Tunisia: progressive forces still under attack
The Tunisia Quartet civil activist group was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 9 for its pivotal role in channeling the country's revolution in a secular and democratic direction. The Quartet was formed in the summer of 2013, composed of four civil society groups—the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT); the Tunisian League of Human Rights; the Bar Association; and the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts. It led what is called the National Dialogue, bringing together the country's fiercely adversarial political parties to forge a new democratic process. The groups opened the dialogue process amid an alarming political crisis, marked by political assassinations and turmoil. As other Arab countries were descending into civil war, Tunisia came back form the brink, adopting a secular constitution, thanks to a "vibrant civil society with demands for respect for basic human rights," in the words of the Nobel Prize Committee. (HRW, Oct. 9)
But one day before the Nobel Committee announcement, Ridha Sharf el-Din, a prominent member of parliament for the ruling center-left Nidaa Tounes party, survived an assassination attempt, targeted by a lone gunman as he drove toward the coastal city of Sousse. His car was left riddled with bullet holes, although he escaped without injury.
The attack was the first apparent assassination plot to target a major politician in more than a year, but recalls the assassinations of leftist secular politicians in 2013. Those killings led to mass protests that eventually brought down the Ennahda Party, the Islamist formation that had come to power following the 2011 revolution. (Middle East Eye, Oct. 8)