By: Lotfi Saibi posted on Friday, Aug 24, 2012
Our recent history is rising from its ashes. The street is buzzing, but its screams are falling on the deaf ears of the prestigious Carthage Palace and meeting with the absolute indifference by the occupants of the Kasbah.
More than 18 months removed from the popular revolution that toppled the autocratic rule of Tunisia’s Zein Abedine Ben Ali, public discontent is once again coming to a boil. Lofti Saibi writes that rising inequality and the government’s failure to curb Salafist violence is testing citizens’ patience.
The “second revolution” has become the door to salvation that many of our citizens have hoped for.
I have had the opportunity to speak at length with the people of Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, Gafsa and other areas, and I’m afraid that the risk of revolt is imminent. The situation in these regions is even worse than it was before December 2010.
The situation in Tunis and other cities is no less critical. For three successive nights, we saw Salafist gunmen with swords and sticks attacking cultural and public events in the main cities. All of that happened in front of a government that watches and allows it to occur. This leads us to believe that this government is either unable to respond or that it is distracting us as it prepares other “revolutionary” laws.
The first explanation is impossible since the government showed us a week ago that the police are not only capable of protecting “government property,” but also of preparing a well-organized counter-attack on citizens by arming themselves with tear gas and rubber bullets, as was the case in Sidi Bouzid.
By this inaction in the face of the recent violence by Salafists, the government has achieved two things: It encouraged the radical and violent Salafist branch and sent a message to the people telling them they have to choose between backing down on their demands and being the targets of violence. The longer the Troika continues to ignore these Salafist radicals, the stronger and bolder they will get, thus creating the need to pay security guards or form armed self-defense groups.
When comparing the two periods during which the dissatisfaction index (economic, social and political) was at its peak (December 2010 and August 2012), we find many similarities, but many differences as well. It is the similarities that will lead to a massive revolt in the near future. Such a revolt will this time be more severe and affect all socio-economic categories. However, it risks being quickly and violently suppressed by the government and its militia.
The government’s response will be a violent attack against any person or group deemed “against God,” which will encourage more radical Islamists to resort to violence.
If we allow violence to last more than 48 hours, we give rise to a cycle of attack against attack, which will open the door for many other groups that are currently invisible to emerge and participate in the battle. It is assumed that such armed and ideologically driven groups would train and prepare the fighting as an inevitable rendezvous with destiny.
The fight will be long and violent. When well-funded religious extremists and former members of ousted President Zein Abedine Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally (CDR) and militias still seeking to destabilize the country are mixed with hundreds of thousands of poor and lower-middle marginalized citizens, and the elite and middle class are seeing their lives being threatened and a government unable and unwilling to act justly, that is an explosive mixture, more commonly known as civil war.
For the first time in their history, Tunisians are experiencing what it is like to be taken hostage at home. They are hostages to political and social tension as well as religious radicalization. For their part, the police cannot or do not want to intervene due to a lack of clear guidelines or ability on the part of the Ministry of Interior.
It will not come as a surprise to learn that neighborhood-protection groups are being formed in order to monitor and protect inhabitants from the “Salafist police,” which has assigned itself the mission of “cleansing” the streets from bars serving alcohol and women wearing unacceptable clothes, as stated by the legally authorized founder of the group Adel Alimi.
Such a possibility reminds us of the beginning of the post-war period in Iraq, of Lebanon in the late 1970s and of Niger and Sudan. These countries were manipulated both inside and outside, just as our government and radical elements are currently. Whether the money comes from the east or the West, what matters is that Tunisia, as we know it, will struggle to continue to exist.
Finally, I hope that this scenario is just a work of my imagination. However, this should be the concern of political, social, intellectual, economic and religious leaders, as well as that of parents and education officials. All of these officials, along with citizens, should focus the debate on tolerance and acceptance of others.
- Al Qaeda Destroying Tunisia; Tourists Under Threat (aangirfan.blogspot.com)
- The Emergence of Salafism in Tunisia (jadaliyya.com)
- Strike, anti-government demo in birthplace of Tunisia uprising (dailystar.com.lb)
- Violent protests strike birthplace of Tunisian uprising (VIDEO, PHOTOS) (rt.com)
- Op-Ed Contributor: Don’t Fear All Islamists, Fear Salafis (nytimes.com)