TUNISIA – “The people against the coup”: at least 6,000 people took to the streets on Sunday October 10 in Tunis, for the biggest demonstration against President Kais Saied since he took full powers on July 25.
The rally comes a week after a show of force in favor of the president with more than 10,000 of his supporters gathered across Tunisia, according to police sources.
Despite screening and many checks, more than 5,000 people converged on Avenue Bourguiba, at the call of various groups opposed to the president, including the Islamist-inspired party Ennahdha, noted an AFP journalist. According to a police source, they were between 6,000 and 8,000 at the height of the demonstration.
The bulk of the protesters had gathered in front of the municipal theater. A whole portion of Avenue Bourguiba was nevertheless closed to demonstrators and checkpoints were set up at the ends with bag control and screening of demonstrators.
Some complained to AFP of intimidation by police officers to prevent them from moving forward. A voice in the crowd protested at the police checks: “the rally is blocked”, “shame on you”. “I am not your enemy, I am here for the love of Tunisia,” said a protester, national flag in hand, to a police officer who forbade him to join the crowd.
A police cordon had been set up in the middle of Avenue Bourguiba to prevent any access to the Ministry of the Interior at the end of the avenue.
“We are a generation that has known torture and has not had an easy life! It is we who elected Saied and it will be us who will drive him out of power, ”a 60-year-old told AFP.
“This is not Egypt”
“The people against the coup” or “Raise your voice, the Revolution does not die”, shouted the demonstrators, many of them men and women, who identified themselves as sympathizers of Ennahdha, the bête noire of President Saied.
Others launched slogans hostile to the Egyptian regime: “This is Tunisia and this is not Egypt”, “Sisi (the Egyptian president) is the enemy of God”, they chanted.
Tunisians consider Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi to be a “dictator” who “represses” freedoms. International NGOs report more than 60,000 prisoners of conscience in Egypt, a country regularly pinned on the issue of freedoms.
“A people who have known the taste for freedom will never give in to Saied or even the devil,” said a protester in his forties, his shirt sleeve torn, after being muscled around by a police officer, noted the AFP journalist.
The turning point of July 25, 2021
In the midst of a socio-economic and health crisis and after months of political deadlock, Kais Saied invoked on July 25 an “imminent peril” to dismiss the Prime Minister, suspend the activities of Parliament and take back the judiciary in hand.
After two months of uncertainties, on September 22, he promulgated a decree which formalizes the suspension of several chapters of the Constitution and establishes “exceptional measures”, supposed to be provisional, the time to carry out “political reforms”, including amendments to the Constitution of 2014.
In the meantime, the President has maintained the freezing of Parliament – and the salaries of deputies – himself legislates by decree and chairs the Council of Ministers. On September 29, he appointed scientist Najla Bouden as Prime Minister and the formation of a new government is expected overnight.
After the president’s coup, Tunisian and international organizations criticized a “grabbing of power” and said they feared for public rights and freedoms.
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