Hundreds of Tunisians took to the streets Tuesday to protest a visit by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, decrying the top royal as a murderer in connection to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Tunisia is considered the birthplace of the Arab Spring, triggered by the 2011 overthrow of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali that ultimately granted citizens of the North African country freedom of speech and the press.
In an open letter addressed to the African nation’s President Beji Caid Essebs, the Tunisian Journalists’ Syndicate denounced Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) visit as a “flagrant violation of the principles of our revolution,” according to the All Africa news outlet.
Journalists and activists reportedly hung a banner over the Tunisian Journalists’ Syndicate’s headquarters depicting the Saudi crown prince holding a chainsaw, seemingly an illusion to the dismemberment of Khashoggi’s body.
“No to the desecration of Tunisia, land of the revolution,” a caption on the poster declared.
A group of 50 lawyers also filed a motion to block MBS from visiting Tunisia.
“We have officially requested an investigation into crimes committed by bin Salman,” Nizar Boujalal, a spokesman for the lawyers, told reporters, according to Al Jazeera.
On Monday, the journalist’s syndicate also announced it planned to file a lawsuit against MBS at an international court for “war crimes committed by the Saudi regime in Yemen.”
— The Express Tribune (@etribune) November 27, 2018
'Go away assassin!'
In #Tunisia protesters took to the streets showing their strong opposition to the visit of #SaudiArabia's Crown Prince #MBS, and urging justice for the murder of #JamalKhashoggi.https://t.co/QXmJpe1qWO
— Lotte Leicht (@LotteLeicht1) November 27, 2018
“Hundreds” of Tunisians protested MBS’s visit in the “second straight day of demonstrations,” Reuters reported on Tuesday, adding:
They chanted “the murderer is not welcome in Tunisia” and “Shame on Tunisia’s rulers” for receiving bin Salman …Dozens of Tunisian rights activists and journalists staged a smaller protest on Monday.
“As a Tunisian citizen, I reject bin Salman’s visit to Tunis,” Achraf Aouadi, an activist, told Al Jazeera during Monday’s protest.
Hamza Nasri, identified by Al Jazeera as a mime artist playing MBS, added, “Simply said, we came here today to say that the Tunisian people – who have exported the revolution to the rest of the [Arab] world and who fought for justice, dignity and human rights – cannot welcome a criminal like bin Salman.”
“Perhaps as a people in the past we [Tunisians] could not speak our minds. But today we can. It is shameful for Tunisia, which received the Nobel Peace Prize, to receive someone like this,” Emna Mizouni, another protester, declared, noting that Tunisians are fortunate to live in a pioneering country when it comes to promoting human rights.
“Everyone is against whitewashing oppression. Unfortunately, our Arab brothers could not organize similar protests,” she proclaimed.
The Washington Post (WaPo) acknowledged that Tunisians currently stand alone in the Arab world in protesting MBS, adding:
Arab leaders generally don’t have to worry too much about protesters when they visit their neighbors. There has long been a kind of informal code against allowing criticism of brotherly nations and their heads of state unless some kind of feud is going on.
In the aftermath of the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings and the subsequent widespread crackdowns, that still holds true — with a few exceptions. One of them happens to be Tunisia.
In the North African country that overthrew longtime dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, freedom of assembly and expression remains intact.
Despite the protests, the Tunisian president greeted MBS upon his arrival in the country’s capital on Tuesday.
— Asharq Al-Awsat English (@aawsat_eng) November 27, 2018
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) November 27, 2018
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) November 27, 2018
Saudi Arabia has exonerated MBS of any involvement in the killing of the prominent Saudi critic Khashoggi.
After initially denying Khashoggi’s killer carried out the heinous crime inside the Saudi consulate, Riyadh finally conceded that the murderer killed the journalist and dismembered his body when negotiations to persuade him to return to the Sunni kingdom failed to bear fruit.
Marking the Saudi crown prince’s first overseas trip after the killing of Khashoggi, MBS embarked on an Arab tour over the weekend that is expected to bring him to Tunisia on Tuesday afternoon as he makes his way to the G20 summit scheduled to take place in Argentina at the end of the month.
Following in the footsteps of some Tunisians journalists and lawyers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced Monday that it had filed a motion with an Argentine federal judge on war crimes allegations against MBS
“Mohammed bin Salman should know that he may face a criminal probe if he ventures to Argentina,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW, declared in a statement, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) reported.
“Argentine law gives the country’s judiciary the right to investigate war crimes and torture on a global basis, opening the way for nationals of other countries to be tried for such crimes upon entering the country,” AA pointed out.
As part of his Arab tour, MBS has already visited the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt – all staunch allies of the Sunni kingdom.
AA reported that “dozens of Egyptian journalists also issued a statement rejecting bin Salman’s visit due to the current deteriorating situation in Yemen and alleged normalized ties with Israel.”
However, MBS was not greeted by protests when he arrived in Egypt on Monday