Deadly clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and Egyptian security forces Wednesday solicited reactions from Tunisians, who have watched events in Egypt closely during their own political crisis.
Hundreds were reported dead and thousands injured after Egyptian army and security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition on protesters in Rabaa and al-Nahda squares in Cairo. The violence is the latest since the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi in early July.
Wednesday’s bloodshed followed repeated orders from Egypt’s security forces for protesters to clear both squares, sites of pro-Morsi protests since his removal from power.
Since their respective revolutions in 2011, political analysts have attempted to draw comparisons between Egypt and Tunisia. Tunisian politicians have openly wondered of an “Egyptian scenario” in their country.
Morsi was removed by the Egyptian military following days of protests led by the Egyptian Tamarod movement. Shortly after, a similar movement appeared in Tunisia, calling for the dissolution of the country’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) and government. Their demands were bolstered by politicians, civil society members, and activists after the July 25 assassination of opposition NCA member Mohamed Brahmi.
For the past three weeks Tunisia has witnessed pro- and anti-government protests that share language with the clashes occurring in Egypt and fall along a similar Islamist-secularist political divide.
Anti-government protesters demand a “national salvation government,” of nonpolitical experts replace the current NCA and government. Supporters of the government, however, claim democratic “legitimacy,” a word Morsi invoked to defend the rule of the former Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.
Following the violence in Egypt on Wednesday, government and ruling three-party coalition members released statements reflecting the need for calm in the county.
“…What is happening in Egypt demonstrates the need for all political parties in Tunisia to sit at the negotiating table,” Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki told AFP.
He added that Tunisians should focus “on legitimacy and democracy to suppress the counter-revolution and refrain from rhetoric that urges Tunisians to confrontation.”
In a party statement, Ennahdha called the killings a “crime against the people of Egypt and its revolution,” and called for international support of “the people’s struggle against the coup.”
The Ministry of Religious Affairs released a similar condemnation, calling the events a “massacre,” “crime against humanity,” and “deadly sin.”
“We express our unconditional support to peaceful protesters in all squares of Egypt and to their legitimate demands,” the statement continued. “We call on scholars of Islam in our country and others to react strongly and urgently in order to prevent division and to fight the criminals who cause this.”
“We call the Tunisian people to learn the lesson of what has happened in Egypt and to preserve what we are blessed with – stability and security – and to stand against anarchists and those seeking to topple the government,” it concluded.
One Tunisian pushed back against the politicians’ reactions on Twitter:
— Kizotune (@Kizotune) August 14, 2013
Other Tunisian observers commented on the political tension between Islamists and secularists.
Tunisian journalist Sofiane Chourabi implied a double standard on the part of the Brotherhood.
“Islamists, who have always rejected universal principles of human rights using the pretext of local and religious specificities, are now asking human rights activists to side with them in what is happening in Egypt,” Chourabi wrote, adding “#PoliticalHypocrisy” to the end of his post.
“Ennahdha should learn a lesson from what is happening in Egypt,” Chourabi continued in a separate post.
Tunisian cyber activist Riadh El Hammi responded to such comments.
“What happened in Egypt since the dismissal of Morsi and the resumption of power by the military is unspeakable and is a true crime against humanity. The so-called democrats who justify it are no better than the worst obscurantist.”
Tunisian citizens called for a protest in front of the Egyptian embassy in Tunis to begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Farah Samti contributed reporting.