A year after her husband, Chokri Belaid was gunned down outside of his home, hundreds of supporters gathered at the site of his assassination on February 6 to show their support for the popular leftist politician who had been a harsh critic of the Ennahda movement.
Just in time for the anniversary, the government led an anti-terrorist raid and allegedly captured Belaid’s assassins. Yet many critics, including his widow, Basma Khalfaoui, believe the raid was simply an easy maneuver to pacify the angry supporters of Belaid, who are still waiting for justice.
Ms. Khalfaoui, with the death of Kamal Alqdkadhi, the main suspect in the assassination case of your late husband, can we say that the file is now permanently closed?
Certainly not. The death of one suspect in the assassination of my husband Chokri Belaid cannot be the end to our search for truth.
The death of Alqdkadhi is part of the new security policy of the current government, but this security process has not added anything to the case. I believe that by the death of Alqdkadhi we have lost the link between the perpetrator and those who gave the assassination order.
On this basis, the recent security operation will not deter the defence team of the two martyrs, Belaid and Brahmi, from continuing their search for those who are responsible for political assassinations. Alqdkadhi was only a tool they used to implement their policy.
Lotfi Ben Jeddo, the Minister of the Interior, said the success of the security forces in killing the main suspect was the best “gift ” for Chokri Belaid’s family and supporters. Is this true?
We do not accept such a gift from the interior minister. We are not people who advocate punishment or revenge. Let me tell you the truth. We disapprove of the interior minister’s way of thinking. He believes that we accept a corpse as a gift. This way of thinking lacks any human or moral considerations. Our religion, our behaviour and our ethics forbid us from dealing or responding to such statements.
We only want justice. The justice as stipulated in the laws. We want the full truth about the assassination of Balaid and Brahmi to be revealed. We want parties sponsoring terrorism to be discovered.
How do you assess the performance of the new government regarding the security file, especially regarding the fight against terrorism?
I can say that there has been real progress in the methods of dealing with security. The new government seems determined to improve security conditions especially those related to terrorism and political assassinations. However, these security indicators need to be further enhanced by the effective “cleansing” of the interior ministry and by avoiding the employment of security officials according to narrow partisanship logic.
The political arena in Tunisia has recently witnessed a breakthrough, specifically with relation to the formulation of the constitution. Some consider chapter six which criminalizes takfir, a victory for Chokri Belaid who was a victim of Takfir campaigns against him?
Chapter six of the Tunisian Constitution is a victory over every backward takfiri ideology and it establishes a new culture and a good environment of co-existence for all Tunisians. It is not Belaid’s victory alone; it is a victory for everyone who believes in the idea of one homeland for all without exception, takfir or exclusion.
Hundreds of martyrs sacrificed their own souls for a constitution that ensures freedoms and dignity. Speaking of chapter six leads us to some of my husband’s suffering before his death. Manipulating minds led to establishing extremist and takfiri ideologies. Chokri was a victim of those campaigns based on the principle of “Kill an infidel, to go to paradise”. Groups were racing for Chokri’s blood, which led to his assassination at the end.
Was the main reason you met Mustafa Bin Jaafar, chairman of the Tunisian constituent council, before the official declaration of finalizing the draft constitution to call him to activate the mentioned chapter?
Following the great confusion and “quarrels” by some people to remove this chapter and out of fear of intimidation, it was imperative, for the sake of respecting martyrs’ blood and the sacrifices of honest fighters to oblige chairman of the constituent council to use his authority so as not to cancel chapter six, which shall be a key guarantee for freedom of thought and peaceful co-existence among all parties.
How do you see the new Tunisian Constitution in general?
Despite the shortcomings of the Constitution, it is important that it has been written with the blood of Chokri and al-Brahmi, as well as all other martyrs. The different Tunisian civil society components and the quartet, which has recently sponsored the national dialogue, have also participated. In the end it is a victory for the Tunisian people against a backward dictatorial program. It is also a victory over a scheme aiming at using religion to cover-up failure on economic, security and social levels.
I believe the constitution with its current content is a victory over al-Nahda Movement program whose complete failure was proven when it was dismissed from power in favor of a new government. It also demonstrates the failure of political Islam in Tunisia.
Can we say that the new government is responding to its citizens’ demands?
The new government has great disadvantages and has failed to respond to the road map, which stipulated the removal of old “figures”, especially the Minister of Interior with his complete failure in dealing with a number of issues. It also includes the Minister of Justice Hafiz Bin Saleh, who is incapable of disobeying the orders of the higher authorities and who oversaw fraudulent presidential elections under the former president Bin Ali.
Nonetheless, there are some positive points in the new government which include prominent qualified figures and young people who will be able to reformulate the general scene in Tunisia. It was also good to change the Minister of Women’s Affairs, who caused so much harm to Tunisian women and families.
If Chokri Belaid were still alive, what do you think he would say about the new Constitution?
Just like all Tunisians, he would be so happy. Any positive action that can benefit Tunisia and the Tunisians and give hope, freedom, dignity and a decent life would make Chokri happy. I am sure that if he were still alive, Ennahda’s presence in power would have come to an end after the first political assassination, and it would not have taken a whole year to reach this point.