Tunisian unions condemn ‘terrorism, violence & murders’
Showing yet again how important the trade union movement is to the development of democracy in Tunisia, the UGTT called a general strike today to protest at the murder of opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi the day before. The avowedly political strike was announced “in defence of Tunisia and to protest at this new political assassination” as well as “terrorism, violence and murders.” It allowed Tunisians to show their repugnance at the murder in a day of mourning.
But the underlying issues are twofold:
- secular forces like the UGTT are concerned that the Ennahda Government, while moderately Islamist itself, is allowing more radical Islamists to grow in power and influence. They blame the Government for the apparent immunity enjoyed by radical Islamists responsible for the murder of politicians like the socialist Muslim Brahmi and, in February, secularist Chokri Belaid; and
- unemployment in Tunisia remains at 17% and youth unemployment is nearly twice that, despite the revolution that was mostly a reaction to economic problems. The UGTT blames the Government for doing little to grow the economy or create jobs.
The UGTT, whose National Administrative Council will meet next Monday, issued a statement saying:
“The UGTT stresses that this hideous crime committed on the day of the celebration of Republic Day against the nation’s martyr Mohamed Brahmi, murdered in broad daylight, is a vain attempt to silence a free voice calling for defending the objectives of the Revolution of Freedom and Dignity and the values of a democratic and social republic.”
Many Tunisian trade unionists welcomed the recent overthrow of the Morsi government in Egypt and there are similarities between the popular protests that preceded that and the protests organised by the UGTT, apart from the Islamist nature of the regimes in both countries. Demonstrators on Thursday set fire to offices of the Ennahda party in Sidi Bouzid, where Brahmi came from.
However, on Friday, the streets of Tunis and Sidi Bouzid, were deserted. Even the cafes that usually open during the Ramadan fasts staying shut according to one report. The airport, factories and government offices were all affected, as well as banks, shops and restaurants.
According to Reuters, one demonstrator in Sidi Bouzid told them:
“They (Ennahda) gave the green light to kill Tunisian people. We used to support them. But now, they want to get rid of us.”