage at Belaid's death isn't chanelled into expanding the struggle
for justice, dignity and work.
Ennahda Prime Minister Hamdi Jebali has announced he will dissolve the government and form a non-partisan government of "technocrats" ― despite the wishes of his own party leadership.
Whether such a government will be able to hold the Leagues to
account, or deliver on the demands of the January 14 revolution, remains
to be seen.