Close to 6,000 demonstrators chanted slogans like “No to violence” and ”No to extremism” at a march taking place in downtown Tunis today, January 28th, 2012. A number of associations, political parties, unions, and civil society members participated in the march calling for freedom of expression. Other slogans such as “No niqab, no to salafism” and “Universities are free, extremism out,” were also chanted.
According to a press release announcing the march, protesters condemn violent attacks – whether verbal or physical – on citizens, including national figures, politicians, activists, and media figures. They also condemn the recurrence of violence in different parts of Tunisia and the escalation in the prevalence of fundamentalist rhetoric, including those issued by some members of the National Constituent Assembly. The demonstrators also called for the interim government to take necessary measures to stop the spread of this phenomenon, which could derail the transition to democracy in Tunisia and threaten the gains made by the revolution.
A number of associations were present including Tolerance Tunisia and Citizens Front for Democracy (FCD). Mourad Belaid, co-founder of FCD, stated that he participated in the march because he is against all types of fundamentalism and extremism.
Abed Karim Alagui, a university professor, said that there are many dangerous violations taking place, including the Manouba University salafist protests and the violent attacks on professors and journalists. “Our freedom is being violated. I am for dialogue, and Tunisia is for all Tunisians.”
Hamadi Redissi, a political science professor, was also present at the march. Redissi was a victim of a salafist attack last Monday outside of a courthouse where Tunisian TV executive Nabil Karoui was to be tried for blasphemy and disturbing public order. “We must support freedom and defend our rights,” he added.
Oppositional political parties participated in the march, including the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), Afek Tounes, and Republican Party. The leader of (PDP), Nejib Chebbi, as well as Maya Jeribi were there. Mohamed Naseur Bjewi, a PDP member, participated in the march calling for freedom of expression, “I am against any sort of violence or extremism in our country,” he asserted. “The government needs to take a stand and find a solution to this,” he added.