Tunisians stage first Arab protests against visiting Saudi crown prince


Hundreds of Tunisians staged the first protests of the Arab world against Saudi Arabia’s crown prince as he arrived on a visit on Tuesday, denouncing him as a murderer involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The protests were an unusual occurrence for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s  ruler who faces no criticism at home and who received lavish receptions earlier in his tour in visits to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.


Image: SABC News Reuters
People chant slogans and hold banners as they take part in a protest, opposing the visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Tunis, Tunisia.


Since the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising, which saw several entrenched rulers unseated in the region and triggered turmoil, Tunisia has undergone a democratic transition and is one of the few Arab countries to allow protests.

The Prince was received by Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi on arrival at Tunis airport. The two went into talks shortly afterwards at the president’s Carthage Palace. The crown prince told Tunisian state television that Saudi Arabia has for a long time had good relations with Tunisia, adding, “I cannot come to North Africa without visiting Tunisia…Tunisia’s president is like my father.”

A Tunisian presidency statement issued later said Prince Mohammed and Essebsi looked at ways to improve cooperation on the “economy and finance, investment promotion and security and military cooperation to counter extremism and terrorism”.

During the second day of demonstrations against Prince Mohammed, hundreds of protesters marched along central Habib Bourguiba avenue in Tunis, scene of the mass protests that toppled autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

They chanted “the murderer is not welcome in Tunisia” and “shame on Tunisia’s rulers” for receiving the crown prince.

The killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the crown prince, at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2 has frayed Saudi Arabia’s relations with the West and tarnished Prince Mohammed’s image abroad.

Saudi Arabia has however argued that the prince, heir to the throne of the world’s top oil exporter, had no prior knowledge of the murder.


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