New Violence in Tunisia May Seal Fate of Muslim Revolution
Five people were killed in Tunisia last week as an upsurge of violence threatens to turn the revolution for freedom into a state of anarchy or the seed for a radical Muslim regime of rule by force.
Last month’s street revolution forced long-time Tunisian ruler Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to flee and touched off more revolutionary movements in Jordan and Egypt. Ben Ali’s demise was the first time in the Arab world that a popular protest toppled a government, a phenomenon that has frightened other Muslim rulers.
Caretaker president Fouad Mebazaa is ruling by decree, allowing him to bypass the legislature.
The revolution for democracy in Tunisia was followed by looting and violence, including the burning of a small synagogue and its Torah scroll.
Police have fanned out throughout the country’s streets and faced gangs and protesters, resulting in the killing of at least five people. Opposing crowds set one police station and a high school on fire as political protesters returned to the streets, demanding that the caretaker government get rid of corrupt officials.
Sporadic gunfire was heard Tuesday near local government buildings in Tunis. Foreign Ministry workers are on strike, demanding that the minister resign for not expressing full support of change in the regime.
Tunisian officials have called up retired soldiers to help maintain control and prevent a recurrence of last month’s violence, which ended up with 234 people dead and more than 500 wounded.
Visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged the caretaker government to prepare for “vital” elections, and he announced that Britain is alloting $8 million for a new “Arab Partnership Initiative” for democratic reform projects in North Africa and the Middle East.
European Union enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele, visiting Morocco Tuesday, said, “We are currently putting in place a transition package at the request of Tunisian authorities and we want to set priorities … that will allow Tunisia to face up to its new needs.”