Yadh Ben Achour, president of the Authority to Achieve the Revolution’s Goals, an independent body tasked with giving advice to the government in post-Ben Ali Tunisia, has said that the Salafist movement in Tunisia could cause chaos in the country and threaten the revolution.
Ben Achour, who was in İstanbul last week for the conference “Constitutional Processes in the Mediterranean Basin,” organized by the Association of Constitutional Law Research in Turkey, the French Association of Constitutional Law and the Tunisian Association of Constitutional Law, said that Tunisians are concerned.
“What we are worried about is that some Salafis will resort to violence and create chaos,” he told Sunday’s Zaman.
He added that the Salafis are connected to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.
“They [Salafis] do not believe in elections, democracy and the state. Elections mean nothing to them. Everything starts with God and ends with God for them,” Ben Achour said.
At their last protest in April, Salafis attacked the national theater in Tunisia, tearing down posters and beating up a number of actors.
“There is no environment of violence in general in Tunisia, but there are fears that there could be, especially because Salafis attack intellectuals and journalists.”
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki on May 1 said Salafis in his country pose a “threat to democracy” but called on his security forces to not resort to the torture and suppression that plagued the country until last year.
“Some of them do not accept having any kind of political discussion, and some of them are going to present a kind of threat against democracy,” he said in an interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Meanwhile, the next general elections in the country could be held by spring 2013, Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said in April.
After overthrowing their dictator in January 2011, Tunisians elected an assembly on Oct. 23 to write a new constitution and manage the affairs of the country. A moderate Islamist party, Ennahda, won the first elections of the Arab Spring and formed a coalition with two leftist parties.
Ennahda won more than 40 percent of the parliamentary seats. Its leader, Rached Ghannouchi, hailed Turkey before elections as a “model” for Tunisians.
He said Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was a successful synthesis of Islam and modernity and that the AK Party was a very successful example of a modern Muslim government.
Ben Achour said he shares this view and adds that the world is yet to see whether Islam and democracy will be compatible in Tunisia.
“The Ennahda Party’s model is Turkey’s AKP [or AK Party], which is moderately Islamic, predominantly consists of Muslims and is secular,” he said. “The AKP is successful; it gives hope to the Arab world.”
Asked by Sunday’s Zaman which countries of the region can be good examples as far as democratization goes, he answered that in the whole Islamic world, only Turkey, Malaysia, Tunisia and Morocco can be good examples.
Ben Achour also said that a new process was begun after the October elections to draft a new constitution after the political institutions collapsed in Tunisia in February of last year.
“The process is still ongoing,” he said. “But there is no roadmap regarding when it is going to end. It has become an open-ended process. There is now uncertainty.”
According to Ben Achour, nothing is the same in Tunisia after the revolution despite some setbacks.
“The revolution put an end to a myth which was imported from the West. Tunisians demanded the revolution, it was not imposed on them; it was not imported. It is a revolution because it is a turning point in the collective memory of the Tunisians.”
On Dec. 17, 2010, Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after officials confiscated the unemployed 26-year-old’s unlicensed grocery cart, reportedly slapping and insulting him. Bouazizi did not die immediately. In fact he died weeks later in a hospital, on Jan. 4. But his act of ultimate desperation instantly sparked protests in his hometown, Sidi Bouzid, which later spread to the capital Tunis and elsewhere, forcing autocratic President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country on Jan. 14.
As part of what has come to be known as the Arab Spring, there have been revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, a bloody civil war in Libya that resulted in the toppling of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011 and an ongoing uprising in Syria as well as in Yemen and Bahrain. There have also been protests of a smaller scale in other countries across the Arab world, ranging from Algeria to Iraq and Kuwait.