A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Violence in Tunisia Began with Art Exhibit, Then Spread

Tunisia is reeling from a wave of clashes Monday night in the elite seaside community of La Marsa and several other parts of the capital, as well as elsewhere in the country. What began as a protest over an art exhibit which Salafis characterized as un-Islamic has turned into open conflict between apparent Salafis (though he organized movements deny involvement) and the police. Though shots have been fired, apparently with rubber bullets and teargas used, no one has ben killed, though many have been treated in hospitals, and a curfew was imposed in eight governorates. The police stations in La Marsa and other parts of the country have been attacked and ransacked., The US Embassy has issued a warning about the violence in La Marsa, Sidi Bou Said, Carthage and Gammarth, all seaside areas popular with tourists. (Full disclosure: I took my honeymoon in Sidi Bou Said.)

The building tensions over the Printemps des Arts fair at a gallery in La Marsa first led to confrontations and then to a direct attack on the gallery and the destruction of some of the artworks.

Tunisia has generally won praise as a successful transition, but growing violence from radical Salafis in one of the most secularized of Arab countries is increasingly causing concern, Cultural issues increasingly seem to be the battleground, and the attack on the Printemps des Arts Fair was reportedly organized using Facebook and other social media.

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