afrol News, 1 February - As international attention has shifted from Tunisia to Egypt, there are mounting fears that the Jasmine Revolution may not have won yet. Fresh police brutality, social discontent and continued looting cause concern.
A representative from the US-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) with her own eyes this weekend was able to observe how police in Tunisia still stick to repressive and violent methods.
She observed "uniformed agents beating a young man with their hands and clubs in the back of a police wagon on the main avenue of the capital." Later on the same day, "police assaulted a French photographer and smashed his camera as he filmed them clubbing and kicking another youth," HRW reports from Tunis.
"Tunisians, elated by their new freedom to speak and demonstrate, are also witnessing street scenes - and televised images - of police beating protesters," commented the group's Sarah Leah Whitson. "The government should make clear that officers who violently abuse people will be punished," she urged.
Tunisian human rights lawyers and activists - including Mokhtar Trifi, president of the Tunisian League for Human Rights - agree that the "police have administered numerous beatings to demonstrators in Tunis in recent days."
Much of the police violence in Tunis is related to a week-long sit-in in the large square in front of "the Casbah," the seat of the national government, by protesters demanding the ouster of all ministers who served under deposed President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Police actions to control and evict the protesters led to skirmishes involving rock-throwing by demonstrators and the use of teargas by police, both at Casbah Square and in the heart of the city.
This weekend, two HRW researchers in downtown Tunis observed several uniformed police agents inside a police wagon beating a youth with their hands and clubs. A uniformed policeman, when asked what was happening, explained that the youth had been "cursing at the police." He added, pointing to his wrist, "You give them this much freedom" - then he pointed to the top of his arm - "and they want this much!"
olice wagon opened after a few minutes and the young man emerged, crying and with a bloody nose, and then fled," according to the HRW observers.
While the majority of Tunisians are mostly happy to have achieved the ousting of ex-President Ben Ali and the following relative normalisation of the situation, large groups remain unhappy with age-old Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi still heading government in Tunisia. Mr Ghannouchi's long loyalty to the ex-Dictator make him unfit to achieve the goals of the revolution, they hold.
Apart from the freeing of political prisoners, a freer press and new faces in government, those continuing the protests see little change. The new Interior Minister, Farhat Rajhi, the hold, yet has to take initial steps to reform the police, including giving orders to halt police brutality and to respect freedom of assembly.
The social mischief, which to a wide degree sparked the revolution, are not being properly addressed, the protesters hold. Some even see the situation as hopeless as it was before the revolution, as demonstrated by yet another Tunisian pouring petrol over himself in Tunis today.
As Tunisian police concentrate on controlling further protests in the capital and other cities, there are meanwhile reports of ongoing looting in more remote areas, but also in the town of Hammamet, close to Tunis.
The new government meanwhile tries to attract as little negative attention as possible, downplaying all incidents. Tunisia's newly appointed Central Bank governor Mustapha Kamel Nabli at Davos insisted the country already was safe for investors and tourists.
Foreign governments, keen to see stability return to Tunisia under a secular government, meanwhile compete to establish favourable ties with the Ghannouchi government. The US already has eased its Tunisia travel alert, no longer generally advising its citizens against travelling to the country.
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