Tunisia: Ghannouchi, Saied ministers spark controversy with Iran embassy event attendance

Tunisia: Ghannouchi, Saied ministers spark controversy with Iran embassy event attendance
Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi - a prominent critic of President Kais Saied - attended a reception organised by the Iranian embassy in Tunisia, along with Saied-appointed ministers.
2 min read
12 February, 2023
Ghannouchi's visit to the Iran embassy with Saied-affiliated ministers raised eyebrows in Tunisia, as he has repeatedly criticised the president [Getty]

Images circulating online of Ennahda president Rachid Ghannouchi at an event at Tunisia's Iranian embassy with a number of Kais Saied-affiliated ministers has sparked controversy in the country.

The Saied-appointed ministers at the event that marked the 44th anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution included Mohamed Ali Boughridi and Brahim Chaibi, ministers for education and religious affairs respectively.

Ghannouchi – who was parliamentary speaker when Saied dissolved the Tunisian parliament in July 2021 as part of a power grab – also attended the event, held on Friday.

Also present was Issam Chebbi, the Secretary General of the Republican Party. Both Chebbi and Ghannouchi have been vocal critics of Saied's ongoing seizure of power.

In an image shared online, the politicians can be seen cutting a cake bearing the flags of both Tunisia and Iran, their hands clasped as they guide the knife.

A number of activists online expressed surprise and confusion at the event, mainly due to Ghannouchi and Chebbi's stance on Saied.

One user, Essaadi, said: "What kind of message does this send to the Tunisian people?".

Other commentators said that it was "ironic" that these ministers were divided by politics and won't even appear on political TV programmes together, but could be brought together by the Iranian embassy, news outlet Ultra Tunisia reported.

Mohammed Dhia Hammami, an analyst of North African politics, said that Ghannouchi’s participation in the event was not surprising given his documented interest in the 1979 Revolution in Iran.

Meanwhile, Chebbi’s participation raised eyebrows, due to his affiliation with the pan-Arab Baathist movement that has often been at odds with Iran.

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Some Saied supporters called for Chaibi and Boughridi's resignations, calling their attendance a "fatal protocol error".

Others criticised the politicians for accepting the invitation to the event given widespread protests in Iran and the subsequent security force and judicial crackdown.

Since launching a power grab widely labelled a "coup" in July 2021, Saied has seized control of the judiciary and implemented a controversial constitution giving him indefinite powers.