Entries in Tunisia (28)


Unrest Continues in Tunisia Following Leftist's Assassination

FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images(TUNIS, Tunisia) -- Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali's attempts at quelling civil unrest following the assassination of an opposition leader aren't going over very well.

On Wednesday, Jebali announced that he would form a new government free of political affiliations in an effort to stop demonstrators' clashes with police.

However, the prime minister's party, Ennahda, has disagreed with his decision and is calling for a minor reshuffling of government officials.

Now, Jebali is caught in the middle of a feud that threatens to spin out of control.  Meanwhile, a funeral is planned on Friday for opposition leader Chokri Belaid, who was gunned down earlier in the week outside his home in the capital of Tunis.  A pro-Ennahda "militia" is considered a suspect in the murder.

Belaid, who helped lead a leftist coalition, was critical of Tunisia's moderate Islamist government.

It was in January 2011 that pro-democracy demonstrations forced the resignation of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.  The revolution ushered in what came to be known as the "Arab Spring," a movement that has had monumental repercussions throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa since then.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Opposition Leader's Death Creates Havoc in Tunisia

FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images(TUNIS, Tunisia) -- Tunisia, which spawned the so-called "Arab Spring" just over two years ago, is again experiencing political turmoil.

The apparent assassination Wednesday of opposition leader Chokri Belaid spurred Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali to announce that he would form a new government free of political affiliations.

In doing so, Jebali is hoping to head off more civil unrest as thousands of protesters clashed with police in the capital of Tunis.

Belaid was reportedly gunned down by a hooded shooter while leaving his home.  Belaid, who helped lead a leftist coalition, was critical of Tunisia's Islamist government.

It was in January 2011 that pro-democracy demonstrations forced the resignation of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.  Many of the protests were fueled by social networking Internet sites, including Facebook and Twitter.

The revolution ushered in what came to be known as the "Arab Spring," a movement that has had monumental repercussions throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa since then.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


FBI Granted Access to Benghazi Suspect in Tunisia

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- FBI agents investigating the Benghazi attack have been granted access a suspect who is currently being held in Tunisia. Ali Harzi was initially detained in Turkey after he posted information on a social media site about his involvement in the attack. Harzi was then extradited to his home country of Tunisia where he was being held in a jail. The FBI had been trying to gain access to him since last month.
After working through the diplomatic process the FBI will finally be able to interview him in the coming days.
Final arrangements are being made with the FBI and Tunisian authorities about how the interrogation will take place. Tunisian security officials are likely to be present during the questioning by the American agents.
U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have been briefed on the issue from the FBI.
In a press release the Senators issued the following statement:
“We are very pleased the Tunisian government is working with American investigators to allow in person access to Ali Ani al Harzi.  Under this arrangement the interviews will be under Tunisian supervision and consistent with their sovereignty and meets the needs of our investigative team.
Allowing American investigators in person access will make the interview more meaningful and is a welcome breakthrough in our efforts  to find the perpetrators of the Benghazi Consulate attacks.  This tight collaboration between our countries shows the growing strength of our partnership.
It is unfortunate it has taken this long to get an in-person interview as time is of the essence in cases like this.  We hope our interview of Ali Ani al Harzi will bear fruit and we can bring to justice those responsible for killing Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans.
Tunisia is where the Arab Spring began and these latest events reaffirm the growing alliance between our two countries.  We look forward to working with the Tunisian government to strengthen the ties between our two countries.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Embassy in Tunis Engulfed in Smoke

FETHI BELAID/AFP/GettyImages(TUNIS, Tunisia) -- The U.S. embassy in Tunisia was enveloped in a cloud of black smoke today as police battle thousands of protesters who have gathered to demonstrate at the embassy, as protests by those angry over an American-produced film mocking the Prophet Mohammed raged for a fourth day across the Middle East.

Officials throughout the Muslim world were braced for violent eruptions following Friday prayers, as police and clerics appear to have tried to calm emotions.

In Cairo, protesters took to the streets near the U.S. embassy and more were expected to gather in Tahrir Square following Friday's prayers. Police are lined up on the far side of the square, guarding the road that leads to the U.S. Embassy.

The Muslim Brotherhood had announced that it has canceled their nationwide protests. The group had previously had called for peaceful protests after Friday prayers in front of mosques in all cities across Egypt "in response to the insults to the religious beliefs and the Prophet."

Egyptian Prime Minister Mohammed Morsi went on state TV to denounce the killing of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, during protests about the movie.

Overnight, police in riot gear launched tear gas canisters into the sea of protesters, who were lighting fireworks, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails in return.

In Sanaa, Yemen, police fired shots into the air and lobbed a barrage of tear gas at a crowd of protesters who were trying to march to the U.S. embassy. In face of the tough police response, the crowd of protesters dwindled to several hundred people.

Both embassies in Cairo and Sanaa had been the scene of violent demonstrations earlier this week where protesters breached outer walls and ripped apart the U.S. flag.

Protests erupted as well in India and Bangladesh, and in Lebanon demonstrators took out their anger on a KFC and an Arbys, setting fire to the American-based restaurants.

Many angry demonstrators are blaming the U.S. government for the film, The Innocence of Muslims, and they want an apology from President Obama.

A U.S. intelligence bulletin warned Thursday that the violent outrage aimed at U.S. embassies spawned by the movie could be spread to America by extremist groups eager to "exploit anger."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US to Give Tunisia $100 Million in Financial Assistance

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State  Hillary Rodham Clinton announced on Thursday that the United States will provide Tunisia with financial assistance to pay their debts.

The U.S. will fund Tunisia $100 million because it owes the World Bank and African Development Bank. Clinton said the assistance will help the North African nation focus on economic development and job growth after more than a year after what was dubbed ‘The Arab Spring” in which Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was removed from power after 23 years in power.

“As Tunisia progresses into the next phase of its historic democratic transition, the United States is working to help accelerate economic growth that benefits all, ensure that democracy delivers for the Tunisian people, and to help Tunisian businesses -- large and small -- become engines of job creation,” said Clinton.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Islamist Party Leads Tunisia Vote

GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images(TUNIS, Tunisia) -- Tunisia may soon have a government that many there consider the best of both worlds; that is, one with core Islamic principles meshed with a Western-style democracy.

There is optimism that it could happen following Sunday's historic vote that resulted from last January's overthrow of authoritarian leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali through a popular revolution fueled by social networking sites.

It appears that the Ennahda party, which considers itself a "modernist political movement," has won at least a plurality in the new 217-member assembly whose first tasks will be to form a new constitution and a caretaker government.

In fact, Ennahada, which claims it will be dedicated to the principles of democracy and pluralism, could wind up with a majority in the assembly once all the votes are tallied.

Party members have promised to work with other liberal blocs to forge a government that will likely go easy on legislating morality, which is a relief to women who've obtained certain rights under the old regime.

Libya and Egypt, two other nations that have undergone upheavals, are watching to see how it’s done in Tunisia, although the country has several advantages, including a homogenous, educated population and a military willing to step aside for civilian rulers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Will Sharia Govern Newly Liberated Muslim Countries?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the newly liberated Muslim countries from Tunisia to Egypt and Libya form new governments and institutions, one of the key questions becomes how far they will go to placate hardline Muslim forces.

The early signs from Libya are disappointing. Speaking Monday, Libya Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said the country’s legislature would have an Islamist tint and that any existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified. He outlined several changes in a major speech, including putting caps on interest rates on bank loans and lifting restrictions on the number of wives Libyan men can take. The Muslim holy book, the Koran, allows men up to four wives.

Sharia, which means “path" in Arabic, is more than a legal code; it’s a guide for all aspects of a Muslim's life, from how to marry to how to eat. It’s derived from the Koran, and from Sunna, the practices of the Prophet Mohammed.

Its rules have many interpretations, ranging from the hard-line Hanbali school, which, for instance, calls for stoning for such crimes as adultery, to the more liberal Hanafi school. The more liberal interpretations have been molded fairly successfully into otherwise secular and democratic countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. The hard-line versions are virtually the law in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, where you will still hear of people having their hands cut off for stealing.

There are five hadd offenses -- sex outside of marriage, false accusation of sex outside of marriage, alcohol drinking, theft and highway robbery,  which bring specific punishments under the Koran. The punishments for those offenses are medieval: flogging, stoning, amputation, exile or execution. The case of Sakineh Ashtiani, the mother in Iran sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery, attracted huge media attention worldwide, which likely helped lead to the commutation of her sentence by the Iranian judiciary.

But in practice, even countries that have those punishments on the books very rarely enforce them. Some Muslims, however, take the enforcement into their own hands, meting out cruel punishments, even against family members, with governments either encouraging the behavior or looking the other way. The U.N. estimates that thousands of women die every year in honor killings for alleged violations of traditional Islamic law.

The critical debate inside the Muslim world and out is how much, if any, of sharia law, is acceptable as the basis for modern legal systems.

Some countries, such as Indonesia, have gotten the balance much better than, say, Saudi Arabia. For some Muslims, it is no different than the Judeo-Christian ethic forming the foundation of Western law. One very prominent example is sharia’s ban on paying or charging interest on loans. The financial products that get around this rule to allow Muslims to get mortgages or credit cards is an enormous global business growing every year, with many of the firms based in Dubai.

The question remains whether Muslims newly free from dictatorship will have the same freedom from ancient religious law.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Millions of Tunisians Cast Votes in Tunisia’s Arab Spring Election

Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images(TUNIS, Tunisia) -- History was made Sunday when millions of Tunisians turned up to cast their votes in Tunisia’s first truly free election since its independence in 1956.

In a large step toward democracy, Tunisians voted for an assembly to draft a new constitution.

The election comes 10 months after the vegetable seller Mohamed Bouazizi, anguished by poverty and repressed by the government, publicly ignited himself in flames, instigating the widespread outcry which spiraled into the Arab Spring mass protests.

The protests forced President Zine al-Abidine to flee Tunisia, and inspired uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


PHOTO: In 2010, No Sign of Arab Revolts to Come

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, center, leans on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh as they pose for a group photo with African presidents at the Afro-Arab Joint Summit in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, Oct. 10, 2010. Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- What a difference ten months makes.

In this photo taken on Oct. 10, 2010, Moammar Gadhafi, Hosni Mubarak, and the presidents of Tunisia and Yemen smile for the cameras in the front row of the Afro-Arab Joint Summit meeting in Sirte, Libya.

Less than a year later, two of the long-time leaders have been pushed from power, one has agreed to cede power after surviving an assassination attempt, and the other seems to be just days or hours from the end of his reign.

Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, on the left in the blue suit with his hands clasped, was the first leader to fall. The revolution that began when Mohamed Bouazizi, a disgruntled jobseeker, burned himself to death in December, led to Ben Ali's ouster on January 14, and sparked the wave of revolts that have swept Arab countries ever since. Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after 23 years in power.

Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, on the far right in the dark suit with his fingers entwined, resigned on February 11 after a popular revolt powered by social media that lasted nearly three weeks. Mubarak ruled for 30 years, but at age 81 is now being tried on charges of corruption and allegedly ordering the killing of protestors. He has appeared in court on a gurney and in a cage.

Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh, with a gray moustache to Ben Ali's left, agreed to step down on April 23 after massive street protests. He had ruled for 33 years. He said he planned to hand over power, but then refused to sign an agreement ceding power. He barely survived an RPG attack on the presidential compound on June 3. The next day he was evacuated to a military hospital in Saudi Arabia and a vice president became acting president of Yemen.

In July, Saleh appeared on television, bandaged and burned, to say he welcomed power sharing. He has pledged to hold elections, but not before 2013.

Moammar Gadhafi, instantly recognizable by his distinctive robes, and with his arms draped around Mubarak and Saleh, had the longest run of any of the leaders, taking power in a bloodless coup in 1969 before he had turned 30. Street protests that began in February, however, turned into full-scale civil war, and after a seesaw battle lasting six months, and after intervention on the side of the rebels by NATO, Gadhafi was said to be surrounded in Tripoli on August 22.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Clinton Warns US May Lose Arab Spring Opportunity If Budgets Are Cut

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Tuesday that the U.S. risks losing out on the chance to reshape the Middle East amid the Arab Spring uprisings if suggested cuts to foreign aid budgets are enacted.
“We have an opportunity right now in the Middle East and North Africa that I'm not sure we're going to be able to meet because we don't have the resources to invest,” Clinton said during a downhill-style question-and-answer session alongside Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the National Defense University.
She specifically cited the needs in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, where uprisings have or threaten to overturn longstanding dictatorships. Clinton made a comparison to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe that ushered in the peaceful post-war decades.
Clinton’s remarks were her latest in warning against budget cuts to foreign aid, which she argues provides a worthy return on investment by saving lives abroad, making the United States safer and creating economic opportunities for American businesses.
Already, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has approved amendments to next year’s proposed budget that would slash funding to the United Nations and other international organizations.

Clinton on Tuesday said Americans are misinformed that foreign aid is the source of the country’s budget woes.
“If you go out to the American public and you say, 'What’s the easiest thing to cut in the American budget?'  It’s always foreign aid,” she said, adding that most Americans think foreign aid accounts for 15-20 percent of the budget but are OK with 10 percent.
The actual figure is about one percent of the budget.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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