Protests across Tunisia as COVID-19 surges and economy suffers

Protests across Tunisia as COVID-19 surges and economy suffers
(File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 25 July 2021

Protests across Tunisia as COVID-19 surges and economy suffers

Protests across Tunisia as COVID-19 surges and economy suffers
  • The protests raise pressure on a fragile government that is enmeshed in a political struggle with President Kais Saied

TUNIS: Hundreds of protesters rallied in the Tunisian capital and other cities on Sunday demanding the government step down after a spike in COVID-19 cases that has aggravated economic troubles.
In Tunis, police used pepper spray against protesters who threw stones and shouted slogans demanding that Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi quit and parliament be dissolved.
Witnesses said rallies numbering several hundred also gathered the cities of Gafsa, Sidi Bouzid, Monastir and Nabeul. Demonstrators in Sousse tried to storm the local headquarters of the biggest party in parliament, the moderate Islamist Ennahda. In Touzeur, protesters set fire to the Ennahda headquarters.
The protests raise pressure on a fragile government that is enmeshed in a political struggle with President Kais Saied, who is trying to avert a looming fiscal crisis amid a weeks-long spike in COVID-19 cases and increased death rates.
The pandemic has hit Tunisia as it struggles to lift an economy that has suffered since its 2011 revolution, undermining public support for democracy as unemployment surged and state services declined.
“Our patience has run out... there are no solutions for the unemployed,” said Nourredine Selmi, 28, a jobless protester. “They cannot control the epidemic ... They can’t give us vaccines.”
Last week, Mechichi sacked the health minister after chaotic scenes at walk-in vaccination centers during the Muslim Eid Al-Adha holiday, where large crowds queued for inadequate supplies of vaccine.
After a year of wrangling with Mechichi and the leader of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, who is also parliament speaker, President Saied declared the army would take over the pandemic response.
Some analysts saw the move as an attempt to expand his powers beyond the foreign and military role assigned to the president in the 2014 constitution.
Government paralysis could derail efforts to negotiate an International Monetary Fund loan seen as crucial to stabilising state finances but which could also involve spending cuts that would aggravate economic pain for ordinary people.


Algerians rue ‘missed opportunities’ of Bouteflika era

Algerians rue ‘missed opportunities’ of Bouteflika era
Updated 8 sec ago

Algerians rue ‘missed opportunities’ of Bouteflika era

Algerians rue ‘missed opportunities’ of Bouteflika era
TUNIS: Algerians looked back on two decades of “missed opportunities” as flags flew at half mast Sunday ahead of the funeral of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
His death at age 84 was announced late Friday, more than two years after the former strongman quit office.
The long-time leader had risen to power in 1999 on a wave of popular support as his amnesty offer to Islamist militants helped bring an end to a devastating decade-long civil war.
But 20 years later, mass protests broke out in response to his announcement that he intended to stand for a fifth term, and the army stepped in to force his resignation.
Bouteflika, a fighter in the war for independence from France, had suffered a mini-stroke in 2013 that affected his speech, and he was forced to use a wheelchair.
Dubbed “Boutef” by Algerians, he had won respect as a foreign minister in the 1970s to his mentor, Algeria’s second president Houari Boumediene.
Algerian journalist Adlene Meddi said it was nostalgia for the heady Boumediene days of the late 60s and 70s that had given Bouteflika his initial honeymoon period as president.
“For some, he was a reassuring presence, reviving memories of the ‘glorious’ years under Boumediene, when Algeria was the leader of the developing world — all in sharp contrast with the smoldering ruins of Algeria of the late 1990s,” Meddi wrote on online news outlet Middle East Eye.


Hasni Abidi, head of the CERMAM studies center in Geneva, said Bouteflika had also benefited from high oil prices of the era which had inflated government coffers.
“His popularity was guaranteed by a high (price of a) barrel and a ‘civil concord’ law negotiated by the army” that put an end to the war with the Islamists, he said.
“Unfortunately, Bouteflika missed his rendezvous with history — he was the president of missed opportunities.
“He became a man of power and intrigue and not a statesman.”
University of Algiers politics lecturer Louisa Dris Ait Hamadouche said the nation had suffered a “litany of missed opportunities” as Bouteflika “failed to achieve his own ambitions or those of the Algerian state.”
He wanted “to surpass Boumediene, enshrine the presidency, bring all military institutions under its command, boost Algeria’s influence on the regional stage, be the one to turn the page on the black decade (of civil war),” which killed around 200,000 people, Dris Ait Hamadouche said.
“But the outcome has been that in 2021, the institutions of the state have never been so weakened, so divided or so discredited.”
Dris Ait Hamadouche said that for many younger Algerians, the only memory they would keep of their former president would be the “distressing image of an old man in a wheelchair.”
More than half the country’s population is younger than 30.
She said she regretted that death had spared him having to answer for “the mistakes committed during the exercise of his duties.”
Bouteflika faced criticism from rights groups and opponents who accused him of being authoritarian.
Samir Yahiaoui, a Hirak reform movement activist in the Algerian diaspora in France, said he too regretted that Bouteflika had “taken so many secrets with him.”
“It’s just unacceptable,” he said. “It shows that he served a clan, a regime, and was never a statesman.”

Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan

Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan
Updated 26 min 31 sec ago

Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan

Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan
  • Motegi said he hopes for the success of Expo 2020 Dubai
  • Motegi and Al Nahyan exchanged views on global issues such as climate change

TOKYO: Japanese Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu said he appreciated the United Arab Emirates’ support provided during the evacuation of staff members at the Embassy of Japan in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

According to a statement released by Japan’s Foreign Ministry, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Motegi had a telephone conversation on Friday. Japan’s FM stated that the Asian country highly praised the crucial role the UAE has taken with regards to Afghanistan, such as temporarily accepting evacuees and providing humanitarian support.

In addition, Motegi said he hopes for the success of Expo 2020 Dubai, which will take place on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE, and will be the first International Registered Exhibition to be held in the Middle East region. 

The two ministers confirmed that they will continue to further promote cooperation in a variety of fields towards the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the UAE in 2022. 

Motegi and Al Nahyan exchanged views on global issues such as climate change and agreed to continue close coordination, according to the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured

Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured
Updated 19 September 2021

Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured

Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured
  • The two were captured during an Israeli army raid in their hometown of Jenin in the occupied West Bank
  • The six tunneled out of their cell on Sept. 6, exposing security flaws from the vaunted "Israeli Guantanamo"

JERUSALEM: The last two of six Palestinian prisoners who escaped a maximum-security Israeli prison two weeks ago were rearrested early Sunday, the Israeli military said.
The two were captured during an Israeli army raid in their hometown of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, closing an intense, embarrassing pursuit that exposed security flaws after the six tunneled out of their cell on Sept. 6.
Palestinian media reported that clashes erupted in Jenin when Israeli troops entered the city, but a spokesperson for Israeli police said the two escapees, Munadil Nafayat and Iham Kamamji, were arrested without resistance from a house where they had taken refuge and were taken for questioning.
Fouad Kamamji, Iham’s father, told The Associated Press that his son had called him when the Israeli troops surrounded the house and said he will surrender “in order not to endanger the house owners.”
The escapes set off a massive pursuit operation that captured the first four inmates in two separate operations in northern Israel. All six inmates come from Jenin.
Five of the prisoners are from the Islamic Jihad militant group, with four of them serving life sentences, and the sixth is a member of the secular Fatah group of President Mahmoud Abbas.
For the Palestinians, the prisoners who dug the tunnel for months and escaped were “heroes.” For Israel, they were “terrorists” who took part or planned attacks that targeted the Israeli military and civilians.


Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM

Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM

Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
  • The National News Agency said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Iranian fuel shipments imported by the Hezbollah movement constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty, according to comments published by his office.
“The violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty makes me sad,” Mikati told CNN in an interview, his office said in a posting on Twitter.
He added: “But I’m not concerned that sanctions can be imposed” on Lebanon “because the operation was carried out without the involvement of the Lebanese government.”
The Tehran-aligned group on Thursday began bringing tanker trucks carrying fuel from Iran, a move it says should ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon.
A tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it crossed into Lebanon. Both Syria and Iran are under US sanctions.
Meanwhile, authorities have seized 20 tons of ammonium nitrate — the same chemical behind a deadly explosion last year at Beirut’s port — in the eastern Bekaa Valley, state media said.
Ammonium nitrate is an odorless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
The National News Agency said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria.
Authorities seized 20 tons of the dangerous chemical stored inside a truck parked at the warehouse, the NNA said, adding the material was transported to a “safe place.”
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi called on security forces to conduct a sweep of the area. He said: “We must do our best to move these materials to a safer place away from exposure to heat and sun” to avoid a “catastrophe.”
The company that owns the ammonium nitrate said that the fertilizer was intended for agricultural use.


Iran leader reasserts ban on sports with Israel

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran leader reasserts ban on sports with Israel

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
  • Khamenei instructed “the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined”

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday reasserted the Islamic republic’s longstanding ban on competitive sport with Israelis, and promised support for athletes disciplined by international bodies for respecting it.
Iran does not recognize Israel and its athletes usually refrain from facing Israeli opponents, whether by forfeiting the match or by simply not participating.
“Any Iranian athlete worthy of the name cannot shake hands with a representative of the criminal regime in order to win a medal,” Khamenei told a reception for Iran’s medallists from the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“The illegitimate, bloodthirsty ... Zionist regime tries to win legitimacy by taking part in international sporting events attended by the world arrogance (Washington and the West), and our athletes cannot just stand idly by,” he added, in comments posted on his official website.

BACKGROUND

In Tokyo, Iran won seven Olympic medals, three of them gold, as well as 24 Paralympic medals.

Khamenei instructed “the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined.”
He was referring to Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine, who withdrew from the Tokyo Games after the draw set him on course for a possible matchup against an Israeli opponent, prompting his suspension from international competition.