Tunisian citizens’ backlash against the Saudi crown prince shows it’s possible to choose morality over economic benefits

Citizens seemed aware of the difference Saudi aid might make to them, yet they took to the streets in droves anyway

Simon Speakman Cordall
The Independent Voices

Against rumours of billions of dollars in Saudi aid, they mobilised. Heading to the city centres of Tunis and the southern city of Sfax, the disparate strands of Tunisia’s civil society came together, collectively rejecting both the presence and benevolence of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The prince, a near-pariah in the western states that he courted with millions after his alleged involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (which he denies), was on a tour intended to underscore his popular regional support ahead of the G20 summit on Friday. However, in addition to the possibility of criminal charges being levelled against him should he land in Argentina, Tunisia’s protests have marked a further rejection of the crown prince’s influence and appeal.

“We know, just looking at social media, that many people are against this visit,” one of yesterday’s protest organisers told me. Tarek Kahlaoui, an academic and former politician, added: “I think the media campaign intended to whiten his reputation has turned out to have achieved the opposite.”

Saudi Arabia, sat next to loyal allies of Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE, made a strange decision in picking Tunisia as a stopping off point. In 2011, Tunisia had been the first of the Arab countries to revolt against the type of absolute autocracy many on Avenue Habib Bourguiba felt was embodied in the prince.

“The Tunisian revolution … cannot agree to receive him and allow him to clean himself of a murder,” Soukaina Abdessamad of the journalists’ union was reported as saying. “We will stage protests on Monday and Tuesday.”




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