29 March 2012 3:09 pm | | 2


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Avenue Habib Bourguiba, Tunis

The decision to ban protests on Tunis’ main avenue, avenue Habib Bourguiba, that was taken by the Tunisian Ministry of Interior yesterday March 28th, caused various reactions among Tunisian citizens and activists.

Tarak, the owner of a silver shop which has been situated on Avenue of Habib Bourguiba Tunis for over 60 years, stated that he does not mind peaceful protests but is against those that cause chaos. “Last year was a gap year for commerce. Some demonstrations affected the economy negatively. It is normal to witness such phenomena after a revolution. However, it becomes an issue for the whole country if they last,” said Tarak.

He explained that tourism is not affected as much, as tourists are used to such practices in their countries. “We were not born in a democracy. That’s why some of us tend to harm the interests of others without even meaning to,” added Tarak.

Both Awatef and Dhekra, Tunisian housewives, said that some Tunisians are abusing the newfound freedom of expression. “Personal and public interests can be put on hold – traffic and roads are blocked during some protests.”

While some Tunisians agree with Tarak, others had different opinions.  Adel Hajji, who works at the oldest book store on Habib, “Al Kitab,” expressed dissatisfaction with the Ministry of Interior’s decision. He said that people have the right to express themselves by demonstrating on Habib Bourguiba – or elsewhere.

According to Hajji, the protests have positively impacted his business. “Whenever a national debate arises, or a small discussion takes place on Habib Bourguiba Avenue, people come to our store to buy books and get informed about matters such as a caliphate or secularism.” Hajji stated that Tunisians are emotional and “moody” readers who get affected by current topics, which helped the bookstore sell more books since the so called revolution. “It almost feels like we had a cooperation with the demonstrations that were organized on Habib Bourguiba,” said Hajji.

Young Tunisian activist Zakaria Bouguerra condemned the decision. According to him, the decision is against the principle of freedom of expression – one of the main reasons that led to the uprisings. “Arguments such as ‘we are concerned about our image or economy’ were used during the Ben Ali era to keep us silent. The fact that they’re used again after the revolution is not acceptable,” he said.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Nasri says:

    Farah succeeded in picking up a nice and simple qualitative sample reflecting the conflict of interests both between businesses and between businesses and activists. Quantitatively speaking I think, even though I do not have reliable statistics, that the majority of business owners in the area are badly in need of a certain kind of “truce” to catch their breath and sustain their living.

    As for activists who are anxious about their freedom of expression, I think that their fears are a little bit exaggerated: freedom of expression can also be manifested in Mohamed Elkhames or elsewhere.

  2. Suzanna says:

    “tourism is not affected as much [by demonstrations], as tourists are used to such practices in their countries”

    this is difficult to believe, as the US state department warns all travelers to avoid demonstrations in tunisia (and elsewhere,) as they sometimes break out into violence, as reported earlier this week on Avenue of Habib Bourguiba. if tunisia wants tourists to feel safe, it must be aware of the effect that these reports have on visitors.

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