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Tensions rising in Tunisia after politician's assassination

Tunisian protestors clash with security forces outside the Interior Ministry in Tunis, on Feb. 7 following a demonstration against the killing of opposition figure and human rights lawyer Chokri Belaid. (KHALIL/AFP/Getty Images)

We have this eyewitness account from Tunisia’s capital Tunis which has been rocked by strikes and protests following the murder of leading left-wing politician Chokri Belaid on Wednesday.

Some of his supporters blame the ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahda. Belaid was critical of the power of religious conservatives in a secular country that is the cradle of the Arab uprisings and until now its most successful revolution.

Canadian Frederic Hareau is director of programs for Equitas, a Montreal-based non-profit organization promoting democracy and human rights. He has been working with young people this week on civic engagement. 

“For the last two days people really do not know what is going to happen. I’m talking about violence on the streets. Tonight is calm. People are talking about tomorrow. They think there will be a big mobilization around the funeral.”

Hareau said many Tunisians are accusing the ruling party Ennahda of creating militias who may have been responsible for Belaid’s killing although there is no evidence of this.

“People say they are afraid the country is going to go in a direction where the Islamists are becoming stronger or it can erupt into a civil war. I heard this a lot that there is a divide being created in a country between secular and Islamist. You feel the pessimism is prevailing but people feel that this is another wake up call so things have to change again, we cannot go in that direction of Islamists. And they say that ‘we feel we know the real face of Ennahda’.”

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour 


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