Islamists chant anti-French slogans at rally in Tunisia
[FRANCE24] Several thousand supporters of Tunisia's ruling moderate Islamist party rallied in the capital in a pro-government demonstration Saturday, a day after the funeral of an assassinated opposition politician. Protesters hurled insults at France, accusing the former colonial ruler of interfering in the North African country's politics.
The ruling Ennahda party had called for a show of support for the constitutional assembly, whose work on a new constitution suffered a severe setback after the killing of Chokri Belaid on Feb. 6 - when leftist parties withdrew their participation. It said the demonstration would also protest "French interference" after comments earlier in the week by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who denounced Belaid's killing as an attack on "the values of Tunisia's Jasmine revolution."
Protesters denounced Valls' remarks, claiming they showed that France is interfering in Tunisia's internal affairs. Demonstrators gathered in front of the National Theater on Tunis' main street, Habib Bourguiba Avenue, epicentre of the 2011 revolution that toppled ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, close to the French embassy.
"Get out, France"
Waving flags of the Ennahda party they shouted "Get out, France."
"Enough, France! Tunisia will never again be a French colony," proclaimed some of the banners waved by protesters.
FRANCE 24's correspondent in Tunis, Alexander Turnbull, said the protest was not large and mainly made up of men. "They're all waving flags and chanting. They're saying they want to preserve the heritage of the revolution and organise a second one, which is according to them the only way to find a solution to the current political crisis," he said.
The thoroughfare was bustling, with cafes full and shops reopened after a general strike the previous day. Police in riot armor and plainclothes officers patrolled Saturday, but gone were the tear gas and running street battles.
Friday's funeral for Belaid drew hundreds of thousands of mourners chanting anti-government slogans into the capital's heavily policed streets.
Valls had said on Europe 1 radio on Thursday that Belaid was "one of the democrats and we must support these democrats so that the values of the Jasmine Revolution are not betrayed. There is an Islamic fascism rising everywhere, but this obscurantism must, of course, be condemned because it denies the democracy for which the Libyan, Tunisian and Egyptian people have fought."
Valls was clearly pointing the finger at Salafists, with their strict interpretation of Islam, who have come to the fore, and smeared Ennahda's moderate image. At least one black Salafi flag was spotted in the sea of white Ennahda flags at the demonstration, which took place several hundred meters from the well-guarded French Embassy.
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