The US embassy in Tunisia was attacked today by thousands of demonstrators protesting a movie produced in the US insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. Clashes between the police and the protesters turned violent, resulting in at least three deaths and 28 injuries, AFP reported.
The protesters set fire to trees and cars inside the embassy. In response, police used tear gas and fired gunshots. Protesters also managed to take down the American flag and replace it with the black flag bearing the shahada, or the Islamic statement of belief.
Amer Laayredh, head of the executive office of Tunisia’s main ruling party Ennahdha, condemned the attack. “It is true that the movie is provocative to Muslims’ feelings. However, the events that took place today were unfortunate. We condemn attacking embassies because diplomats are in our country under our protection, and we do not accept it when people attack them,” he said.
Laayredh added that people have the right to protest but that they should do it peacefully.
“The police were not in control of the situation. They should have been more strict in dealing with the situation,” said Zoubeir Chehoudi, spokesperson of Ennahdha.
Several events on social media networks called for today’s protest to “Defend the Prophet Mohammad.”
Ali Siadani, a 50 year old bearded man participated in the protest, said that he was there to deliver a message to the US.
“I am here in protest of the movie that insults our Prophet Muhammad. He is our honor. We demand an apology. I am here to send a message to the US. We did not insult their sacred symbols, so they should not insult ours,” said Siadani.
Many women participated in today’s protest as well. Samia Faroui, a student, said that she was there to defend the Prophet and Islam. She added that the Shariaa law must be implemented in Tunisia.
“We do not need an American Embassy in Tunisia,” she added.
Ridha Belhaj, head of Hizb Ettahrir, said that people have the right to express their anger and protest without resorting to violence. Hizb Ettahrir is an Islamist party calling for the implementation of Shariaa law.
“People are really angry, and it is not only about the movie. People are angry because of US policy in general and their hate of Arabs and Muslims in particular,” said Belhaj.
He added that the protest was apolitical. “It is a popular movement. No political party called for this.”
Mouldi Lfehm, member of Tunisia’s main opposition party Al Joumhouri, criticized the way the government dealt with the situation. “We all respect religious values but we are against violence. Ennahdha should have been better prepared for this. They were not strict enough,” said Lfehm.
American residents in Tunisia expressed their concern of today’s attack. An American citizen living in Lac and speaking on the condition of anonymity said that he is not worried for his personal security, but for today at least, he is not planning on leaving his home.
“I am not afraid, only just nervous that something would happen to the embassy,” he stated.