Since last Tuesday [Aug. 14], the city of Sidi Bouzid, hub of the Arab Spring, has been witnessing a general strike and protests calling for the ousting of the Ennahda government. In January 2011, The Islamist movement won a landslide majority in the elections that were carried out in the country following the ousting of the regime of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Today, the protests have erupted again, against the backdrop of dire living conditions, including power and water cuts, and the lack of progress on the government’s part to tackle the issues of poverty and unemployment. These were the same causes behind the popular revolution that toppled the former regime.
In the meantime, Egyptian political movements and parties have called for a mass rally on Aug. 24-25 to protest against the mounting interference of the ruling Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). According to some protesters, this party’s actions remind them of the former ruling National Democratic Party. The protesters have also demanded that the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters be closed, since the Islamist movement is based on religion and thus not in compliance with the political parties law.
While in Tunisia, the General Labor Union has been upholding a general strike and demonstrations, in Egypt some traditional political parties, such as the Wafd and Labor Party, will take part in the mass rally in to be held on Aug. 25. This is further proof that the demonstrations in both Tunisia and Egypt are taking a more serious turn and that the Islamists' rise to power in both countries with the first elections following the Arab Spring revolution is not the end of the game. The Arab people have not yet surrendered to "will of the Muslim Brotherhood, or Ennahda."
In Tunisia, the demonstrations and the general strike are reminiscent of the time of the Arab Spring. The ongoing protests are fanning the flames of the Tunisian revolution, even after the elections of a new president, the formation of the Ennahda government and the many attempts by Salafists to undermine the advances of the Tunisian people at the level of personal rights and women's equality. The people are demanding that the new president and his deputy be ousted. It is a revolution within a revolution. Although rebels have yet to fully demand the toppling of the new regime, they are insisting on turning it into a democratic regime, one of social justice that is able to develop solutions to the problems of poverty and unemployment. Most importantly, Tunisians seek to have a transparent regime that is subject to the people's control.
The general strike in Tunisia was no surprise, given that the Tunisian revolutionaries were quick to begin a fierce journey against the Salafists' attempt to drag the country back down into a pit of backwardness and to undermine the people's advances in personal rights, especially in gender equality. However, the most surprising thing was the emergence of a similar situation in Egypt, where the mass rallies were clear evidence that the people will continue to defend the democratic content of the revolution.
In Egypt, following the inauguration of Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood president, the military council, which was the Brotherhood's partner in rule even if for several days only, was ousted. Morsi has taken a series of dubious measures that throw into question the Brotherhood’s real intentions. They seek to have full control over the reins of power and state institutions. The appointment of two Muslim Brotherhood advocates as heads of military and security institutions is further proof of the Brotherhood’s' intentions, it is further evidence that they are trying to seize control of Egypt under false slogans. They claim they want to rid the country of the former regime's remnants and complete the revolution. Former President Hosni Mubarak followed the same tactic when he wanted to place the reins of power in the hands of the October Generation [the leadership generation of Hosni Mubarak]. The "revolutionary" forces are doing nothing but seeking to impose dictatorship all over again. They speak of a shift toward a civil state, but all they are doing is switching military commanders.
However, the most important thing is that dictatorship-oriented Islamist parties do not take long to ban civil demonstrations. The spokesman of the Tunisian government said that the general strike was unnecessary. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has gone as far as to say that participation in mass rallies is a form of religious deviation that constitutes blasphemy and disbelief in God and his Messenger.
It has become clear that the ruling Islamist parties, whether the Muslim Brotherhood, Ennahda or the Salafists, are quite content with their rise to power following the ousting of both Mubarak and Ben Ali. However, the Egyptian and Tunisian peoples’ aspirations go far beyond what is happening now. They seek a democratic regime, where state institutions represent individuals and where the authorities strive to develop solutions to the problems of poverty and unemployment. The revolutionaries have embarked on a new chapter of bitter democratic and social struggle. They have a long way to go, and countless sit-ins and demonstrations to hold, before the revolution turns into a coup, thus reinforcing democratic, social and cultural awareness on everyone and at all levels.