Magharebia (Washington DC)

Tunisians Mobilise Against Political Violence

Tunis — Civil society in Tunisia discusses politically-motivated aggressions and the rise in radicalism.

Political violence is on the rise in Tunisia, especially after the October 23rd, 2011 legislative elections and Ennahda's accession to power. The emergence of new political rivals, such as the Bourguiba-inspired Call of Tunisia (Nidaa Tounes), has highlighted the problem.

Hundreds of people rallied on Sunday (November 25th) against political assaults in Tunis. Organised by the Civil Alliance against Violence, demonstrators called for disbanding revolution protection leagues. Protestors carried banners reading "No silence after today; we're all against violence," and "For peaceful co-existence and democratic competition," and "Enough violence!"

On Friday, a seminar on violence during Tunisia's interim period was held in Tunis. The Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LTDH), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Euro-Mediterranean Network for Human Rights (EMHRN) focused on ways of ending politically-motivated aggressions.

"One of the paradoxes of our revolution is that members of one of the institutions that monopolise violence, i.e. the security apparatus, now seek protection from violence and repeated assaults against them," said EMHRN Regional Manager Rami Salhi.

Salhi explained that political elites became a source of violence, especially verbal and moral violence.

"It becomes even more complex when we see government officials, heads of parties and members of the National Constituent Assembly embracing speech and positions generating and inciting violence," he added.

In a Martyrs Day rally on April 9th, a group affiliated to the Revolution Protection Committees attacked participants. Members of these committees denied that they were responsible for the attacks. Many political activists and journalists were also attacked.

However, one of the most significant acts of violence was the killing of Nidaa Tounes member Lotfi Nakdh. A group of the Revolution Protection Committees close to Ennahda was accused of the crime.

"The danger about this is that violence has become institutional through the practices of the so-called Revolution Protection Committees that have turned into a parallel security and judicial structure that selects offenders, passes judgments against them, and then moves on to punish and cleanse them," Salhi told Magharebia.

"The fear now is that these committees may become above the law," he added.

The opposition's Republican Party (Al Joumhouri) called for disbanding the Revolution Protection Committees and threatened resorting to court.

Opposition parties also accuse the government of keeping silent over violence targeting political parties, politicians and journalists. Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has denied such attacks on more than one occasion.

In a statement, the LTDH, FIDH and EMHRN called on the Tunisian authorities to take the necessary measures to stop these practices and facilitate the work of independent and neutral investigation committees, when and if necessary, to highlight these violations, determine who is responsible, and punish them.

These groups also urged the Tunisian government to protect basic freedoms and human rights as per Tunisia's international obligations.

"What happened throughout 23 years is a marginalisation of society" Moncef Wanass, a political sociologist, said Friday. "Political violence was used to hit the tenacity of society and to prevent the formation of any internal or external force that can say no."

"Salafist violence is violence in which the regime and university elite colluded until they reached this insanity. Then we saw the emergence of radical salafism which doesn't offer any modern era reading," Wanass added.

Wanass suggested holding a national dialogue between the government, civil society, political circles and elites to create a political, legal and security pressure force that would help overcome radicalisation.

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