Magharebia (Washington DC)

Tunisians Use Banknotes to Voice Criticism

Tunis — A new trend has emerged in Tunisia whereby people use banknotes to voice their frustration with the government.

The Central Bank on November 15th issued a statement urging Tunisians to stay away from writing political slogans on banknotes.

"After confirming the use of banknotes by some citizens as a means to express their views and political positions by writing slogans on 10 and 20 dinars banknotes, the Central Bank of Tunisia calls on citizens to desist from this activity and to refrain from such methods of expressing opinions," the statement read.

But people are refusing to heed the call of the Central Bank of Tunisia. In fact, they continue to use bills for their "Ennahda degage" campaign and their drive has gained momentum.

Launched on Facebook, the campaign invited all Tunisian men and women to write slogans on banknotes calling on the government to resign.

A similar campaign was also launched in Spain and France, according to France 24. Europeans are also calling on some of their politicians to step down, or simply criticising the way their leaders handled the economic crisis.

A Tunisian Central Bank official told AFP that the banks had reported receiving banknotes with slogans hostile to Ennahda, echoing the opposition's calls for the leading party to step down from power.

This week, the phenomenon expanded to reach the ruling troika. An employee of one of the public banks reported the appearance of slogans against the coalition on banknotes.

"Some of the banknotes have obscene phrases that go beyond the limits of decency," said Tariq Benzid, a bank executive. "Other banknotes now have slogans defending the government's achievements and accusing the opposition."

For his part, Lotfi Zarrouk, a 30-year-old technician, said, "I think that this campaign will end in failure. I wish people would look for other ideas to address the mistakes of the government."

"The sit-in throughout the last month of Ramadan in Bardo square in front of the National Constituent assembly didn't bring about any changes and I do not think this banknotes campaign will bring changes either," Zarrouk said.

As for Hasna al-Mouelhi, she saw in the campaign a quaint and peaceful way to express an opinion, saying, "It is better than the use of violence, whether verbal or physical. I liked it and engaged in it after being encouraged by my children to take this step. I was amused by it to some extent."

The campaign has seen some risible cases where a number of citizens placed 50 and 100 cent coins in papers where they invited the government to leave. This act showcased their inability to obtain banknotes because of their economic situation, which they described as poor.

For his part, Yassin al-Ouaer, a bank executive said, "It is a costly behaviour. Printing banknotes is very expensive. Misusing them could hurt the national economy."

A statement by the Central Bank noted, "Currency is an important symbol of the social relationship and an essential tool to gain confidence and national unity. Harming the national currency is an affront to the country's sovereignty."

"The currency and banknotes represent one of the elements of citizenship and must be maintained by everyone, and we should refrain from defacing them," the bank said. The statement pointed out that the cost of printing banknotes was borne by the public and paid in foreign currency.

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