Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1581      February 13, 2013

Riots erupt as Tunisia mourns Belaid’s death

Tens of thousands of Tunisians chanting anti-government slogans descended on the Jellaz cemetery in Tunis for the funeral of left-wing opposition leader Chokri Belaid last week. Mr Belaid’s funeral passed into the cemetery amid a scene of chaos, with gangs of young men throwing rocks at police, who responded with tear gas, claiming the men were attempting to steal the cars.

TV images showed the youths pushing cars into the street and the cars bursting into flame.

Black smoke spiralled from burning vehicles into the sky and clouds of tear gas floated over the cemetery.

Over 50,000 took to the streets across the country to honour his memory.

The murder of Mr Belaid, a severe critic of the Islamist government, sparked days of rioting by his supporters, who hold the ruling Ennahda party complicit in his death.

The nation was largely shut down due to a general strike called by the country’s largest trade union, the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGGT).

As one of the most organised groups in society and with a left-wing leadership, the UGTT has long been in prominent opposition to Ennahda.

Before the body arrived, there was a brief scuffle when officials identified as being with the governing coalition were stopped by the crowd from entering.

The army, one of the few state institutions still holding people’s respect, provided security for the funeral march, replacing the deeply distrusted police force.

Near Mr Belaid’s parental home where the funeral procession began, opposition politicians and lawyers in black robes gathered with thousands of other mourners, chanting: “Stop the violence” and “we are all Chokri Belaid.”

More than a dozen offices of the Ennahda party were attacked overnight in towns around the country.

Schools, shops, banks and other institutions were all shut following the general strike. The Ministry of the Interior urged calm, but the police force itself has been a major target of protesters over the past few days. The ministry building was ringed by iron barriers and barbed wire, extending across the capital’s Bourguiba Avenue.

Morning Star  

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