Posts Tagged ‘Tunisia’

Turkey urges Islamic world to unite against Israel

May 16, 2018

Turkey has urged Islamic countries to review their ties with Israel after dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza border.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told his ruling party in parliament that Ankara would call an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“Islamic countries should without fail review their relations with Israel,” Premier Yildirim said, adding, “The Islamic world should move as one, with one voice, against this massacre.”

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Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim

Yildirim said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the body, called the OIC summit on Friday.

Yildirim said that after the summit at 3:00 pm a giant rally would be held at the vast Yenikapi meeting area in Istanbul under the slogan of “Stop the Oppression” to express solidarity with the Palestinians.

“This has nothing to do with party politics. This is to show solidarity, brotherhood and togetherness,” he said.

“The Islamic world should move as one, with one voice, against this massacre,” Yildirim added.

Ankara has reacted with fury to the killing Monday of 60 Palestinians in clashes and protests, on the same day as the United States formally moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem al-Quds from Tel Aviv in defiance of international outrage.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,

Ankara said it was recalling its ambassadors to the United States and Israel for consultations in the wake of the events.

On Tuesday, Israel expelled the Turkish consul in Jerusalem al-Quds.

The Foreign Ministry’s spokesman said the consul had been summoned and was told to return to Turkey “for consultations for a period of time.”

Yildirim earlier accused the US of sharing responsibility with Israel for a “vile massacre” along the Gaza border, during which dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire on Monday.

The United States took its place without complaint alongside the Israeli regime in “this massacre of civilians and became a party to this crime against humanity,” Yildirim told reporters in Ankara.

“This is … vile massacre and we condemn it strongly,” he added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during a visit to London, said that the United States had lost its role as mediator in the Middle East by moving its embassy to the occupied territories.

The Turkish president says the controversial move will ‘ignite an even greater fire’ in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Turkish President accuses Israel of ‘genocide’ 

President Erdogan later in a speech broadcast on Turkish state television accused Israel of carrying out a “genocide” as nearly 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in one day of protests.

The Turkish president accused Israel of being a “terrorist” entity and announced he would pull ambassadors out of Israel and the US.

“What Israel has done is genocide,” the Turkish president said, adding, “I condemn this humanitarian drama, the genocide, from whichever side it comes, Israel or America.”

He added: “We will continue to stand with Palestinian people with determination.”

Thousands held anti-Israeli rally in Istanbul

Thousands gathered in Istanbul’s Istiklal Street to condemn the US’ decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds and the Israeli bloodshed in the Gaza Strip.

The rally organized by several NGOs under the name “Raise Your Voice Against Occupation.”

Demonstrators carried banners that read “Al Quds belongs to Palestinians.”

Speaking at the event, organizers and speakers said that the relocation has reignited an awakening for Muslims and encouraged them to put up a fight against the Israeli occupation.

Turkish protesters wave Palestinian flags as they shout slogans in front of the Israel consulate in Istanbul on May 15, 2018 during a demonstration against US President’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds and Israel’s attack against protesters in Gaza. (Photo by AFP)

 

They also called for protests to continue throughout Muslims’ holy month of Ramadan outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul.

Israeli gunfire killed 59 Palestinians and wounded over 2,700 in the Monday clashes, the highest toll in a single day since a series of protests demanding the right to return to ancestral homes began on March 30.

The embassy inauguration also coincides with the climax of a six-week demonstration on the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), May 15, when Israel was created.

The occupied territories have witnessed new tensions ever since US President Donald Trump on December 6, 2017 announced US recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s “capital” and said Washington would move US embassy to the city.

The dramatic decision triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/05/15/561820/Turkey-OIC–Binali-Yildirim–Recep-Tayyip-Erdogan

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 (Daily Sabah Editorial)

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Hamas Engineer ‘Negotiated Arms Deals With North Korea, Assassinated by Mossad’ in Malaysia

April 26, 2018

Report in The New York Times cites intelligence officials saying Palestinian Fadi al-Batsh was killed in Malaysia as part of Mossad attempt to stop Hamas operations overseas, reveals ties to North Korea

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A kid holds a poster of Palestinian Fadi al-Batsh portrait at a mosque in Selayang, on the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 25, 2018.
A kid holds a poster of  Palestinian Fadi al-Batsh  portrait at a mosque in Selayang, on the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 25, 2018. Sadiq Asyraf/AP

Fadi al-Batsh, the Hamas engineer gunned down in Malaysia last week, was reportedly involved in talks with North Korea on arms intended for Gaza, The New York Times reported Thursday.

According to the report, Batsh was killed as part of an alleged operation by Israel’s Mossad spy agency to take out Hamas scientists and engineers training abroad to gather “know-how and weaponry to fight Israel.

“That claim has been confirmed by Middle Eastern intelligence officials,” The New York Times reported, claiming the “broader operation” was ordered by the Mossad chief, Yossi Cohen.

Regarding North Korea, the joint report, by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman and Hannah Beech, the paper’s Southeast Asia reporter, claimed that “Western and Middle Eastern intelligence officials said that Batsh may have been involved in negotiating North Korean arms deals through Malaysia.”

Mossad has also been particularly interested in Hamas’s progress in unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles, officials told The Times, which could be used to attack Israeli targets more effectively than Hamas’s rockets used during its last wars with Israel.

>> From Malaysia to Tunisia: Troubles in Gaza are pushing Hamas to overseas operations <<

Batsh, who co-wrote a 2013 paper on drone applications, was sent to Malaysia to research and acquire weapon systems and drones for Hamas, the intelligence officials told The Times.

The report said that Egypt recently captured a shipment of “communications components used for guided munitions destined for Gaza” from North Korea. It was also reported that according to an intelligence official, Batsh was involved in negotiating that deal.

The Times also cited a UN report claiming that Pyongyang had set up a shell company to circumnavigate sanctions and conduct sales of “military-grade communication systems” through Kuala Lumpur.

This image released by Royal Malaysia Police shows a suspect in the killing of a Hamas engineer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 25, 2018.
This image released by Royal Malaysia Police shows a suspect in the killing of a Hamas engineer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 25, 2018./AP

The two men suspected of killing Batsh in Kuala Lumpur were still in the country, Malaysian police said on Wednesday, as theyreleased a fresh image of one of the men. Hamas have accused Mossad of assassinating Batsh, who they say was a member of their group.

Two men on a high-powered motorcycle fired at least 14 shots at Batsh, an engineering lecturer, outside his apartment building on Saturday, killing him on the spot.

A Kawasaki motorcycle was found abandoned near a lake about nine minutes from the scene, from which police were able to trace a photo of one of the suspects, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun told reporters.

The suspects were believed to have entered Malaysia sometime in late January, but it was not known what nationalities they were or where they had traveled from, said Mohamad Fuzi.

“We believe the suspects are still in the country,” he said.

>> From Malaysia to Tunisia: Troubles in Gaza Are Pushing Hamas to Overseas Operations >>

Authorities had originally released computer-generated photographs of the suspects, who witnesses described as well-built and light-skinned, possibly Middle Eastern or European.

A new photo of one of the suspects shows a light-skinned man with dark, wavy hair and a prominent goatee.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Saturday the suspects were believed to be Europeans with links to a foreign intelligence agency.

Speaking on Israeli radio on Sunday, Defense Ministry Avigdor Lieberman said of the allegations: “We heard about this on the news. There’s a tradition at this point among terrorist organizations of blaming Israel for every settling of accounts.”

Mohamad Fuzi said the killing appeared “very professionally done”, but declined to comment on reports it was a Mossad operation or that it was carried out by trained assassins.

Batsh was a lecturer at Universiti Kuala Lumpur, specializing in power engineering, according to the university. According to the Hamas affiliated news agency SPA, Batsh also involved with Islamic organizations, including MyCARE.

His funeral ceremony is currently taking place in Selayang, on the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur. Batsh’s body will be returned to Gaza via Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Cairo, Egypt on Wednesday evening, after the funeral procession in Kuala Lumpur, Palestine’s ambassador to Malaysia, Anwar Al Agha, told Reuters.

Mossad has been accused of several high-profile killings involving Palestinians around the world, although Israel has consistently denied the accusations.

Numbered markers are seen on a bullet-riddled wall at the scene where Palestinian scientist Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh was gunned down April 21 in what his family claim was an assassination by Israel's Mossad spy agency, in Kuala Lumpur on April 22, 2018.
Numbered markers are seen on a bullet-riddled wall at the scene where Palestinian scientist Fadi Mohammad al-Batsh was gunned down April 21 in what his family claim was an assassination by IsraelMOHD RASFAN/AFP

Russia is Using Syria as a Military Proving Ground — Battle-Tested Hardware; And Its For Sale — Moscow has tested over 600 new weapons and other military equipment in Syria

February 28, 2018

High-ranking Russian officials claim countries are lining up to purchase battle-tested hardware.

BY CHARLES BYBELEZER/THE MEDIA LINE
 FEBRUARY 28, 2018 11:27

 

Russian military jets are seen at Hmeymim air base in Syria

Russian military jets are seen at Hmeymim air base in Syria. (photo credit: REUTERS/VADIM SAVITSKY/RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY VIA REUTERS)

“It’s not an accident that today they are coming to us from many directions to purchase our weapons, including countries that are not our allies,” Vladimir Shamanov declared. “Today, our military industry made our army look in a way we can be proud of.”

According to Mathieu Boulegue, a Research Fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the London-based Chatham House think-tank, “many analysts in Moscow view the Syria campaign as a ‘Revolution in Military Affairs,’ which is an American term that derives from the US experience mostly during the First Gulf War. Russia sees Syria as a theater for learning how to use [cutting-edge] technology and command and control techniques in modern warfare.

“They are also getting similar experience in Ukraine,” he elaborated to The Media Line, “and it is impossible to separate between the two campaigns as the lessons gained in both arenas are fed into the same beast.”

The Russian hardware being tested reportedly includes advanced aircraft, cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions in addition to armory, battlefield drones and electronic warfare systems, among many others.

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Russia’s Su-57 — New stealth fighter

 The comments came on the same day that the head of the powerful defense committee in Russia’s Duma, the lower house of parliament, contended that 200 of the items were next-generation systems.

One prominent example is the introduction into Syria of the Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-35 fighter jets, twelve of the former reportedly having soon thereafter been sold to Algeria. Other countries such as Indonesia, India and Nigeria have likewise expressed interest in the plane since it became battle-tested, allowing for tangible evaluation of its performance.

Similarly, purchase agreements for the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system have been forged with Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Overall, Middle East and North African countries from Egypt to Qatar to Bahrain, Morocco and Tunisia are lining up to purchase Russian-made equipment; this, as Moscow has renewed its regional influence through the projection of its military after years of US domination.

In March of last year Russia’s top defense official, Sergei Shoigu, told parliament that ninety percent of the weapons tested up to that point had met the Kremlin’s expectations. Months later, Dmitry Shugayev, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, revealed that foreign orders for Russian weapons amount to almost $50 billion. Notably, he claimed that Moscow is poised to acquire about thirty percent of the global military aircraft market, surpassing the US’ share.

“Russia has come up with the ‘Combat-proven Label,’ which is used by officials and businesses to enhance military sales,” Boulegue explained to The Media Line. “It is very hard to quantify how much this will speed up the commercial prospects but it does go hand-in-hand with a very aggressive policy from the state-owned Rosoboronexport. [Other private companies are also] really reaching out to foreign buyers and so far they have had some good returns.

“This also applies to Latin America and Africa,” he concluded, “because a lot of the contracts that have been signed recently could have originated up to five years ago. There is a focus on countries that could buy some of the older models of Russian systems in bulk—those that can be [incorporated] into the militaries of less wealthy nations.”

Nevertheless, the timing and nature of the statements by high-ranking Russian officials suggests that they may also be intended for domestic consumption, amid a growing realization that Moscow may not easily be able to extricate itself from the Syrian quagmire.

“This sounds like propaganda as six hundred weapons is very high,” Zvi Magen, a former Israeli ambassador to Russia and an expert on its Middle East foreign policy, explained to The Media Line.

In this respect, it is noteworthy that Moscow last week deployed to Syria two fifth-generation Su-57 stealth fighters, Russia’s answer to the US’ F-22 Raptor and F-35. That the jets are non-operational, however, supports the notion that their transfer abroad is at least partially a “show” mimicking strength.

“They are stuck over there and that is why they need excuses,” Magen expounded. “The Russians need to finish this war and they have not been able to arrive at an agreement to end it. Instead,” he continued, “Moscow declared victory [prematurely] and Putin visited Syria. But since then there have been battles and the Russians have suffered casualties. This leads to domestic pressure.”

Indeed Moscow’s beating of the military drums come on the heels of a major clash between Russian “contractors” and US forces on February 7, in which up to 300 mercenaries—employed by the shadowy Wagner PMC (Private Military Company) whose owner is a Putin associate—were killed or injured by American airstrikes and artillery fire during a failed attack on a Kurdish-controlled base in the Deir ez-Zor region.

While Russia publicly denied any involvement in the incident, it is well-known that Moscow has agreed to the deployment to Syria of as many as 2,500 for-hire fighters in order to avoid casualties among its official troops. As such, the Kremlin at the very least has a public relations problem back home, especially given its less-than-satisfactory explanation of the event which was described by US Defense Secretary James Mattis as “perplexing.”

Redirecting the focus to supposed successes in Syria—by hyping its military achievements, real or imagined—might therefore constitute a concerted effort to downplay the loss of its citizens while appealing to a largely nationalistic Russian populace. This, in turn, ties into the second possible explanation for the seemingly coordinated comments; namely, that they come just weeks ahead of the Russian presidential election and it may be that Putin is fending off legitimate criticism of Russia’s entanglement in Syria by rallying the support of his patriotic, if not militaristic, voter base.

The revelations that Russia is effectively using Syria as a testing ground for military hardware also raises moral questions, especially as they come on the background of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Eastern Ghouta.

More than 500 locals have been killed and some 2,500 others wounded over the past week, as Syrian forces allied with Moscow pounded the rebel-held area from the air and ground in the one of the fiercest offensives in the seven-years-long war. An estimated 400,000 civilians remain trapped in area, with rights groups warning of a major humanitarian catastrophe unless aid is allowed to reach the enclave.

Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad has once again brought into stark focus its paramount role in prolonging the war, to the detriment of an already devastated civilian population. That Russian leaders are concurrently trumpeting Moscow’s advancement of its military-industrial complex by using Syria as a “guinea pig” sheds light on their underlying intentions and priorities.

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/How-Russia-is-using-Syria-as-a-military-guinea-pig-543839

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Iran is heading toward a social explosion

February 12, 2018

Francis Fukuyama, the American political scientist who famously forecast the “end of history”. (AFP)
DUBAI: Francis Fukuyama, the American political scientist who famously forecast the “end of history,” told the World Government Summit in Dubai that Iran was heading toward a crisis caused by social tensions between generations within the country.
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“In Iran. there has been a social revolution going on beneath the surface. There is a young population, well-educated women in particular, who do not correspond to the rural, conservative power structure that runs the country. It’s headed toward some kind of explosion and I’m not sure of the outcome, but it is not a stable situation.”
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His warning came during a sobering speech that highlighted many of the challenges facing government and policy-makers, from the weakness of international institutions to the threat of cyber and biological warfare, and the rise of “strongman” leaders in many parts of the world.
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Fukuyama said that recent disturbances in Iran were partly because of climate change factors such as drought and water shortage, which often caused violence and cut across all the other risk factors.
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“A lot of the recent unrest in Iran had environmental causes. Ground water sources were being overused, leading to drought. A lot of violence in the world is due to climate change,” he said.
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There were some positives in an otherwise gloomy analysis of global affairs. In conversation with Anwar Gargash, the UAE minister of foreign affairs, he said that the Gulf states had shown that it was possible to establish credible economic and political models without the influence of Western liberal democratic institutions.
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“The Gulf has got the ‘liberal’ part well. It has security and the rule of law and property rights. Maybe the democratic aspect has been shown to be not that necessary.
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“The Gulf is showing the rest of the Arab world how to do it. The problem with the Arab world has been not being able to establish stable states. Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen are all failed states to some degree or other,” he said.
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Fukuyama said that Tunisia, where he has traveled recently, was the only democracy to come out of the Arab Spring upheavals of 2011. “But they are not delivering economic growth. The country will not collapse but it is hanging by a thread.”
He agreed that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the precursor to American disentanglement from the region, and that there was now a serious risk of “big power” confrontation in Syria. The dominance of the US from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the global financial crisis was an anomaly. There has never been a period when one state had so much power. Now the US is not reacting well because it’s used to being in charge.
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Fukuyama said that the US was being “displaced” by China, which already has a bigger economy by some measurements. “The global financial crisis discredited the economic systems of the USA and the European Union. The ‘one belt, one road’ policy of China is hugely ambitious, shifting the entire global center of gravity to central Asia with the aim of moving China to a new stage of their national development.”
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He said that financial markets were underrating the risk of serious military conflict in Korea. “It could be a replay of the Korean War of the 1950s,” he said.
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But he said that the most serious threat to the global liberal order came from within Western countries, where populism, anti-globalization and anti-migration sentiment had led to the rise of a class of “strongman” leaders who were undermining the institutions of their countries.
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He said that the “old poles” of capitalism versus communism were dead, but were giving way to “identity politics” — clashes between ethnicities and religions, where compromise was harder to achieve. He said that Islamic terrorism was an example of identity politics.

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90 Migrants Drowned After Boat Capsized off the coast of Libya

February 2, 2018

Reuters

90 migrants reported drowned after boat capsized off the coast of Libya early on Friday leaving three known survivors –

Reuters

GENEVA/TRIPOLI (Reuters) – An estimated 90 migrants are feared to have drowned off the coast of Libya after a smuggler’s boat capsized early on Friday, leaving three known survivors and 10 bodies washed up on shore, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

Survivors told aid workers that most of the migrants on board were Pakistanis, who form a growing group heading to Italy from North Africa, IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon, speaking from Tunis, told a Geneva news briefing.

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FILE photo — In this Saturday Jan. 27, 2018, photo, 329 refugees and migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Bangladesh, wait to be rescued by aid workers of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, after leaving Libya trying to reach European soil aboard an overcrowded wooden boat, 45 miles north of Al-Khums, Libya. (AP)

“They have given an estimate of 90 who drowned during the capsize, but we still have to verify the exact number of people who lost their lives during the tragedy,” she said.

Earlier security officials in the western Libyan town of Zurawa said two Libyans and one Pakistani had been rescued from the boat. It said 10 bodies had been recovered, mostly Pakistani, but gave no further information.

Zurawa, located near Libya’s border with Tunisia, is a favoured site for migrant boat departures .

Libya is the main gateway for migrants trying to cross to Europe by sea, though numbers have dropped sharply since July as Libyan factions and authorities – under pressure from Italy and the European Union – have begun to block departures.

More than 600,000 people are believed to have made the journey from Libya to Italy over the past four years.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli, Additional reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Tunisian forces kill top aide of Al-Qaeda leader in Maghreb

January 21, 2018

 

Algerian Bilel Kobi was “the right arm of Abou Wadoud (Pictured)” (AFP)
TUNIS: Tunisian security forces have killed a top aide of Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an official source told Reuters.
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Tunisia has been on high alert since 2015, when Daesh gunmen killed dozens of foreign tourists in a museum in Tunis and on a beach in the resort city of Sousse.
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Algerian Bilel Kobi was “the right arm of Abou Wadoud” and was killed in an ambush near the Algerian border when on a mission to reorganize AQIM’s Tunisian branch following strikes by Tunisian forces against it, the source told Reuters.
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Separately, reports say Tunisians are still taking to streets since they ousted their longtime ruler in the first of the Arab Spring uprisings.
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Why, after so long, has the country been unable to tackle its problems?
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Unemployment, corruption and austerity measures in the 2018 budget have fueled widespread protests as the North African country marked the anniversary of the 2011 revolt that toppled longtime dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
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While Tunisia has been praised as a model of democratic transition, post-revolution governments have struggled to improve living standards and tackle pervasive graft.
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“Work, bread and national dignity” — that was the slogan that rallied Tunisian protesters in 2011.
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But a growth rate that reached a moderate two percent in 2017 following years of stagnation, has barely dented the unemployment figures, which remain stubbornly above 15 percent — rising to 30 percent among young graduates.
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Political economist Med Dhia Hammami said investments since the revolution have been channelled to projects that yield profits rather than offer mass employment.
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“Most direct foreign investments in Tunisia are in the extractive sector — gas or oil — which doesn’t create jobs,” he said.
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“There is a focus on services, including tourism, which create very precarious and seasonal jobs, to the detriment of agriculture, for example.”
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If things continue as they are, he added, “we will find ourselves, like under Ben Ali, with growth at five percent and unemployment at 15-18 percent.”
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Adding to the pain of joblessness, prices grew by six percent in 2017 as the dinar slid against the dollar and new taxes kicked in.
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Many analysts expect further inflation this year.
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Tunisian government announces social reforms after week of unrest

January 14, 2018

AFP | 

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi attends a meeting with political parties, unions and employers on January 13, 2018 in Tunis, following unrest triggered by austerity measures. (AFP)

TUNIS: Tunisia’s government on Saturday announced an increase in aid to the needy and improved health care as part of social reforms following a week of unrest triggered by austerity measures.

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Social Affairs Minister Mohamed Trabelsi told reporters that monthly aid to needy families would rise from 150 dinars (50 euros) to between 180 and 210 dinars (60 and 70 euros).
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He said reforms which have been in the pipeline for several months would guarantee medical care for all Tunisians, without elaborating, and also provide housing to disadvantaged families.
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The announcement came after President Beji Caid Essebsi consulted with political parties, unions and employers.
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The North African country has been shaken by a wave of protests over poverty and unemployment during which hundreds of people were arrested before the unrest tapered off.
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“It’s a very advanced legal project, which was submitted to parliament and will be discussed over the next week,” said a government source who requested anonymity.
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At the opening of his consultations, Essebsi accused the foreign press of “amplifying” the social unrest and damaging the country’s image in its coverage of protests.
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The president said he would visit a disadvantaged neighborhood of Tunis that had been the scene of street protests.
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Tunisia, whose economy has been hit by a collapse in tourism revenues following a wave of jihadist attacks in 2015, has secured a 2.4-billion-euro ($2.9-billion) IMF loan in return for a reduction in its budget deficit and financial reforms.
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The two-hour crisis talks at the presidential palace brought together Essebsi, representatives of political parties, the powerful UGTT trade union and the UTICA employers’ federation.
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“We discussed the general situation in the country and the reforms, especially socio-economic, that must be adopted to overcome the current problems,” UTICA head Wided Bouchamaoui told reporters.
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Proposals were raised “to pull out of this tension” without scrapping a contested 2018 budget, said Rached Ghannouchi, head of the Islamist movement Ennahda in Tunisia’s ruling coalition, without elaborating.
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UTICA and UGTT shared the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for their work during Tunisia’s transition toward democracy after the revolution.
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The demonstrations broke out ahead of Sunday’s seventh anniversary of the toppling of veteran dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a revolt that sparked uprisings across the Arab region.
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The trigger for the protests on January 7 was the budget imposing tax hikes after a year of rising prices.
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A man in his 40s died in unrest on Monday night in the northern town of Tebourba, though police have insisted they did not kill him.
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Interior ministry spokesman Khlifa Chibani on Saturday said a total of 803 people suspected of taking part in acts of violence, theft and looting were arrested this week.
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Some 97 security forces and members of civil protection units were also injured, he said. There was no immediate toll for the number of protesters injured in the unrest.
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Calm returned to the country on Thursday night and there was “no attack against public or private property” in the night of Friday to Saturday, Chibani said.
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AFP correspondents reported one small protest overnight Friday in the central city of Sidi Bouzid — the cradle of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising — and said police fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.
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Tunisia is considered a rare success story of the Arab Spring uprisings that began in the North African country in 2011 and spread across the region, toppling autocrats.
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But the authorities have failed to resolve the issues of poverty and unemployment.
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“These demonstrations reveal the anger felt by the same people who mobilized in 2011 and got nothing in terms of social and economic rights,” said political analyst Olfa Lamloum.
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Protests are common in Tunisia in January when people mark the anniversary of the revolution that ousted Ben Ali.
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This year, the country has seen rising anger after the government adopted the 2018 budget which includes hikes in value-added tax, on mobile phones and real estate as well as in social contributions.

Opposition leaders among 150 detained in Tunisia

January 13, 2018

 

Tunisian protesters take to the streets in Siliana, some 130 kms south of Tunis, late on January 11, 2018. (AFP)
TUNIS: Tunisian authorities arrested another 150 people including local opposition leaders over unrest against price and tax rises that prompted troop deployments to restive towns, and activists called for renewed rallies at the weekend.
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Protests, some violent, flared across Tunisia on Monday, when one protester was killed, before ebbing on Thursday. Protesters have burned dozens of state buildings, prompting the government to send the army into several cities and towns.
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Activists and opposition politicians appealed for fresh demonstrations in the capital, Tunis, on Friday and on Sunday, the seventh anniversary of the toppling of authoritarian president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
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On Thursday, unrest was limited to sporadic clashes in the northern city of Siliana, in Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia and Douz in the south of the North African country.
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“The protests have declined and there was no damage, but last night the police arrested 150 people involved in rioting in the past few days, bringing the total number of detainees to 778,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khelifa Chibani said. Sixteen extremists were among those detained, he said.
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Three local leaders of the Popular Front, the main opposition bloc, were detained in Gafsa for allegedly setting fire to a government building, a judicial source said.
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The Popular Front said its leaders had been targeted in a political campaign that was “reproducing the methods of the oppressive Ben Ali regime.” Party members had also been arrested in Mahdia and Karbariya, it said.
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The protests draw on anger over price and tax increases included in this year’s budget that took effect on Jan. 1. The government has blamed the opposition and “troublemakers” for stoking unrest, a charge the opposition has denied. The government has vowed not to back down on the austerity measures, taken to satisfy foreign lenders.
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Prices have increased for fuel and some consumer goods, while taxes on cars, phone calls, the Internet, hotel accommodation and other items have also gone up.
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Tunisia appears to have little scope to back away austerity. The International Monetary Funds says Tunisia is committed to “decisive action” to reform its economy before the IMF reviews the payment of its next loan tranche.
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Last year, the Washington-based IMF agreed a four-year loan program worth about $2.8 billion with Tunisia, but tied to economic reforms.
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The 2018 budget also raises customs taxes on some imports, and the Tunis government is trying to cut the public sector wage bill through voluntary redundancies.
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While Tunisia is held up by some as the only democratic success story among countries swept up in the Arab Spring, it has had nine governments since Ben Ali’s overthrow, none of which have been able to resolve deep-rooted economic problems.

 

Tunisia: More than 600 people arrested in a week of protest as anger at austerity measures, unemployment, poverty boils — “The region is totally marginalised.”

January 12, 2018

AFP

© Faouzi Dridi, AFP | Tunisian protesters take to the streets in Siliana, some 130 kms south of Tunis, late on January 11 as anger over austerity measures erupted into unrest.

Video by Lilia BLAISE

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2018-01-12

Sporadic unrest continued to shake parts of Tunisia Thursday, as authorities said more than 600 people had been arrested in a week of protest as anger at austerity measures boils over on the streets.

Tunisia, whose 2011 revolt sparked the Arab Spring, has been convulsed with sometimes violent demonstrations since late Monday that have seen protesters clash with security forces and left dozens injured.

The North African country is seen as a rare success story of the uprisings seven years ago that toppled autocrats across the region, but its failure to tackle poverty and unemployment have stirred economic resentment.

In the latest violence young people in the northern town of Siliana hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at security forces, who responded with tear gas, an AFP correspondent said.

Police detained 328 people on Wednesday for theft, looting, arson and blocking roads, the interior ministry said Thursday, after arresting more than 280 people over the previous two days.

Ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani said the violence was less intense than in previous days.

Twenty-one members of the security forces were injured, according to Chibani, who said no civilians were hurt.

AFP correspondents said most areas were calm late Thursday, and the presidency said the main political parties, unions and business organisations will meet on Saturday to discuss the situation.

Tunisia is often seen as having had a relatively smooth transition since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But Tunisians have expressed frustration since the start of the year over austerity measures expected to further increase prices in a struggling economy.

LATEST PROTESTS FIT GOVERNMENT NARRATIVE, BUT THAT’S NOT THE WHOLE STORY

The country has introduced hikes in value-added tax and social contributions as part of a tough new budget.

Activists campaigning against the austerity measures have called for a huge protest on Friday.

Political scientist Olfa Lamloum called the measures “the straw that breaks the camel’s back”.

“Young people are disappointed with the revolution, especially because of the high cost of living,” she said.

‘Nostalgia spreading’

Lamloum pointed to “deepening social inequalities” highlighted by official figures showing rising poverty, unemployment and illiteracy, particularly among young people.

In Tebourba, where a man died during the first unrest overnight Monday to Tuesday, the mood was grim.

“The political class is responsible for all this,” said teacher Fatma Ben Rezayel in Tebourba on Thursday. “The region is totally marginalised.”

She deplored that “unemployed young people fed up with their poor lives” were being branded criminals by the authorities.

The unrest started with peaceful protests last week, but escalated into clashes with police overnight Monday to Tuesday.

Unrest hit several areas including the central city of Kasserine, and Siliana, Tebourba and Thala in the north.

Scuffles also broke out in some Tunis neighbourhoods.

On Thursday, several dozen unemployed people protested in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the protests that sparked the 2011 uprisings.

In Kasserine, youths tried to block roads with burning tyres and hurled stones at police, another AFP correspondent said.

The main police station in the northern town of Thala was also torched, Chibani said.

In Tebourba police fired tear gas at dozens of protesters, a resident said.

One protester recalled what had happened to him.

“I wanted to express my anger about being poor, and they responded with tear gas at my head,” said Mohamed Rahmani, 21, his head in bandages because of 10 stitches.

Protest calls

Rail services were cancelled in some areas after a train was attacked in southern Tunis on Wednesday, local media reported.

The opposition Popular Front party, accused by the authorities of supporting the rioters, urged the government to “find solutions for young Tunisians”.

“Peaceful demonstrations are part of the democratic equation, but damaging public property and harming citizens is illegal,” said Hamma Hammami, spokesman for the leftist party.

Tunisia has been under a state of emergency since 2015 following a series of deadly jihadist attacks.

Conflict analysts International Crisis Group (ICG) warned the country’s political class Thursday against succumbing to “authoritarian temptation”.

While politicians had so far resisted the urge to backtrack on reforms, the ICG said “in the context of an economic slump, the nostalgia for a strong state, like the one that the former regime claimed to defend, is spreading”.

Protests are common in Tunisia in January, when people mark the anniversary of the 2011 revolution.

The uprising began in December 2010 after street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and later died in a protest over unemployment and police harassment.

At a cafe in Tebourba on Thursday, 41-year-old Sami shared coffee and a cigarette with a friend.

“There’s no work and no future here,” he told AFP. “I don’t have a dinar on me.”

(AFP)

Tunisia deploys army, makes 300 arrests as violent unrest continues

January 11, 2018

Riot policemen hide behind a wall during anti-government protests in Tunis, Tunisia, Jan. 10, 2018. Tunisian authorities say 300 people were arrested and dozens of others injured across the country in recent days as violent protests against government-imposed price hikes spread to more cities and regions. (AP)

TUNIS: Tunisian protesters burned down a regional national security headquarters near the Algerian border, prompting authorities to send in troops after police retreated, witnesses said, as unrest over prices and taxes continued nationwide.

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Over 300 protesters were arrested overnight and the army was deployed in several cities to help quell violent protests in Tunisia seven years after the overthrow of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in the first of the Arab Spring revolts.
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In Thala, near the Algerian border, soldiers deployed after crowds torched the region’s national security building, forcing police to retreat from the town, witnesses told Reuters.
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Tunisia’s unity government — which includes extremists, secular parties and independents — has portrayed the unrest as driven by criminal elements, and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has accused the opposition of fueling dissent.
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Rejecting that accusation, Tunisia’s main opposition bloc, the Popular Front, called for a major protest in Tunis on Sunday to coincide with the seventh anniversary of Ben Ali’s fall.
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Tunisia’s Football Association said it was postponing all weekend matches because of the disturbances.
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Anti-government protests have flared in a number of Tunisian cities and towns — including the tourist resort of Sousse, since Monday against price and tax rises imposed to cut a ballooning deficit and satisfy international lenders.
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While Tunisia is regarded as the only democratic success story in the Arab world, it has also had nine governments since Ben Ali’s overthrow, none of which have been able to deal with growing economic problems.
The army has been deployed in several cities, including Sousse, Kebeli and Bizerte, to protect government buildings that have become a target for protesters.
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“Three hundred and thirty people involved in acts of sabotage and robbery were arrested last night,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khelifa Chibani said. That brought the total number of detainees since the protests began to around 600.
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“What is happening is crime, not protests. They steal, intimidate people and threaten private and public property,” he added.
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Many of the protests have been peaceful, however, with demonstrators expressing their anger and frustration over deepening economic hardship since the 2011 uprising.
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“It is true that some protesters burned and stole during last night’s protests, but the rulers steal and destroy Tunisia in the morning and at night with their frustrating decisions,” said a teacher who was shopping in the capital and only gave his first name, Mohamed.
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“We expected things to improve after Ben Ali was ousted, but it seems that after seven years of the revolution, we’ll give our salaries each month to Prime Minister Chahed for him to spend them,” he said.
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The 2011 revolt and two major Islamist militant attacks in 2015 damaged foreign investment and tourism, which accounts for eight percent of Tunisia’s economic activity.
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Unemployment nationally exceeds 15 percent, and is much higher in some marginalized regions of the interior. Annual inflation rose to 6.4 percent in December, the highest rate since July 2014.
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