Tunisia police use water cannon on hundreds of protesters | Arab Spring News

Tunisia is witnessing a heavy police presence as hundreds rallied against President Kais Saied despite coronavirus restrictions.

Tunisian police used water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters who were trying to reach central Tunis to demonstrate against the president in defiance of coronavirus restrictions.

A heavy police presence on Friday prevented protesters from gathering on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, the main avenue in the center of the capital that is the traditional focal point of demonstrations, including during Tunisia’s 2011 uprising that heralded democracy.

Witnesses said that the police then tried to disperse several different groups of protesters, at least one of which had hundreds of protesters.

Dozens of police cars stopped in the area and water cannons were installed outside the Ministry of Interior building located on the same street.

Opposition parties, including Ennahda, are protesting President Kais Saied’s suspension of parliament, his assumption of executive power, and moves to rewrite the constitution, which they call a coup.

Saeed seized power in late July. He denied the coup allegations and promised to defend the rights and freedoms he won in Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings across the region.

Friday’s protest goes against the government’s ban on all indoor or outdoor gatherings, which was announced on Tuesday to stem the wave of COVID-19.

Shaima Issa, an opposition activist, said: “Saeed’s only response today to opponents is force and security forces… It is very sad to see Tunisia like a barracks in the history of our revolution.”

Ennahda, the party with the largest number of seats in Tunisia’s suspended parliament, and other parties involved in the protest accused the government of imposing the ban and resuming the night curfew for political rather than health reasons as a way to prevent protests.

Friday marks what Tunisians once considered the anniversary of the revolution, when ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the North African country.

However, last year Saied decreed that instead of marking the anniversary of Ben Ali’s departure into exile, there would be a commemoration in December of the burning of a street vendor himself, which ignited the uprising.

“So once he’s out today, it’s great proof that people don’t obey him [Saied’s] the decrees,” journalist Elisa Folkmann reported from Tunis on Friday.

“The COVID numbers, the Omicron variant, are already on the rise and there is a fear of a really sharp increase, but opposition politicians are accusing Kais Saied of using COVID as an excuse to prevent demonstrations.”

Although Said’s move in July seemed very popular at first after years of economic stagnation and political paralysis, analysts say it appears to have lost some support since then.

Since Said’s intervention, many senior politicians and business leaders have been arrested or subjected to legal prosecution, often involving corruption or slander cases.

The Tunisian Journalists Syndicate said, on Tuesday, that Tunisian state television banned all political parties from entering its buildings or participating in talk shows, in a serious setback for press freedoms.

Tunisia’s economy remains mired in the pandemic, there has been little progress in winning international support for its fragile public finances, and the government appointed by Saïd in September announced an unpopular budget for 2022.

The Tunisian president has begun preparing a new constitution, which he said will be put to a referendum in July.

Voting will take place after an online public consultation that will begin in January. Parliamentary elections are also expected at the end of 2022.


Leave a Comment