Tunisian President Kais Saied was accused by opposition parties of launching a “coup” with the help of the country’s military after firing the prime minister and freezing parliament. The move comes after anti-government protesters took over the streets of the capital Tunis, expressing dismay over ongoing economic turmoil and a demonstrably poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent loan negotiations with the International Monetary Fund aimed at controlling mass inflation further raised the ire of Tunisians; terms require Tunisia to raise taxes, set higher prices on goods, and implement austerity policies reducing public-sector employment and programs. (Image: Pixabay)
US-led forces are currently carrying out war games in Morocco, the periodic “Afrian Lion” exercises—this year taking place near the disputed region of Western Sahara. Morocco is trumpeting this as a re-affirmation of US recognition of its claim to the territory. The Trump administration last year formally recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for Moroccan diplomatic recognition of Israel as a part of the so-called Abraham Accords. But Spain, the disputed territory’s former colonial ruler, is opposing Morocco’s current push for international recognition of its claim. Just before the war games opened, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya called US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging him to reverse Washington’s recognition of Moroccan rule in Western Sahara. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)
A Tunisian appeals court ordered the release of jailed activist Rania Amdouni following an outcry from civil society and human rights groups. Amdouni had been charged with “insulting police and abuse of morals,” which sparked concerns from rights groups over suppression of free speech. Amdouni is the president of Chouf Minorities and a member of the Tunisian Association for Justice & Equality (DAMJ), both organizations concerned with rights for women and the LGBT. She has faced abuse from law enforcement over of her involvement in recent protests against austerity policies and police brutality. Police and politicians have shared her photo on social media with disparaging comments about her appearance and presumed sexual orientation and gender identity. (Photo via Twitter)
The army has been ordered into the streets in Tunisia following days of angry protests by disaffected youth that led to hundreds of arrests. Enraged over widespread unemployment, youth have erected roadblocks of burning tires, clashed with police, ransacked shops and banks, and hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at government buildings. The protests began in poor districts of Tunis, but quickly spread to other cities. At the more organized demonstrations, marchers carry placards reading “Employment is a right.” The new revolt comes on the ten-year anniversary of the overthrow of long-ruling dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the first regime change of the Arab Revolution. (Image via Twitter)
As nations across the globe remain under lockdown, more sweeping powers are being assumed by governments in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing demands for relief from poor barrios running out of resources under his lockdown orders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shoot protesters in the streets. Police have opened fire on lockdown violators in Nigeria, Ghana and Peru. In Tunisia, remote-controlled wheeled robots have been deployed to accost lockdown violators. States of emergency, including broad powers to restrict movements and control the media, have been declared from the Philippines to Serbia. Amnesty International warns that the restrictive measures could become a “new normal.” (Photo: Pulse, Ghana)
Anti-government protests broke out across Egypt, with thousands joining demonstrations calling for the ouster of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi—a rare show of defiance since he established his dictatorship four years ago. Demonstrators filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, center of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Protesters also gathered in Alexandria, Suez and Gharbiya. Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators chanting “rise up, fear not, Sisi must go” and, reviving the slogan of the 2011 Arab Revolution, “the people demand the downfall of the regime.” Hundreds of protesters were finally dispersed from Tahrir Square by the riot police. (Photo via Twitter)
Protests against austerity and the lords of capital are erupting simultaneously in Iran, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco, China, Peru, Honduras, Argentina and Ecuador, recalling the international protest wave of 2011. Such moments open windows of utopian possibility, but those windows inevitably seem to close as protest movements are manipulated by Great Power intrigues or derailed into ethnic or sectarian scapegoating. What can we do to keep the revolutionary flame alive, build solidarity across borders, and resist the exploitation and diversion of protest movements? Bill Weinberg explores this question on Episode One of the long-awaited CounterVortex podcast. You can listen on SoundCloud.
A Jewish school on the Tunisian island of Djerba, home to one of North Africa's ancient Jewish communities, was attacked as anti-government protests raged around the country. Days earlier, synagogues in the Iranian city of Shiraz were similarly vandalized amid nationwide protests over austerity measures. Are indigenous Jews of the Middle East and North Africa being scapegoated amid the renewed protests over economic agony? (Photo: Rabbis at Djerba synagogue, 1940 via Beit Hatfutsot)
At least one is reported dead as angry protests have spread across Tunisia in response to an austerity package imposed by the government under pressure from the International Monetary Fund. Under the new budget, which took effect Jan. 1, fuel prices are hiked, and new taxes imposed on housing, cars, phone calls, Internet services, and several other items. Hamma Hammami, leader of the opposition Popular Front, pledged to keep up the pressure, telling reporters: "We will stay on the street and we will increase the pace of the protests until the unjust financial law is dropped." (Photo: North Africa Post)
Tunisia's parliament voted to overturn a 1973 directive prohibiting marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man—a victory for the country's transition to secular rule. But one day earlier, the parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve a controversial amnesty law pardoning thousands implicated in corruption and embezzlement under the former regime of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. The opposition bloc boycotted the vote, as protesters massed outside the parliament building, calling the step a move back toward dictatorship.
A federal appeals court in Washington DC ruled that the military judge hearing the case against the 9-11 defendants should have recused himself for making comments that revealed his bias in the matter. The case against the accused conspirators is still pending nearly a decade after it opened, beset by a long string of controversies and irregularities.
The democratic transition in Tunisia since the 2011 uprising has been the one real success story of the Arab Revolution—and the Tunisian revolution was also the first that served to spark the subsequent wave. So Tunisia’s pro-democracy forces have international responsibilities, seen as keepers of the flame. It is distressing to learn that the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT), a pillar of the country’s pro-democracy movement, sent a delegation to Damascus to meet with dictator Bashar Assad and express solidarity with his “war against terrorism.”