Five members of the Tunisian Tamarod movement began a hunger strike Saturday urging the government to respond to demands of the ongoing anti-government protests in Bardo.
Hunger strikers are also objecting to the removal of protesters’ tents on Friday by Tunisian police, which they claim was an attempt to break up a sit-in calling for the dissolution of the National Constituent Assembly and the government.
The Tamarod movement in Tunisia is inspired by the movement of the same name in Egypt that called large numbers of anti-government protesters into the streets in June to demand the fall of former president Mohamed Morsi. The movement’s name means “rebellion” in Arabic.
Sunday, four members from the “Haki,” or “My Right,” movement joined the protest, raising the number of hunger strikers to nine. The Haki movement was recently created to support the Tamarod protests, according to Seifeddine Arfaoui, a Tamarod member.
Protesters have occupied Bardo Square in front of the NCA for the last 17 days. Both pro- and anti-government demonstrations have been held there following the assassination of opposition NCA member Mohamed Brahmi, with the latter calling for dissolution of the assembly and government.
“Members from Tamarod decided to enter a hunger strike to protest the government’s reaction to the sit-in. There is no response from the Troika and their attitude is rather indifferent to the demands,” said Arfaoui. “Through this hunger strike, we will try to urge the enforcement of the demands of the sit-in, such as the dissolution of the government and the NCA.”
“The hunger strike will be open until an indefinite date to see the reactions of the government and the political parties,” he added. “We will later act based on their response and there will be other movements and reactions depending on the outcome of this.”
Arfaoui also stated that the hunger strike protests the attempt by the police to break up the sit-in by taking down protesters’ tents on Friday. He believes the police are part of a “parallel security” force loyal to the ruling Ennahdha party, an accusation floated by protesters, deputies, and even security unions following the July 25 assassination of Brahmi.
In a statement posted on the Facebook page of the opposition NCA members who have withdrawn from the assembly, the members claimed police removed the tents in an effort to disperse protesters.
“This attempt aimed at destabilizing the sit-in, but failed as it united the protesters,” the statement reads.
The police say tents were removed because they were not authorized.
Ministry of Interior press attache Lotfi Hidouri told Tunisia Live that ”the police only took down the tents of street vendors because they are not authorized, but not the tents of the deputies and sit-in [demonstrators].”
Over the weekend, withdrawn NCA members started their tour of the regional sit-ins around the country with a visit to the “Rahil” sit-in at Mehdia.
Fadhel Ben Moussa, a withdrawn NCA member from al-Massar party, told Tunisia Live the “Rahil” sit-in is spreading to other regions of Tunisia.
“There are several sit-ins related to the Bardo sit-in in different cities, which shows that the demands are popular and the movement is a popular one. As for this week, we will continue examining possible solutions to get out of this crisis by maintaining dialogue with other political parties,” said Ben Moussa.
“We are not for anarchy and chaos and we are trying to reach agreements over our next steps,” he added. “This week will be a critical point.”