Tunisian unions fight Islamist violence

Submitted by Matthew on 7 August, 2013 - 3:35

The 600,000-strong Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) organised a general strike on Friday 26 July in response to the murder of a secular politician, Mohamed Brahmi, a leader of the Popular Movement.

The strike brought Tunis, the capital, to a standstill, as flights were cancelled, trains stopped running and most shops were shut.

The following day police fired teargas on thousands of demonstrators protesting outside the parliament.

Brahimi’s assassination is the second murder of an anti-Islamist MP this year. In February Chokri Belaid was killed. The government claims both men were shot with the same weapon, blaming salafist militants for the murders.

However Chhiba Brahmi, Mohamed Brahmi’s sister, accused the ruling Islamist Ennahda party of the murder: “It was [Ennahda] who killed him.” Similar claims were widespread after Belaid’s murder.

Following the killing there were immediate large demonstrations. In Sidi Bouzid, Brahmi’s hometown and the place the Arab Spring began in January 2011, rioters fought police, blockaded public buildings and attacked the Ennahda office. The opposition has called for civil disobedience and for occupations of government offices.

Hussein Abbassi, head of the UGTT, stated: “We consider this government incapable of continuing its work.” The UGTT called for Ennahda to be replaced by a “technocratic government,” demanding that Ennahda resigns within one week or the union will be “forced to consider” other options. The Education minister Salem Labyedh resigned.

Over the weekend of 3-4 August, anti-government protesters sat-in in a central square, while tens of thousands of Ennahda supporters rallied to back their government.