Tunisian cabinet lifts ban on protests on Habib Bourguiba Avenue

On 11 April the Tunisian Cabinet lifted a ban on protesting on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis.

In a communiqué released on 28 March, the Interior Ministry prohibited all “forms of collective expression” on the avenue, after receiving “complaints” from a number of businesses, and citizens.

After the Ministry’s controversial decision, there were two attempts to break the ban. On 7 April, dozens of unemployed graduates sought to protest on the avenue, but police used tear gas and batons to disperse them. Two days later, police cracked down on demonstrators who attempted to celebrate Martyrs’ Day on the same avenue.

Major buildings, such as the once so feared Interior Ministry, and the French Embassy are located on the avenue.

Habib Bourguiba Avenue has a symbolic significance for Tunisians. It was there, when thousands of anti Ben Ali regime protesters gathered on 14 January 2011. Ever since that day the avenue, once a commercial and a touristic attraction, has turned into an epicentre of protests.

Ministry of Interior bans protests on the capital’s main avenue

The Tunisian Ministry of Interior has issued a ban on protests on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, the capital’s main avenue. The ministry claims that it took such decision following complaints received from commercial and touristic businesses located on the avenue, as well as from citizens “over violations committed during some protests”.

“The Ministry of Interior has decided to prohibit protests, marches, and all forms of collective expression on the entire Habib Bourguiba Avenue as of the release of this communiqué”, said the ministry on 28 March.

The decision of the Ministry came few days after a group of Islamists calling for the implementation of Islmaic law gathered on the avenue on 25 March, not far away from a cultural gathering of Tunisian artists, and actors who got together to celebrate World Theater Day. The artists claim that they were assaulted by some of the Islamist protesters, something the Ministry of Interior denies. “During these two manifestations, no acts of violence were registered”, said the ministry in a communiqué released on 25 March.

The prestigious Habib Bourguiba Avenue, once a touristic and commercial attraction, turned into an epicenter of protests in January 2011 when thousands of protesters demanding the fall of the regime of Zeine el-Abidin Ben Ali assembled there. Right after the ousting of former President Ben Ali, a protest culture flourished all over the country, and Habib Bourguiba Avenue has been regarded as a symbol of rebellion.