Tunisia Strike Prompts Release of Protesters
A court in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia released some of the protesters at the center of a week-long controversy that culminated Tuesday in a general strike in the city. Police had detained the around 45 demonstrators, including two journalists, last Thursday after a protest against water shortages and economic marginalization turned into violent clashes with authorities. The detentions in Sidi Bouzid, considered the birthplace of the Arab Spring, fueled more protests including Tuesday’s general strike in which over 1,000 people marched on the courthouse demanding the protesters release, as well as condemning the ruling Ennahda party. The region’s governor downplayed the protests, saying only 30 percent of public employees took part while private workers did not participate. A separate and smaller rally took place in the city’s downtown, however, to show support for Ennahda. Conflicting reports indicate that some, if not all of the protesters have now been released.
Additionally, Salafist demonstrators prevented a comedy show from taking place in Menzel Bourguiba because, according to demonstrators, the “performance coincided with “Laylat al-Qadr” (Destiny Night),” and “would undermine Islam and the sacred.” Actor Lotfi Abdelli cancelled his comedy show ”100 per cent Halal” due to security concerns from 300 to 400 Salafists gathered outside the theater to oppose the performance. The ministry of culture called the incident an “unprecedented threat to cultural rights” and a violation of the freedom of expression while affirming their solidarity with the performers. However, Abdelli criticized the government as “complicit” in the act to undermine free speech.