The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT – Tunisia’s largest and most active national trade union) organized a gathering in front of its headquarters in Mohamed Ali square today, January 14th, to celebrate the first anniversary of the ouster of Tunisia’s former president Ben Ali.
Hussein Abassi, the UGTT’s new president, delivered a speech, to a crowd of approximately 500 people, addressing the trajectory of Tunisia’s democratic transition.
The event was heavily characterized by criticism from the demonstrators regarding the government’s relationships with Qatar and the United States. Prior to the new UGTT president’s speech, demonstrators began chanting in unison, “The Tunisian people are free, No America, No Qatar,” “We will sacrifice our spirit and blood to the UGTT”, and “The people want to condemn normalization [of relations with Israel].”
Abassi began his speech by addressing the demands expressed by the demonstrators. He reiterated UGTT’s stance against the normalization of relations with Israel. He stressed the need for including a clause in the new constitution prohibiting the normalization with Israel. The crowd responded enthusiastically to the Abassi’s statements, chanting “No to normalization! The Tunisian people are not for sale.”
The speech was occasionally interrupted by additional chants against Qatari and American interference in Tunisian politics. Slogans such as “No Hamad! No Obama! Our revolution is a revolution of dignity!” could be heard among the demonstrators.
Abassi answered these denunciations by stating that the UGTT is mobilizing all of its power to oppose these, “suspicious relations.”
Abassi’s address also emphasized the necessity of honoring the martyrs and those wounded during last year’s uprisings. He stated that these individuals, “will always be on our minds, and deserve to be honored and remembered.”
He also affirmed that the new UGTT leadership is aware of the challenges associated with this new democratic transition, and that the UGTT seeks to reform its organization internally as a means of addressing these new challenges.
After the speech, the crowd exited the square toward Habib Bourguiba Avenue to carry on with the day’s celebrations.