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Tunisian activist says revolution against ‘coup’ still alive

A renowned Tunisian leftist activist said the 2011 revolution is still alive, as the North African country prepares to mark the 11th anniversary of an uprising that unseated former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

“The revolution is still going on. It’s not over yet,” Ezzeddine Hazgui told Anadolu Agency.

Hazgui, 77, is the spokesperson for “Citizens Against Coup” movement, a group that spearheads protests against incumbent President Kais Saied’s power seizure.

January 14 marks the anniversary of the Tunisian revolution that toppled Ben Ali. Saied, however, changed the date to Dec. 17, when fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi set himself ablaze after an altercation with police, an incident which ignited the uprising.

Hazgui slammed Saied’s move to change the date, saying the Tunisian president is “denying history” like his “tyrant predecessors”.

“This (Saied) who did not participate in the history of this country in any national movement wants to change its history,” Hazgui said.

For Hazgui, Dec. 17, 2010 marks the beginning of the revolution but Jan. 14, 2011, is the culmination of the uprising. “We will celebrate the revolution on Jan. 14,” he said.

Saied ousted the government on July 25, 2021, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority. While he insists that his “exceptional measures” are meant to “save” the country, critics have accused him of orchestrating a coup.

Hunger Strike
Last month, Hazgui’s group launched a hunger strike to protest “Tunisia’s sliding into a real repressive juncture”. It accused Saied of orchestrating “individual rule and the suppression of the voices of opponents”, including the dispersing of sit-ins on December 17 and 18.

Hazgui said the hunger strike was triggered by “the fierce attack of the repressive security of the Ministry of the Interior and the militias of coup master (Saied) on December 18, when we were attacked.”

He said his movement was also protesting “the military trials of civilians and legitimate lawmakers” following Saied’s “exceptional measures”.

“The legitimate parliamentarians are detained on military orders,” Hazgui said, adding that the move was “a violation of all laws”.

The activist went on to accuse the Tunisian president of seeking to control the judiciary.

“The president has appointed himself as a judge, prosecutor, and researcher, and he is walking on a path that he himself does not know where it leads,” Hazgui said.

Real democrats
Hazgui said the “coup” was a test to sieve the real democrats from those claiming to be democrats.

He added that the hunger strike “exposed everyone, those who claim democracy are undemocratic, just as it exposed the claimants of human rights.”

“There is an organization called the Tunisian League for Human Rights (founded in 1976) and there are dozens of bloggers and civilians in prisons, dozens were kept in compulsory residence, and dozens were prevented from traveling. We launched a hunger strike and the League did not speak.”

He accused the League and some elites of being “anti-democratic” and people who “still live in the Middle Ages” with “tribal thinking”.

Hope
Hazgui believes the hunger strike will bear fruits. “We have not lost hope, and we call on the people to join us. Our strike is part of exposing Saied’s violations.”

He hailed the hunger strike for being able to “assemble some of the elites who had not met before and discussed a lot during the past half month,” adding that the elites subscribed to “different ideological orientations”, something he hopes will pave way for a better Tunisia.

Hazgui said those leftists that support Saied cannot claim to be leftist.

“These are the same leftists who went with Ben Ali in 1991 against the Islamists,” Hazgui said.

He explained, “When our interests intersected today with Ennahda (Islamist), for example, in the fight against the coup, they (some leftists) chose tyranny because they are only hateful and not principled.”

Hazgui said Saied’s repeated accusations of his opponents for being stooges of foreign powers as something from Ben Ali’s textbook.

Instead, he argued, Saied is “linked to foreign powers to the core, and just like those who preceded him, Ben Ali and [former President Habib] Bourguiba, he only addresses his masters abroad” while ignoring Tunisians and the Tunisian press.

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