In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Tunisian protests persist as teachers go on strike

Posted by seumasach on January 25, 2011

Today’s Zaman

25th January, 2011

Shouting Tunisian protesters smashed police cars after they were hit by tear gas as tensions resumed Monday in the capital of a country struggling to stabilize itself after the president was overthrown.

 

After an overnight ‘sleep-in’ in defiance of the country’s curfew, scores of protesters from Tunisian provinces gathered in front of the prime minister’s office on Monday morning, shouting anti-government slogans. As the crowd grew rowdy, police fired tear gas grenades in the air. Demonstrators covered their faces with Tunisian flags to protect themselves from the acrid clouds. They shattered the windows of police cars, sending shards of glass into the empty cars and onto the ground. Schools were set to reopen on Monday after protracted closure because of the unrest, but teachers went on strike. Some students joined the demonstrations instead of heading to their classrooms.

The protesters are angry that holdovers from former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime hold leading posts in the interim government in place since last week. Ben Ali fled the country Jan. 14 after 23 years in power, pushed out by weeks of deadly protests driven by anger over joblessness, corruption and repression.

Noisy street demonstrations have continued since Ben Ali’s departure, but most have been peaceful. State TV also reported on Monday that a former Ben Ali political adviser who had been sought by police, Abdelwaheb Abdallah, has been located and placed under house arrest.

Police have cracked down on key allies of the ousted president, placing two high-ranking officials under house arrest and detaining the head of a well-known private TV station for allegedly trying to slow down the country’s nascent steps toward democracy.

Demands unchanged

Many marchers in this predominantly Muslim country chanted the line “There is no God but God, and the Martyr is God’s Beloved” and some held aloft signs saying “Long live a Free Tunisia” and urging Ben Ali’s former RCD Party to be banned from power.

“We have gotten rid of the head of the snake but the tail is still alive — and we need to completely kill it,” said protester Nizar Bouazziz, a 24-year-old student who said he walked to the rally from Sidi Bouzid. “We are here to support our people and the revolution,” he added. “We don’t want to see one party gone and then another same oppressive party in its place. We want the Tunisians who have been forced to exile and who have good education and money to come back and invest in this country.”

Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” sparked scattered protests and civil disobedience across the Middle East and North Africa. Many observers were looking to see if Tunisians can complete their fervent push for democracy. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, who took that post in 1999 under Ben Ali and has kept it through the upheaval, has vowed to quit politics after upcoming elections. But he has insisted that he needs to stay on to shepherd Tunisia through a transition to democracy. Many other Cabinet members are also Ben Ali-era holdovers.

In former colonial overseer France, President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday paid tribute to a French photographer killed in the protests. Some 78 civilians have been killed, many shot by police, according to the government’s official count. The opposition says the overall toll is much higher.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Ghannouchi and said the US is encouraged by indications the interim government is trying to be inclusive and ensure that the many segments of Tunisian society will have a voice.

Shouting Tunisian protesters smashed police cars after they were hit by tear gas as tensions resumed Monday in the capital of a country

 

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