Reposted from July. Originally published in Green Left Weekly.
For the second time in six months, Tunisia's government has been
thrown into chaos after the killing of a left-wing leader. Mohamed
Brahmi, a leader of Tunisia's Popular Front, was assassinated on July
Brahmi was attacked by two men on motorbike outside his home in
Ariana, a suburb of Tunis, and was shot 11 times. He was taken to
Mahmoud Matri Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
His widow M'barka told radio station Mosaique FM: “He died as a martyr to his opinion and position”, Tunisia Live said. She added that “he was killed by a terrorist gang”.
Brahmi was an activist for many years under Ben Ali's dictatorship.
He was born in the impoverished interior town of Sidi Bouzid, where the
uprising that overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011 began.
After the 2011 uprising, he founded the Popular Movement.
On April 9, the Popular Movement joined with the Popular Front, which
is made up of a large variety of radical left groups involved in the
trade union and other social movements.
On July 7, Brahmi resigned from the Popular Movement after it rescinded the decision to join the front.
In the aftermath of the killing, interior minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou
announced that the same gun used to kill Brahmi had been used to
assassinate Chokri Belaid six months earlier.
Belaid, also a Popular Front leader was killed in similar
circumstances, gunned down by assailants on motorbikes outside his home
on February 6.
Ben Jeddou named a suspect, Islamic fundamnetalist Boubacar Hakim,
also wanted on suspicion of smuggling weapons from Libya. He has been
connected with the al Qaeda-linked group Ansar al-Sharia.
However, the group denied responsibility in a Facebook statement,
calling Brahmi's killing "a political assassination, part of attempts to
push the country toward chaos".
Brahmi's murder "only profits remnants of the former regime and lackeys of the Zionists and Crusaders", it said.
The response to the killing was swift, with protests breaking out
across the country. A general strike on July 26 shut down banks, shops
and flights, as thousands rallied in Tunis to join Brahmi's funeral
Demonstrations took place around the country, with a police station
and offices of the ruling Ennahda party set on fire in Siliana.
Popular Front activist Mohamed Mofti was killed in the southern
mining town of Gafsa after being struck in the head by a tear gas
canister. Tear gas was also used to disperse protests demanding the
dissolution of the government in Tunis, Sidi Bouzid, Siliana, Montastir
Protesters in Tunis converged on the Bardo square, location of the
National Constituent Assembly (NCA) that is overdue to release a new
draft constitution. The Islamist Ennahda party, in a "troika" alliance
with two secular parties, holds a majority in the NCA, and the interim
Protesters converged on the Bardo on July 26 to demand the dissolution of the Ennahda-led government and the NCA.
They were met by a smaller number of government supporters who
rallied across the square, chanting "there's no room for Sisi" —
comparing the calls to dissolve the government to the recent ouster of
the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt by the military.
Despite their similar positions as post-dictatorship democracies with
Islamist governments, comparisons between the current events to those
in Egypt, where large liberal secular protests preceded the removal of
the Muslim Brotherhood government by the military, are weak at best.
A "Tunisian Tamarod" movement, demanding a constitution which would
represent all Tunisians and not only Islamists, gained 200,000
signatures in June, but was unable to make a big impact or mobilise
strong support on the streets.
Beji Caid Essebsi, the leader of the ex-regime Tunisia Call Party,
used the opportunity to demand the dissolution of the NCA. He also
criticised a proposed law that would extend a ban on ex-regime figures
This demand has also been raised by the Popular Front. In an interview with International Viewpoint,
leader of the socialist Workers' Left League Alhelm Belhadj said: "The
government has failed ... it was put in place to manage a transitional
period of one year. Eighteen months have gone by and the essential tasks
for which it was there, those of the Constitution, have not been
The Popular Front had proposed to launch a big national protest
movement for justice for Chokri Belaid on August 6, before Brahmi's
The anti-government sit-in at the Bardo was dispersed on July 27. The
police claimed they were intervening to prevent violence between the
two camps in the square after a spate of "stone throwing".
Thousands of anti-government protesters resumed their "Sit-in of Departure" on July 28, where they remained until August 2.
Sixty-five members of the NCA have withdrawn from the body in protest; several have been taking part in the sit-in.
Ennahda spokespeople have announced they are willing to discuss
forming a government of national unity, but refuse to discuss dissolving