Tunisia: the crisis of violence between the Salafis and the politico-religious project of Ennahda

Currently, Tunisia is taken hostage by a terrible political and social tension: part of the Tunisian population is the subject of a genuine process of religious radicalization and this can’t fail to inspire fear. In addition, security forces don’t seem to have guidelines on how to intervene, as in the case of the appearance of the “salafist police”, who beat people in the streets of a neighbourhood of Tunisia’s periphery threatening bar owners and girls who weren’t wearing the niqab.

By the end of May, there have been several protests against the violence of Salafi and many people were involved: hotels and bars owners, accused of selling liquor, artists, representatives of the Constituent Assembly and civil society. These events, which unfortunately didn’t prevent further attacks by Salafi, didn’t spare even an art gallery in Tunis, to denounce the exhibition of works regarded as immoral and corrupt. The situation has recently worsened: in particular, since last Monday, Salafis have attacked police stations, headquarters of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) Trade Union and the offices of the parties Progressive Democratic Party, Congress for the Republic and Democratic Patriots’ Movement. Following these incidents, which don’t seem to stop, the Minister of Justice, Noureddine Bhiri, announced that up to 65 policemen were injured and 162 people were arrested, not only of the Salafis, but also members of the Constitutional Democratic Rally (the party of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, now dissolved by decision of the Court of First Instance in Tunis), the far-left- activists and the Ennahda movement.

In this regard it should be noted that, although the first article of the Constitution of Tunisia stipulates the secularism of the State, Ennahda movement is apparently willing to recognize the role of sharia as the source of all laws of the State. In addition, rumours confirm that the movement, the largest party in the Constituent Assembly, seems to be trying to train activists in the event of a physical confrontation with supporters of Ben Ali’s regime. Someone says that self-defence militias were already formed in some neighbourhoods of large cities of Tunisia to counter the war waged by Salafis. Confirming this tense climate, the syndicate UGTT urged his supporters to monitor all its offices, while, on the other side, the imam Soufiane Abu Ayub incited  to revolt after next Friday prayers. Meanwhile, the violence of recent weeks has forced the Tunisian authorities to impose curfew in eight governorates of the State, as Ariana, Ben Arous, Jendouba, Le Manouba, Médenine, Monastir and Sousse, in addition to Tunis. After the outbreak of the Jasmine Revolution, this is the most serious backups of public order taken in Tunisia.


University of Messina