Assassination and Protests Rock Tunisia

As Egypt braces for a day of rival protests tomorrow, Tunisia was also plunged into turmoil today with the assassination of secular politician Mohamed Brahmi, the head of the country’s Constituent Assembly and the opposition Movement of the People party. Brahmi was shot by a motorcyclist outside his home in Tunis this morning. It is ...

FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images
FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images

As Egypt braces for a day of rival protests tomorrow, Tunisia was also plunged into turmoil today with the assassination of secular politician Mohamed Brahmi, the head of the country's Constituent Assembly and the opposition Movement of the People party. Brahmi was shot by a motorcyclist outside his home in Tunis this morning.

It is the second high-profile political assassination in Tunisia this year. In February, gunmen shot and killed secular political leader Chokri Belaid. Brahmi's assassination comes just one day after an adviser to Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh announced that more information about Belaid's assassination would be forthcoming -- the investigation issued warrants for five people in April, but the adviser, Noureddin B'Hiri, hinted that the Interior Ministry was close to publicly accusing the assassination's planners.

Thousands of Tunisians flooded into the street as the news of Brahmi's assassination broke. Protesters swarmed the ambulance carrying Brahmi's body and gathered outside the hospital to which it was taken. Others rallied at the Ministry of the Interior and chanted, "Down with the rule of the Islamists," according to a Reuters report. Even in the relatively conservative town of Sidi Bouzid, where Tunisia's 2011 revolution began, protesters blocked roads and set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Islamist Ennahda Party. Protests after Belaid's death in February led to the resignation of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, a member of the Ennahda Party.

As Egypt braces for a day of rival protests tomorrow, Tunisia was also plunged into turmoil today with the assassination of secular politician Mohamed Brahmi, the head of the country’s Constituent Assembly and the opposition Movement of the People party. Brahmi was shot by a motorcyclist outside his home in Tunis this morning.

It is the second high-profile political assassination in Tunisia this year. In February, gunmen shot and killed secular political leader Chokri Belaid. Brahmi’s assassination comes just one day after an adviser to Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh announced that more information about Belaid’s assassination would be forthcoming — the investigation issued warrants for five people in April, but the adviser, Noureddin B’Hiri, hinted that the Interior Ministry was close to publicly accusing the assassination’s planners.

Thousands of Tunisians flooded into the street as the news of Brahmi’s assassination broke. Protesters swarmed the ambulance carrying Brahmi’s body and gathered outside the hospital to which it was taken. Others rallied at the Ministry of the Interior and chanted, "Down with the rule of the Islamists," according to a Reuters report. Even in the relatively conservative town of Sidi Bouzid, where Tunisia’s 2011 revolution began, protesters blocked roads and set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Islamist Ennahda Party. Protests after Belaid’s death in February led to the resignation of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, a member of the Ennahda Party.

Ennahda condemned Brahmi’s assassination, calling it a "cowardly and despicable crime" in a statement from Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi posted to the party’s Facebook page. Ghannouchi also called "on the government and the interior ministry to urgently arrest those who committed this crime and reveal those behind them who have targeted the stability of the country."

Brahmi’s assassination is "extremely worrying," Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, told FP by email. "[T]here had been a number of encouraging signs that both sides were making efforts to avoid the escalation of political violence. This latest killing threatens to undo that progress and renews fears of spiraling violence that could derail Tunisia’s delicate political transition."

Tunisian politics are currently embroiled in a contentious debate about the draft of the country’s new constitution. Still at stake are the delineation of state powers and the role of Islam in the government.

J. Dana Stuster is a policy analyst at the National Security Network. Twitter: @jdanastuster

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