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Tunisia bans upcoming opposition protest

March 3, 2023

The National Salvation Front had planned to protest the recent arrests of critics of President Kais Saied. Tunisia's national trade union federation also has its own demonstration planned.

An anti-government protest in Tunis in January, 2023
Protests have escalated against Tunisian President Kais Saied in recent monthsImage: ZOUBEIR SOUISSI/REUTERS

Tunisian authorities on Thursday banned an upcoming protest by the country's main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front (NSF), but the group has vowed to press ahead with its planned demonstration on Sunday.

The governor of Tunis, Kamel Feki, said the NSF's request to hold a march on Sunday had "not been approved as some of its leaders are suspected of plotting against state security."

What is the protest about?

The NSF planned to protest on Sunday against "political arrests and violations against public and individual freedoms."

Around 20 critics and rivals of President Kais Saied have been arrested in recent weeks.

The arrests, which also include the owner of a major media outlet and a prominent businessman, represent the biggest crackdown on opponents of Saied since he seized most powers in 2021.

He has variously accused the detainees of terrorism, plotting against the state and causing recent food shortages.

Is Tunisia on a path to dictatorship?

On Thursday, Tunisian media reported that two members of the Islamist-leaning Ennahda party, Sadok Chourou and Habib Ellouz, were also arrested.

Ennahda — the main group within the NSF's former member of governing coalitions — said the arrests were designed to "terrorize the opposition."

Amnesty International also called the arrests a "politically motivated witch hunt."

Trade union federation plans separate protest

The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) has its own protest planned for Saturday against Saied's "one-man rule."

On Thursday, it said a senior official from a Spanish trade union had been denied entry at the airport in Tunis.

The UGTT called it "a further violation of trade union rights and the basic principles of freedoms and human rights."

It comes less than two weeks after Saied expelled Europe's top union official Esther Lynch after she spoke in support of Tunisian workers at a UGTT rally.

zc/sms (AFP, Reuters)