Different political parties and unofficial groups have staked out various sections of Tunis’ major thoroughfare, Habib Bourguiba avenue, to make their demands known today on the commemoration of the revolution. In spite of their differing petitions to the government, they recognized by and large the freedom of speech, which was accorded to Tunisian society by the revolution.
On one end of the main avenue, the ruling Ennahdha party organized a rally in front of the municipal theater with the backdrop decorated with Palestinian and Tunisian flags. The gathering included former Islamist political prisoners under the toppled regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
Speakers refered to their experiences of oppression under Ben Ali and emphasized the remembrance of Muslims in Arab countries where dictatorships have yet to fall. The issue of Palestine was underscored by the speakers as well as those in the crowd, who wore Palestinian-themed scarves embroidered with the words, “we are coming back.”
Among cries of “Allahu Akbar” and pro-Ennahdha chants, party speakers expressed optimism regarding the forthcoming constitution.
“Our leaders today are the first elected leaders in Tunisia’s history. We chose them, and we pride ourselves in their decisions,” said a speaker.
The event also featured a rap performer.
Nearby, two distinctive groups gathered to protest in front of the French Embassy.
A religious group whose members were holding a Wahhabi flag yet did not identify as Salafists took the opportunity of today’s commemoration to protest France’s military intervention in Mali.
“We stand to support our Muslim brothers in Mali, who chose the jurisprudence of Allah to govern them, only for the French invader to launch airstrikes against them to obtain their land and wealth,” a young protester, who declined to give his name, told Tunisia Live.
On national affairs, the group openly rejected the constitution and manifested general discontent with the political transition undertaken by the current government. They, nonetheless, expressed their appreciation for the freedom to voice their demands, which was absent under Ben Ali.
The second group in front of the French Embassy gathered on behalf of the family of a Tunisian immigrant, who was killed in France on May 9, 2008. Hakim Laajimi was trying to withdraw money from an ATM when he got in a verbal fight with French police. The quarrel ended in Laajimi’s death.
Since then, Laajimi’s family claims to have seen no justice served and is seeking to bring media attention on Hakim’s case and demand judicial consequences for his killers.
On the other end of Habib Bourguiba avenue, the Popular Front, an opposition party, stood in front of the Ministry of the Interior to protest the unachieved goals of the revolution. Their slogans accused the government of selling land to foreign investors, especially from the Arabian Gulf.
“Law 72 entitles foreign investors to buy the sweat of our workers for the cheapest prices,” Salah Romdhane, a protester with the Popular Front, told Tunisia Live. “It needs to be eradicated.”
In their chants, Popular Front members and supporters described the interim government as a “colonial” regime and accused it for deceiving the unsuspecting citizen by using religious speech.
Civil society representatives from the long marginalized region of El Kef in central Tunisia held signs demanding regional development.
“Today we are happy,” said community organizer Mahdi Moualhi. ”We will not be happy tomorrow or the day after, and we certainly were not happy yesterday.” The revolution has only enabled society to voice its demands, not to achieve them, he explained.
Mohamed Abbou, secretary general of the Congress for the Republic party, said in an interview with Mosaique FM today that the revolution has not lived up to the expectations of the people even though it has allowed Tunisians to enjoy freedom of expression and a peaceful transition of power.