Iran reacts to developments in Tunisia

July 27, 2021 - 21:43

TEHRAN — Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh reacted on Tuesday to developments in Tunisia, calling on both sides of the conflict to maintain empathy.

Khatibzadeh said Iran is closely following the current events in Tunisia.

The diplomat, while calling on all parties to show restraint and maintain empathy, stressed the need for dialogue between all groups and institutions in the country to calm down the current tension and fulfill the aspirations of the revolutionary nation of Tunisia.

Announcing that Iran is on the side of Tunisia to pass this stage, Khatibzadeh called for the establishment of stability in Tunisia’s political and security spheres and expressed hope that Tunisia would pass this critical stage through dialogue as soon as possible.

Discontent has been brewing in Tunisia since the revolution in 2011 and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the country's economy and health care system toward the brink of collapse.

While the Arab Spring movement ushered in democracy and long-awaited freedom of expression, Tunisians say the string of governments since— there have been nine — have failed to deliver tangible fixes for rampant unemployment, poverty, inflation, and poor social services, says Monica Marks, Assistant Professor of Arab Crossroads Studies at New York University in Abu Dhabi.

Marks told NPR that the economic crisis and pandemic-related lockdowns have made conditions "more difficult than ever," and another recent spike has only increased the public's frustration.

On Sunday, Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed the government and froze parliament in a dramatic escalation of a political crisis that his opponents labelled a coup, calling their own supporters to come onto the streets in protest, Reuters reported.

The president said he would assume executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister after violent protests broke out in several Tunisian cities over the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy.

It is the biggest challenge yet to a 2014 constitution that split powers between the president, prime minister, and parliament.

“Many people were deceived by hypocrisy, treachery, and robbery of the rights of the people,” he said in a statement carried on state media.

“I warn any who think of resorting to weapons … and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets,” he added, according to al Jazeera.

He also suspended the immunity of members of parliament, insisting his actions were in line with the constitution.

Tunisian Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi accused President Saied of launching “a coup against the revolution and constitution”.

“We consider the institutions to be still standing and supporters of Ennahdha and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution,” Ghannouchi, who heads the Ennahdha party, told the Reuters news agency by phone.

Ennahdha is the biggest party in parliament.

The party also condemned the president’s move as a “state coup against the revolution”.

“What Kais Saied is doing is a state coup against the revolution and against the constitution, and the members of Ennahdha and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution,” Ennahdha wrote in a statement on its Facebook page.