You may have seen reports of rioting by Salafi Islamists in Tunisia recently, attributed by the BBC and others to protests over an art exhibition. But it’s way more serious than that, with a series of attacks on regional offices of the Tunisian trade union movement, the UGTT, as well as some official buildings and left-wing party offices (often linked with the UGTT). ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said today:
“Democracy is under attack in Tunisia today, and the Salafists have the union movement as a primary target. There are grave concerns for the safety of trade union leaders, and others who stand for people’s democratic rights and the rule of law.”
Tunisian Minister of the Interior Ali Laarayedh Minister of the Interior Ali Laarayedh told the country’s Constituent Assembly that 300 “Salafists” in Jendouba attempted to burn the headquarters of the UGTT and a number of opposition parties with Molotov cocktails. The UGTT offices in Bousalam were destroyed and its bureau in Bengarden was burned out.
The 500,000 strong UGTT called for protection of its offices after the largest wave of violence sweeping the country since an Islamist government took over in December. Sami Tahiri, Assistant Secretary-General of the UGTT, said:
“After serious developments in our country due to a lack of security and repeated attacks on the headquarters of the UGTT, we call on all trade unionists to be vigilant day and night to protect the headquarters of regional and local organisations. The Salafists’ attacks are organised terrorism, they must be addressed.”
The TUC is in contact with the UGTT (our Yorkshire and the Humber Region is twinned with the Ben Arous Region around Tunis) and will be sending a message of solidarity as a first step. More action will follow, depending on what the UGTT request – meanwhile you can always donate to the TUC Aid Middle East North Africa appeal, which is still open for contributions.