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Tunisian Parliament Questions Government on Ongoing Protests

Tunisian Parliament Questions Government on Ongoing Protests

Thursday, 21 January, 2021 - 09:15
Tunisian security officers confront protesters during an anti-government demonstration on the Habib Bourguiba avenue in the capital Tunis, on January 19, 2021. (Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP)

The Tunisian parliament has questioned the government on the social and security situation after the recent protests in Tunis, which also involved looting and property destruction.

The plenary session was held on Wednesday in the presence of Minister of National Defense Ibrahim Al-Bartaji, Minister of Social Affairs Mohamed Trabelsi, and Minister of Economy Ali al-Kali.

Deputy Munji al-Rahawi of the opposition Democratic Patriots Unified Party described the demonstrations as “civil and peaceful”, saying people were protesting poverty, hunger, deprivation, and injustice.

He indicated that protests are expanding to other parts of the country after the government failed to provide solutions to people’s problems.

Independent MP Adnan al-Hajji called on the government to acknowledge its failure and mistakes, stating that “democracy is meaningless unless it is embodied in its social dimensions.”

But head of Ennahda parliamentary bloc Imad al-Khumairi condemned the protests, saying demonstrators hide in the darkness while attacking people and destroying property.

He called on the judiciary to open an investigation into all the recent violations to determine responsibilities.

In response to the questions of the lawmakers, the Defense Minister said he had evidence pointing to the involvement of terrorists in the riots, saying they may exploit the situation to push towards chaos and exacerbating the social situation.

He called on families and civil society to actively contribute to educating the youth.

Before the session, the Prime Minister, Hichem Mechichi, addressed Tunisians in a speech, stressing that the right to protest is constitutionally guaranteed.

Mechichi indicated that his role is to protect the rights of protesters while maintaining stability, noting that the “crisis is real and anger is legitimate, but protests and violence are unacceptable, and they will be confronted with the force of law.”

“I know that the economic and social situation is a crisis deepened by COVID and the necessary measures that we have taken to preserve the health of Tunisians and that they (lockdown measures) have limited some personal freedoms such as the freedom of movement,” the prime minister said.

Mechichi appealed to the protesters saying that their voice is heard, and anger is legitimate, noting that it is his role and the role of the government to work to meet their demands.

Earlier, security forces arrested hundreds of protesters between the ages of 14 and 17.

Authorities issued 34 prison sentences against a number of detainees, including seven children, while 38 persons were released.

Dozens of young men demonstrated in front of Tunis court headquarters demanding the release of the detainees. They also called on the authorities to release an activist who protested on January 14, on the tenth anniversary of the 2011 revolution.

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