What’s After Brahmi’s Assassination?

The assassination of Brahmi, member in the Constituent Assembly and former leader of the People’s Movement, is not the second, but the third assassination since regime change in Tunisia.

brahmi-assasinationWhile Tunisians were following the news of the escalating violence in Egypt, the tragedy of Mohamed Brahmi’s assassination on July 25 (which coincided with Republic Day) came to signal the outbreak of a series of clashes and terrorist attacks in Tunisia after relative stability seemed to reign during the last few months.

The assassination of Brahmi, member in the Constituent Assembly and former leader of the People’s Movement, is not the second, but the third assassination since regime change in Tunisia.

In October 2012, the lynching of Mohamed Lotfi Naghedh, leader of the opposition party Nida Tounes, by an angry mob that was identified as members of the National League for the Protection of the Tunisian Revolution (the attack was videotaped), is considered to be the first execution targeting an opposition leader.

Yet it was not until the Democratic Patriots’ Movement leader Chokri Belaid was murdered in February 2013 that media and public opinion started their large mobilization against the growing violence.

The dissolution of the League had been one of the primary demands of the opposition ever since. During the protests in Tunisia on April 9, 2012, civilians later identified as members of the League, worked side by side with the police to tyrannize protesters and disperse a large manifestation that marched to Habib Bourguiba Avenue.

Minister of the Interior Ali Larayedh’s (now Prime Minister) promise to identify the aggressors and take legal action against them boiled down to nothing. Apart from an ambiguous friendship with leaders of Ennahdha, the League has no legal authority to “protect the revolution,” a term continuously used by its members to justify their attacks on opposition activists and politicians.

Though there is no direct association between the League and the assassinations of Brahmi and Belaid, the government is still accused of using hate speech against its adversaries.

Thousands have taken to the streets since Republic Day, in one of the longest sit-ins that aim to topple the current government, dissolve the Constituent Assembly and revive the popular movement that toppled Ben Ali.

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The rapid – though predicted – surge of terrorist attacks in Tunisia had been preceded by several warnings, especially from Algerian intelligence according to Nawat, a local online newspaper.

It is not clear whether this surge has to do with the recent assassinations. However the death of nine soldiers in Mount Chaambi in an ambush by jihadists added to the existing tension, due to the government’s laxity in dealing with the issue. For several months, many reports about training camps for jihadists were routinely dismissed by the government as a “scarecrow.”

Since the crisis began, the ruling party’s leaders and its allies have called for a consensus and for national unity, while opposition parties in Bardo’s sit-in seem to reach a relative accord together, and are now pushing toward cutting-edge demands.

Among growing fear that Ennahdha is placing more and more of its members in top government positions, the opposition is concerned that the results of the next election will be tampered with. After Belaid’s assassination last February, the cabinet reshuffle decided by then Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali did nothing to change the fact that power still remains concentrated in its hands.

Imen Yacoubi is a Professor of English and an academic researcher teaching English literature at the University of Jendouba. She earned a BA in English language and literature and her “Agrégation” diploma from the Faculty of Letters, Humanities and Arts of La Manouba and the Ecole Normale Superieure de Tunis. From 2005 to 2009, she taught at the University of Gabes, and has taught at the University of Jendouba since 2009. She is member of the Young Arab Analyst Network International and co-founder and editor-in-chief of Moorings, a cultural Maghrebi magazine in English. She is an alumnus of the Civic Engagement and Leadership Fellowship, a program accommodated by Syracuse University, NY. Imen is author and contributor for HumanRightsTV.com and MideastYouth.com. Read other articles by Imen.