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For some in Tunisia the devil is better than Ennahda

Supporters of Tunisia's Islamist Ennahdha Party wave the national flag and the party flag on May 20, 2016 during the opening of Ennahdha's three-day congress in Tunis [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]
Supporters of Tunisia's Islamist Ennahdha Party wave the national flag and the party flag on May 20, 2016 during the opening of Ennahdha's three-day congress in Tunis [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]

There is a part of the elite – fortunately, there are women and men who are standing in a sound position and who did not hesitate to say that it was a coup – but there is a part of the elite, which you talk about, who suffer from what I call the Ennahda Syndrome. For them, what is important is for the Ennahda Party to disappear even if the devil replaces it.

But the elite should not think this way, a conscious person should not think this way. A real intellectual should not think this way.

He (Tunisian President Kais Saied) is well-known for his stance on freedoms and equality. His stance is clear: Political life is ruined by parties so abolish freedom of association. Social life is ruined by unions so attack the Tunisian General Labour Union. Public life is ruined by the media so abolish media freedoms. What remains is a leader and a herd. This, in politics, is despotism; this is dictatorship.

He (President Saied) said I did not set up the gallows for you and did not shoot you. That's all we need now. Let him try. Is this something a democratic person would say?

His stance on equality is well known. He is the first president to come out on 13 August on Tunisian Women's Day to say 'I am against equality' – even Ben Ali, although he was against equality, did not dare to declare his position and used to lie and claim he was for equality. Where are women's organisations and human rights groups? Why are you not speaking up?

READ: Tunisia Ennahda says it and other parties responsibility for current crisis

Similarly, with the silence about violations. Although I saw that the secretary-general of the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) spoke about rights violations, raids etc, others have not only been silent, they even justify violations. I heard those who justify Saied's presidency of the Public Prosecution and that there is no objection to that. Is that reasonable? Is this a state of law and a state of institutions? Is this democracy?

That is why for us, we consider that these kind of elites.. who supported Ben Ali.. there are different types within them. Some of them suffer from the Ennahda Syndrome. We are against Ennahda, but we do not suffer from a syndrome called Ennahda. We oppose the party intellectually, politically and on the ground, and by persuading the people that they are not serving the people's interests.

There are also some among them (the elites) who have the mentality of "let's jump on the bandwagon and profit". I saw how they were during Ben Ali's term. I mention this story for the sake of history: once I sat with some intellectuals and one was relentlessly defending Ben Ali, and when he was challenged, he eventually said: "Do you want me to wait another 30 years??" They waited 30 years under Bourguiba and got nothing, now they are older, you want then to wait another 30 years? There are also others who are opportunistic and greedy, who are after a post. All of them position themselves in the middle, they go with whoever is in power. There's an academic and intellectual who before 25 July was constantly talking about Abir Moussi and was an avid supporter; he was always posting photos with her. Once Kais Saied rose, he instantly turned around and changed allegiance. In the past, Abir Moussi was at the forefront of voting surveys. They were cheering for Abir, and today they moved on to cheer for the president. This is the real problem and this is the responsibility of the real democratic forces, the real progressive, enlightened and revolutionary forces that they defend principles and values, defend a programme and not individuals – they do not defend oppression and injustice.

One should struggle using ideas and policies and with clarity. It's a whole system. We had said it before. On 27 February we were the only ones on the street, no other parties. So no one should give us lessons on opposing the Ennahda movement, neither intellectually nor politically. They are the ones who should take lessons. How did Kais Saied rise to power? He got 500,000-600,000 votes from the Ennahda Party and the Karama coalition – and in his thinking he is not far from the Ennahda Party and is even close to Salafism.

READ: Tunisia issues search warrant for ex-presidential candidate and his brother

These remarks were made to Premier magazine on 2 September 2021 and translated from its Facebook page

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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