The interim government had forbidden protests under emergency laws, but growing frustration at the lack of political change culminated in a week of continuous protests starting with a march of 40,000 people on Friday 18 February.

The following Friday, designated as a day of rage throughout the Middle East and North Africa, numbers in Tunis swelled to over 100,000. Protesters demanded a complete break from the former regime, with chants accusing the interim government of confiscating the revolution. When a huge sit-down protest took place the government responded by issuing a statement of token concessions targeting the assets of ousted members of Ben Ali’s regime, while simultaneously issuing a decree banning further protests under threat of mass arrest.

Violent confrontation ensued as security forces attempted to forcibly disperse protesters. An 18-year-old protester was shot dead by the police. The next day’s demonstrations were even more militant, led by disenfranchised, unemployed, and defiant young people. Protesters attacked the Interior Ministry, symbol of continuing oppression.

Prime Minister Ghannouchi resigned on 27 February, after five people had been killed by the police, and more than 200 arrested. Beji Caid Essebsi, a former minister in the Bourguiba government, has replaced him.

On 7 March the governing Public Authority dissolved the political police and state security department, key demands of the protesters. It has committed to forming a constituent assembly by 24 July, which will draw up a new constitution. For many Tunisians, this is not soon enough.

Annie Richards

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 220 April/May 2011


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