Tunisian Arts Festival Elicits Support, Protests
Yesterday organizers of the Printemps des Art Fair in La Marsa, Tunisia refused to take down a contemporary art exhibit that some found offensive, prompting angry exchanges between artists and their supporters and members of the public who wanted the art taken down, including Salafists. When crowds of a few hundred on each side began confronting each other, police intervened and dispersed the groups. Last week the arts festival included a performance by hip-hop group Armada Bizerta, whose themes included politics, freedom of expression, and support for the “Tunisian underground.”
Also, Al-Qaeda released a video yesterday in which Ayman al-Zawahri called on the Tunisian people to rise up against the ruling Islamist party Ennahda for its supposed lack of Islamic authenticity. Al-Zawahri stated that Ennahda represents “an Islam accepted by the U.S. State Department, the EU and the sheikdoms of the Gulf, an Islam that accepts gambling clubs and nude beaches.”
Meanwhile, Tunisian authorities have unveiled a draft of the preamble to the new constitution. Significantly, it includes references to Islam but not Sharia, and observers see Ennahda as having to negotiate a balance between the country’s Islamists and secular-minded citizens. Elsewhere on the legal front, a battle between journalists and the military prosecutor continues as activists call for the right to publicly broadcast proceedings from the trials of former regime figures.
Synda Tajine writes in Al-Monitor the Tunisian populace is growing increasingly frustrated with high unemployment, the state of the economy, and the deteriorating security situation. “Despite the positive attitude of the government and its attempt to pretend that everything is under control,” Tajine writes, “real difficulties seem to impair its legitimacy.” She does note, however, that tourism is returning and the financial sector seems to be faring well.