Archive for the ‘North Africa’ Category
“Tunisia anti-terror march kicks off World Social Forum. Activists from around the globe honour victims of museum attack last week that left 21 people, mostly tourists, dead.”
Sunday: A demonstration against terrorism is being organised after the bloody attack at the Bardo Museum. Tens of thousands of people and foreign dignitaries, including French President Francois Hollande, are expected to participate.
Adapted from Libération.
People and organisations will gather from about 11:00 local time (1000 GMT) in Bab Saadoun. They will march to the front of the museum. This building, which houses an outstanding collection of mosaics, was the target of the March 18 attack that killed 22 people – 21 tourists and a policeman.
Prominent personalities, political figures and overseas guests will assemble at around 12:00 (11:00 GMT) with Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi over a hundred metres along the outside of the museum prior to inaugurating a monument to the memory of the victims.
“We must now show our patriotism” said Minister of Tourism Salma Elloumi Rekik on national television. The attack was “a heavy blow (…) but this time did not kill us, he made us stronger,” she assured.
President Caid Essebsi called Wednesday on his countrymen to massively participate in the march “to express the strength of Tunisia” and “send a message abroad that Tunisia continues its fight against terrorism.”
Tunisia, the pioneer of the “Arab Spring”, despite its internal turmoil has completed its transition to democracy with elections in late 2014. But its stability could be threatened by the rise of Jihadist threat as well as the persistence of the economic and social problems that were the root of the 2011 revolution.
French President François Hollande will be present on the day that France holds the second round of the departmental (regional) elections. Polish and Palestinian presidents Bronislaw Komorowski and Mahmoud Abbas will take part in the march, as will Italian and Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and Matteo Renzi and the Spanish and Dutch Ministers of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Garcia-Margallo and Bert Koenders.
“From now on, everyone reacts after each terrorist attack as if the attack was carried out in their own country. This is new and it’s important, “said President Caid Essebsi to the French daily Ouest-France.
This march is reminiscent of the one organised in January by President Hollande after the attacks in Paris against the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman and a kosher supermarket.
The Islamist Ennahda party, the second political force in the country in the present coalition government, has called on supporters to participate in the march “to express the unity of Tunisians face this danger and their determination to defend their homeland (… ) preserve their freedom. “
The powerful trade union federation, the UGTT has also invited its members to attend “en masse”.
But the Popular Front ( Front populaire) the left coalition and main opposition party, announced that he would not participate. It accused ‘certain participants’ in the march of “hypocrisy” – a clear reference to Ennahda.
The spokesman of the Front, Hamma Hammami, said that the demonstration was “a way to cover up the issue of the responsibility (…) for the spread of terrorism.”
Many leftist policies accuse the Islamist party of having shown excessive tolerance towards the growing Jihadist groups when in power (late 2011-early 2014). They charge it with responsibility for, or complicity, in the murders in 2013 of two members of the Popular Front, Chokri Belaid Mohamed Brahmi.
Faced with these divisions, the daily La Presse spoke of “an absurd battle”, saying that “the world (…) expects that proves us to show that we deserve their backing, and the wave of solidarity that this event will demonstrate throughout today. “
The attack of March 18 was claimed by the Islamic State Group (EI). But the Tunisian Interior Ministry said the attack was led by a leader of the Falange Okba Ibn Nafaa, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda chased out by the army more than two years ago from in the mountains bordering Algeria.
The Bardo Museum, is preparing to resume normal activity. On Friday, it opened its doors to school pupils, students and members of delegations. It intends to open its doors to the public on Monday.
More on the Front Populaire’s position:
The Popular Front leader Mohamed Jmour said his party refuses to participate in the walk on Sunday, if the parties involved in terrorism are involved.
He added in a statement Friday that components of the old troika (previous government) refuse to this day to take responsibility for what has happened in Tunisia.
Mohamed Jmour also expressed also his refusal to participate in an event side by side with French leaders who are still not apologised, according to his statements, to the Tunisians for all the harm done to them during the period of the protectorate.
Islamists Join with Right-Wing Against Gay Marriage in France.
This has been signaled to me (JM):
Hassan Aglagal, Moroccan member of the NPA (Nouveau parti anti-capitaliste), is outraged to see Muslim Participation and Spirituality (Participation et Spiritualité musulmane), a reactionary religious movement of Moroccan origin, regularly participate in anti-racism initiatives alongside left formations. Following our position against holding a joint meeting with the UOIF [ 1 ] , he asked us to make public his outrage at this situation.
(1) L’Union des organisations islamiques de France. A Muslim Brotherhood grouping (The Qur’an is our Constitution!) with social and political views on most issues that would classify it on the reactionary right (see Pourquoi je n’irai pas au rassemblement contre l’islamophobie aux côtés de l’UOIF). Its British counterpart is represented in Unite Against Fascism (UAF) by Mohammed Kozbar of the Muslim Association of Britain (1)
(The Tendance covered the above Meeting – noting the presence of the homophobic ‘racial and spiritual struggle’ group, Indigènes de la République. amongst other problems, earlier this month.)
Participation and Islamic Spirituality (PSM) is an association representing the movement Al Adl Wal Ihsan (Justice and Charity) in France. This is a movement of political Islam founded in 1973 in Morocco by the mystical Sufi Abdelassame Yassin (1928-2012) who it considers “an intellectual and spiritual father”. PSM essentially works in France to highlight, among a wider audience, the man he was and his “teachings”.
However, like the UOIF, PSM is not a purely religious based organisation and does not hesitate to get actively involved in the social debate, defending reactionary positions. It backed demonstrations on March 24 and May 26, 2013 along with the right and the extreme right in the (so-called) Manif pour Tous, and has undisguised sympathy for the Alliance Vita, one of the major anti-abortion lobbies in France PSM has also participated in the anti-abortion body’s summer school in 2013.
While the movement claims to renounce violence, two political murders have been attributed to Al Adl in Morocco. Yassine’s followers have been directly involved in the murder of two left wing students active in UNEM (National Union of Students of Morocco) in November 1991 in Oujda Ait Mohamed Benaissa Ljid in March 1993 in Fez.
This reactionary and obscurantist movement, like all forms of political Islam, keeps repeating the hollow slogan “Islam is the solution” as a response to all social and political questions. It advocates a return to a pure and simpler past with the application of the “Sharia” and the laws of “true Islam”, that is those of the time of the Prophet! Their policy, advanced with similar bodies since the seizure of power by the Ayatollahs in Iran, took advantage of the weakness of the left and the rise of the movements of this ideological-political affiliation, has enabled it to become the largest organised force in Morocco. Obviously, all the reactionary Islamist movements such as “Justice and Charity” reject secularism and the separation between religion and politics and oppose equal rights and freedom of expression. Members of PSM have no interest in revealing their political project, and have the ability to hide their true ideas by practicing concealment based on the ” taqiya “. (Note: the pious practice of dissimulating one’s true beliefs in the service of Islamism).
It’s amazing to see organizations like the NPA, PCF, Togetherness, The antifa Capab present with reactionary organisations of the mettle of UOIF and PSM! Both associations can in no case be partners of leftist organisations.
If it is right to lead the battle against racism and against ALL oppression, we must work with partners who have credibility, not with reactionary and obscurantist organizations such as the UOIF and PSM!
(1) See recently (5th March),
Professor Reza Moradi interrupted a talk on immigration organized by the University and College Union (UCU) held at the London Metropolitan University, to criticize the decision to invite Mohammed Kozbar, vice president of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), to take part in the discussion panel.
IB Times “MAB is what is known as a ‘soft’ Islamist organization, normalizing and justifying terrorism, the Caliphate and sharia laws,” Moradi wrote on his Facebook page after the incident. “I am outraged that my union would share a panel with an organisation, despite its links with the Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, its defense of death by stoning for adultery and support of the death penalty for apostates such as me.
“This is not standing with immigrants and refugees – many of whom have fled the brutality of Islamofascists in our own countries, including myself – and of course many Muslims.” “I don’t want my university to give legitimacy to any kind of political movement.
See also (from Confusionnisme Info) Maroc : A propos de l’islampolitique et la gauche radicale
The Tunisian Parliament has come under attack, with lawmakers saying gunfire can be heard at the scene. Local reporters tweet militants entered the Bardo Museum through the parliament, taking several tourists hostage.
Militants dressed as soldiers are attacking the Tunisia Assembly, local journalists say. The parliament is located in Bardo Palace, which is also home to a national museum.
Several tourists have been taken hostage, according to Radio Mosaique FM.
Tunisian security forces have surrounded at least two militants believed to be holding hostages at a museum in the country’s parliament grounds.
Private radio station Radio Mosaique said that three men dressed in military-style clothing may have taken hostages inside the museum.
Latest news directly from Tunisia talks of around 20 Tourist hostages.
Un grand nombre de touristes ont été pris en otages par 3 ou 4 individus armés qui se sont présentés au musée en tenue militaire.
D’après les premiers faits rapportés il y aurait un certain nombre de blessés, voir même de morts, enregistrés suite au coups de feu tirés sur les tourristes qui venaient de descendre du bus qui les transportait au musée.
D’après les déclarations faites par un guide touristiques au correspondant de mosaïque fm sur place une vingtaine de touristes dont retenus en otages , vu qu’une centaine d’entre eux ont pu être évacués d’urgence par la porte arrière du musée dès que les premiers coups de feu ont été tirés.
Direct Info (Tunsia).
Des tirs ont été entendus au musée national, situé dans le même bâtiment que le Parlement ce mercredi.
There were unverified reports that a foreign tourist or tourists may have been taken hostage at the Bardo museum.
Shortly before, exchanges of gunfire were heard at Tunisia‘s parliament building, the country’s state news agency reported.
Parliamentary committees suspended their meetings as MPs were ordered to assemble in the main chamber, Islamist MP Monia Brahim told AFP.
A witness near the parliament told Reuters a large police presence was moving to evacuate the building.
The Bardo museum chronicles Tunisia’s history and includes one of the world’s largest collections of Roman mosaics.
Tunisia has struggled with violence by Islamic extremists since overthrowing a dictator in 2011.
This does not come out of the blue,
The Ministry of Interior announced on Monday the arrest of 22 militants working in four alleged terrorist cells recruiting young Tunisians to fight in Libya. The ministry also announced an additional 10 other militants were also arrested while attempting to cross into Libya to join militant groups.
The two successful operations were led by the National Unity of Investigation for Terrorist Crimes.
According to the Ministry of Interior, the four cells discovered operating in Kairouan were responsible for recruiting young Tunisians, with a focus on targeting students to join militants in Libya. “This terrorist network is collaborating with dangerous Tunisian terrorists active in Libya, and working to supervise training camps with their counterparts from different countries,” a statement by the Ministry of Interior said.
The Ministry of Interior also stated it seized around ten thousand dinars and 200 Euros in cash, iPads, memory cards as well as mobile phones.
A known al Qaeda spokesman said in a voice recording broadcast today that the militant group was behind a deadly suicide attack at a Tunisian synagogue in April which killed 21 people, including 14 Germans.
It was the first direct claim of al Qaeda involvement in the blast near El Ghriba synagogue on the resort island of Djerba. German government ministers had earlier said there was evidence linking the blast to the militant network.
“This operation was carried out by al Qaeda network. A youth could not see his brothers in Palestine butchered and murdered…(while) he saw Jews cavorting in Djerba,” Sulaiman bu Ghaith said in the undated recording broadcast by Qatar-based al-Jazeera channel.
“So this spirit of jihad surged and he (the al Qaeda member) carried out this successful operation, may God accept it,” said bu Ghaith, who emerged as an al Qaeda spokesman after the September 11 attacks, which Washington blames on al Qaeda.
It was not clear when the tape was received or where bu Ghaith was speaking from. He has spoken about al Qaeda activities on Web sites and Middle Eastern news channels.
For many people in the world, including this Blog, Tunisia is a hero nation, and its people have shown their best side in recent years.
If we hear any Stop the War Coalition or SWP spokesperson opining on this unfolding tragedy – no doubt to say that Tunisia will be safe from Islamic killers if it stops invading the Middle East – we shall vomit.
Tunisia: Nidaa Tounes Beats Islamists.
Tunisia’s Ennahda party, the first Islamist movement to secure power after the 2011 “Arab Spring” revolts, conceded defeat on Monday in elections that are set to make its main secular rival the strongest force in parliament.
Official results from Sunday’s elections – the second parliamentary vote since Tunisians set off uprisings across much of the Arab World by overthrowing autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali – were still to be announced.
But a senior official at Ennahda, which ruled in a coalition until it was forced to make way for a caretaker government during a political crisis at the start of this year, acknowledged defeat by the secular Nidaa Tounes party.
We have accepted this result, and congratulate the winner Nidaa Tounes,” the official, Lotfi Zitoun, told Reuters. However, he repeated the party’s call for a new coalition including Ennahda. “We are calling once again for the formation of a unity government in the interest of the country.”
Earlier, a party source said preliminary tallies showed the secular party had won 80 seats in the 217-member assembly, ahead of 67 secured by Ennahda.
These are some percentage figures.
Nidaa Tounes 38.24% = 83 seats Ennahdha: 31.33% = 68 seats Free Patriotic Union (run by rich businessman and Africa football club owner Slim Riahi), : 7.83% = 17 Seats Popular Front (the left bloc): 5.25% = 12 seats Afek Tounes: 2.3% = 5 seats Congress for the Republic: 1.84% = 4 seats The Initiative: 1.84% = 4 seats
Le Monde reports,
The Islamist party knew he would see a decline in popularity but had not imagined such a setback. Triumphantly elected in 2011, when the first free elections were held after the fall of Ben Ali, the movement had two difficult years in government, marked by economic failure, political assassinations and a rise in terrorism.
On Sunday, voters did not hesitate to say they had voted Ennahda in 2011 and had been then disappointed. So that they had decided to turn to Nidaa Tounès. “We need people who can make the country move forward “, noted a resident of Rafraf, small coastal town in the north, attracted as were many voters by the figure of Beji Caid Essebsi, a former prime minister and leader of the transitional government after the revolution.
While British commentators like the Guardian’s Seumas Milne had described Ennahda as “progressive” and “centre left” critics from Tunisia’s important secular left and labour movement had accused it of harbouring a hard-line Islamist wing, and practising neo-liberal economics.
The assassination of the left leader Chokri Belaïd (February 2013) indicated the existence of a far-right Islamist current prepared to use violence against the progressive movement. It as a key moment in defining the difference between Islamist reaction – including that of Ennahda – and the Tunisian left (see: Tunisie : Le mouvement ouvrier à la croisée des chemins.). At one point it looked as if the fringes of the party would work with the religious hard-liners and establish Islamic ‘mini-states’ based on the Sharia.
This did not happen.
The Parliamentary Islamists recoiled from the terrorism of the Salafist inspired street fighters.
All Tunisian elected parties have since accepted a new (2014) Constitution, unique in the Arab world, which establishes a framework for open decentralised government, promotes gender equality and accepts freedom of religion (that is the right not to be a Muslim), although restricts attacks on faith.
Nidaa Tounes (the حركة نداء تونس Nidā’ Tūnis, French: Appel de la Tunisie, Call of Tunisia), is a secular party, or as Wikipedia calls it “secularist”. “founded by the former prime minister Beji Caid el Sebsi after the post-revolution 2011 elections. It describes itself as a “modernist” party.”
In this context modernist means that the party is dedicated to democracy, gender equality, social openness, and is not prepared to allow movements imposing Islamic rules on daily life. Economic development is seen as a condition of progress.
“The party has patched together former members of ousted president Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Rally, secular leftists, progressive liberals and Destourians (followers of Tunisia’s “founder” Habib Bourguiba). In addition, the party has the support of many members of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) and the national employers’ union, UTICA. They believe that Tunisia’s secular forces have to unite to counter the dominance of the Islamist Ennahda Movement.”
Nidaa Tounes’ promises increased growth and a reduction in unemployment (currently at 15,20%).
It is believed that the party’s criticisms of the “instrumentalisation” of Islam, experienced candidates (regardless of their Destourian past), and its call for “sécurité et de la stabilité” accounts for its successes.
To their left with 17 seats the Popular Front has achieved Parliamentary representation. It suffered from leftist in-fighting, and the alliance of some trade unionists with Nidaa Tounes. Nevertheless it also remains linked to the left-wing of the powerful Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT).
It is believed that the UGTT and Tunisia’s strong civil society have helped hinder the growth of an Islamist anti-democratic movement.
Nevertheless over 2,400 Tunisian citizens (out of a population of 10,89 million) have joined the jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
It is expected that very different social conflicts will result from any attempt by the probable national unity government that the elections are likely to create (led by Nidaa Tounes) to tie a ‘modernising’ economic agenda to neo-liberal policies. Calling themselves “technocrats” is an obvious attempt by politicians to deflect opposition to unpopular measures which could include further austerity.
For the moment minds are concentrated on the defeat of Ennahda.
There are inevitable charges of – marginal – electoral malpractice.
But some things stand out: watching the images of voting in Tunis on the (UK) telly news stations today you could have been excused for simply thinking how ordinary the Tunisians looked – democratic, calm, modern people.
Tunisian Women Protesting for Fundamental Rights in New Constitution.
Here’s just some of what these brave elected representatives agreed upon in the face of strong pressure from the more extreme factions of their parties:
- Guaranteed equality between men and women
- A constitutional mandate for environmental protection, only the third country in the world to do so
- A declaration that health care is a human right, with preventative care and treatment for every citizen
- A democracy with civil laws that respects freedom of religion
- An established right to due process and protection from torture
This is a revolution of democracy and a great victory for human rights — and the more we recognize that, the more Tunisia can shine as an example for the Western and the Arab world!
MESSAGE FOR TUNISIAN LEGISLATORS: We , the citizens of the world, applaud your bravery in making a strong commitment to universal human values in your constitution. People deprived of democracy around the world look to you to set the example of human rights and democratic principle — hold true to the promises made in this revolutionary document!
Last Friday, largely unnoticed in the Anglophone press, invited by Tunisia’s provisional President,Mohamed Moncef Marzouki,a whole range of Heads of State, from Africa, Arab countries, and Europe ( France’s President – the sole Western leader to attend) took part in a ceremony in Tunis to celebrate this step forward.
The French Gauche anticapitaliste (part of the Front de gauche), has called the Constitution a “Phare” (a Beacon) of democratic social principle, though not necessarily a model that others can follow.
Some doubts about the new Constitution remain,
On Human Rights Watch Amna Guellali (Director of the Human Rights Watch office for Tunisia and Algeria) observes,
Article 6 attempts the impossible task of reconciling two radically different visions of society. On the one hand, it caters to a hyper-religious audience that sees the government as a watchdog and protector of all things sacred. At the same time, the article describes a society that leaves each person the freedom of religious choice, without intrusion or interference. The two irreconcilable visions are forced together in a complicated and wordy fashion.
The article, as adopted, reads:
“The State is the guardian of religion. It guarantees liberty of conscience and of belief, the free exercise of religious worship and the neutrality of the mosques and of the places of worship from all partisan instrumentalisation.
The State commits itself to the dissemination of the values of moderation and tolerance and to the protection of the sacred and the prohibition of any offense thereto. It commits itself, equally, to the prohibition of, and the fight against, appeals to Takfir [charges of apostasy] and incitement to violence and hatred.”
These paragraphs, overloaded with meaning and references, are filled with contradictions. More disturbing, however, is how vague they are. The clauses allow for the most repressive of interpretations in the name of offence against the sacred. Citing the constitution, lawyers, judges and politicians could interpret Article 6 however they see fit. This ambivalence could hold grave consequences for the country.
This problem, the ” the criminalization of actions that could be considered “offence(s) to the sacred” remains a potential mine-field.
It is unlikely to disappear.
Likes a Larf.
French President François Hollande is known for his jokes.
David Cameron, said that he would roll out the red carpet for French companies who did not wish to pay the 75% tax rates (for the highest earners) the Socialist-led government had introduced.
Holland replied, “J’apprécie l’humour, et surtout l’humour britannique. Donc j’étais très heureux que l’on puisse m’offrir un tapis pour les prochains mois et les prochaines années.”
I like a joke, particularly British humour. So, I am happy that they will be able to offer me a red carpet, in the coming months, and indeed for the coming years.
There is an article, in English, on the BBC web-site, giving more details on this, appealing side, of the French President.
This time his fondness for a laugh has got Hollande in hot water.
On Monday, December 16, the 70th anniversary celebration of main French Jewish umbrella group CRIF (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions), Hollande joked that Interior Minister Manuel Valls had returned from a trip to Algeria “safe and sound…which is saying something”.
Algerian officials were not amused.
On Saturday in Algiers, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra told journalists that the French President’s wisecrack about France’s former colony was “a regrettable incident”.
The Algerian press was was particularly unamused by the joke. On Saturday, five days after Hollande made the comment, the front pages of Arabic-language newspapers El-Khabar, Echorouk and Ennahar featured the news. One headline read: “Hollande mocks Algeria in front of the Jews”. France 24.
Hollande should have read Claude Cockburn.
In I Claud (1967) Cockburn observed that humour often falls flat in diplomatic exchanges.
Beginning with De Gaulle (who liked to make, often cutting, witticisms), Cockburn then brings up the case of high European diplomacy and (if memory serves me rightly) a Renaissance example where an attempt at wit caused more serious difficulties than Hollande has, so far, encountered.
Left-wing political humour is a genre in its own right (Hollande is reported to be a master there was well).
Here too we find a regrettable tendency not to get the jest.
The SWP leadership, despite its fame as a laughing-stock, shows an unhappy inclination to resent the honest efforts of wags, on the Internet and off it.
Words such as “slander” spring to their lips.
Even the Weekly Worker, we hear, shows a humourless school-teacher side when that august publication is subjected to mild ribaldry.
Tendance Coatesy likes funny.
And that’s that.