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Majdi Ouerfelli
مجدي الورفلي
Majdi Ouerfelli was born in Tunis in 1986. He studied at the High Institute for Journalism, Media Science and Communication in Manouba and graduated in 2010. He has been working as a journalist since August 2010, and started with the online newspaper Elaf where he still works. Since the revolution in January, he has been working for several local print newspapers, specializing in local political and social issues.

The Scent of Fear

Tunisia Fear
Warding off danger, for now
The Scent of Fear
Even non-political Tunisians are watching their backs, fearful they might end up like Shoukri Belaid.
27/2/2013 | Tunis

Since Belaid's assassination on the morning of February 6, 2013, when he was hit by four bullets in front of his house, Tunisians have been on edge and have changed their lifestyles to avoid becoming targets of violence.

From behind bars

Mounir Dridi, a pharmacist who works night shifts, has had to change his working mode since Belaid's assassination. He has become more cautious, although he knows well that he is not targeted since he has not been involved in any political activities that might make him the target of planned hostilities. Dridi no longer leaves the pharmacy door open at night; rather, he dispenses patients' medications from behind a lattice door.

"I know well that I cannot be an assassination target, but following Belaid's targeted killing, I changed my way of transacting with the customers. In the past, I used to leave the pharmacy door open to all customers, but now I keep it closed and receive the prescriptions and cash from behind a lattice outer door," said Dridi.

Dridi believed that masterminded political assassinations were new to Tunisians, which explained the feeling of utter shock that hit all people in the aftermath of Belaid's assassination.

Assassination horror

At around six in the evening, Ibn Manzur middle school in Ben Arous Governorate, south of the capital, becomes a traveler’s station; parents line up to pick up their children, although the children are old enough to return to their close homes on their own.

Malika Nayli, a parent, said she did not previously pick-up or drop her 14-year-old daughter because she could walk to and from the school on her own. Since Belaid's killing, she added, she could not hold back her fears about her daughter. "True, the security situation in Tunisia has been fragile since the outbreak of the revolution, but we did not think it would come to the extent of physical liquidation by firearms in broad daylight," she said.

"Personally, I no longer leave my home after 7 p.m. by myself; neither do I allow my daughter to return on her own," Nayli added with a sigh. She wondered loudly as though she had been looking for an answer to quell her fears: "Will we always have to be afraid of salafi violence?"

Meanwhile, unidentified vandals caused damage to a memorial built in front of Belaid's house. The statue was made by artists to mark a vigil they staged last Sunday. However, soon after nightfall, anonymous saboteurs uprooted and destroyed the statue. They also trampled the roses planted around the statue and tore up displayed pictures of Belaid.

Who killed him?

On social networking sites, Tunisia’s youth called for a march that toured the capital's main street last Saturday. The march was attended by around 6,000 demonstrators who called the Ministry of Interior and other competent authorities to answer one question: "Who killed Shoukri Belaid?"

Abdel Wahab Jumaa, a participant in that event, said he worked as a notary and had no party or ideological affiliation. Nevertheless, he was determined to know who masterminded Belaid's assassination.

Jumaa said he abandoned some of his daily routines. Meeting his friends at the neighborhood café in the evening is no longer a priority, he says, since he prefers to stay at home, not out of fear for himself, but for his wife and his five-year old son.

Jumaa stressed that he no longer trusted security services that could not track down and prosecute Belaid's assassinators who killed him in broad daylight. "It is funny to assassinate a political activist in our country in full view of the people and with bullets; yet, the perpetrators are still at large. I no longer have the least bit of trust in the police or in their ability to protect citizens," he said.

The Popular Front, of which Belaid was a leading activist, and the civil forces allied with it have decided to stage a one-hour vigil every Wednesday from noon until 1 p.m. to demand the full truth about Belaid's assassination.

It is noteworthy that the interior minister earlier said that investigations led to a number of arrests. However, this came amid skepticism about the seriousness of these investigations, especially since fingers are pointing to the Islamic Ennahda Movement, to which the minister belongs.

The assassination of Shoukri Belaid, known for his outspoken criticism of Ennahda, has stunned the Tunisian street and caused a political crisis in a country that is still fumbling its way towards democracy. Even though this country led Arab Spring revolutions, the majority of its citizens today wonder why their spring has changed into autumn.





Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images