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Tunisia: Journalists contend against Saudi, UAE bots to warn against crushing hard won civil liberties

July 27, 2021 at 3:07 pm

Tunisian security officers hold back protesters outside the parliament building in the capital Tunis on 26 July 2021, following a move by the president to suspend the country’s parliament and dismiss the Prime Minister. [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]

On Sunday Tunisia’s President, Kais Saeid assumed emergency powers to sack the prime minister, suspend parliament and the immunity of parliamentarians, and assume authority of the government.

The birthplace of the Arab Spring has made headlines since the weekend as the head of state announced a month-long curfew and placed a ban on gatherings of more than three people.

Military tanks surrounded the parliament and government palace whilst security forces raided Al Jazeera’s bureau.

It was in a small town in Tunisia where Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation led to Arab Spring protests across the region in 2011 against poverty, unemployment and in favour of civil liberty and fair elections.

Ten years on, disappointment is tangible as corruption and unemployment remain widespread, and anger has swelled into protests exacerbated by the government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite this, opposition groups have called Saeid’s move a coup, with many social media users posting under the trending Arabic hashtag, “Tunisia rises against the coup.”

Several Egyptians, who themselves lived through a coup in 2013 and its brutal aftermath, are commenting as the events unfold.

Worryingly, Tunisia’s president has in the past praised Egypt’s military dictatorship, now considered the most repressive in its modern history.

Al Jazeera host Ahmed Mansour tweeted that with the events of this week in Tunisia, the civil liberties won during the revolution have now been lost.

Journalist Ahmed Muaffaq said that Arab tyrannical regimes will not be happy until the revolutions have been completely crushed.

Syrian writer and journalist Qatyba Yassen said that in Tunisia the coup has been supported by the enemy of the people and the friends of tyrants and colonisers.

The adviser to the Yemeni Minister of Information commented that it is the enemies of the Arab revolutions – the Gulf countries who supported the counter-revolution in Yemen – and those who oppose change who stand with the coup in Tunisia.

In the days following the coup in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait declared they were giving Egypt a $12 billion aid package, public approval of the decision to remove the late President Mohamed Morsi from power.


Tunisia’s former president Moncef Marzouki has condemned the move as a “clear coup” instigated by the UAE.

Under an opposing Arabic hashtag, “Tunisia rises up against the Muslim Brotherhood,” users posted images of co-founder of the Ennahda Party, Rached Ghannouchi, with captions such as, “game over” and “finally”.


Following the announcement, anti-government protesters sparked fireworks and berated the Islamist Ennahda party. Saeid and Ennahda’s supporters threw stones and eggs at one another outside parliament.

Saudi political analyst Salman Al-Ansari posted a video of protesters celebrating the president’s decision.

Former Republican Congressional Candidate Dalia Al-Aqidi wrote that she was proud of Tunisia, tagging Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican senator who tabled a bill in 2017 designating Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.

Emirati influencer Hassan Sajwani has written that this is the end of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia.

Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies, Marc Owen Jones, analysed 1,200 tweets and found that most people tweeting under the “rise up against the Muslim Brotherhood” hashtag are Emirati and Saudi influencers and most report their locations as in one of these two Gulf countries, or in Egypt.