Tunisian women at a rally in Tunis marking the 5th anniversary of the 2011 revolution (AFP) Tunisian women at a rally in Tunis marking the 5th anniversary of the 2011 revolution (AFP)

Tunisian opposition call for ouster of President Essebsi

Wed, Aug. 16, 2017
CAIRO – 16 August 2017: Following calls of Tunisian President Beji Caid Essibsi to end a regulation that prohibits the marriage of a Tunisian Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man, Islamists demanded that Essebsi step down.

Essebsi’s decision sparked controversy. Multiple groups view the decision as a victory for freedom. However, other groups view it as a violation of the basic edicts of Islam.

The Current of Love, or Tayar el-Mahaba, proposed a popular petition on social networks, putting pressure on the parliament to withdraw its confidence from President Essebsi.

Tayar el-Mahaba is led by political writer and Islamist Mohamed Hechmi Hamdi, who split from Ennahda Movement after fierce disputes with Rached Ghannouchi. It was formed after the Tunisian revolution, on March 17, 2011. Before May 2013, Tayar el-Mahaba was known as the Popular Petition for Freedom, Justice and Development.

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A demonstration was recently held where approximately 800 protestors gathered in central Tunis to rally for a “secular state” against “the party of the brotherhood.” (AFP)

Tayar el-Mahaba seeks to collect at least one million signatures on its petition in order to oust the president. It issued a statement that condemned Essebsi’s calls, accusing him of “inciting sedition strife and chaos prior to the municipal councils’ elections, scheduled to be held next December.”

Essebsi asked the government and his minister of justice to end a regulation that prohibits the documentation of any marriage of a Tunisian Muslim woman to a non-Muslim man.

Essebsi pledged to find a form that doesn't conflict with public opinion. He cited Turkey's recognition of equality between men and women since Mostafa Kamal Ataturk's era.

Call for Tunisia Party endorsed Essebsi’s calls for equality in inheritance and granting more freedom to women to marry with non-Muslims.

The Call for Tunisia, the ruling party, issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming the president’s calls and in which it described them as “a move towards more freedom to women.”

On the occasion of the Women’s Day on August 13, Essebsi said that Islam doesn’t contradict with development and democracy, and the inheritance issue was left to the diligence of people based on the era they are living in.

The leader of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, has not commented officially. He is abroad, but his absence in the August 13 festivities, as well as that of the other figures of the islamist party, has been interpreted as a sign of disapproval.

The proposal of Essebsi is not a surprise. In June 2016, member of parliament (MP) Mehdi Ben Gharbia – now the minister in charge of relations with constitutional bodies – and the civil society submitted a project on the legacy of the women at the meeting. The president’s position on the issue is clear enough, but those resisting his position are numerous.

In 1956, Bourguiba had not succeeded in integrating this equality of succession to the personal status Code (CSP). And OFC, trying to bring the traditional, modern and Tunisia on issues of equality between men and women in the Arab world, is inscribed in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor.

Tunisia’s Iftaa House endorsed the calls of Essebsi in an official statement issued on Monday. “President Essebsi’s calls strengthen the position of Tunisian women and activate gender equality in duties and rights according to the religion of Islam,” the statement read.
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