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Abir Moussi: MP whose criticism of the Islamist Ennahda party contributed to its fall

Published: Updated:

On June 30, Tunisian MP Abir Moussi, the 46-year-old woman in charge of the Free Destourian Party, was slapped in the middle of a parliamentary session by independent MP Sahbi Samara.

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The incident provoked outrage from Tunisians and condemnation from President Kais Saied, and was one of many factors leading to his suspension of parliament and removing immunity for MPs.

House speaker Rached Ghannouchi released a statement condemning the attack, but failed to take any action against Samara.

Some, including the Tunisian General Labour Union directly blamed Ghannouchi for the attack, hinting that his Islamist Ennahda party was a “terrorist parliamentary camp that has become accustomed to violence.”

Moussi is known for being vocal in opposing the Islamist Ennahda group.

Saied, while falling short of blaming the house speaker directly, called the attack a “plot” that had been premeditated three days earlier.

Saied at the time said: “Anyone who uses violence, especially in state institutions, must be prosecuted.”

Due to parliamentary immunity laws, charges were not brought against Samara.

“The (parliamentary) immunity they enjoy under the constitution allows them to be independent in the exercise of their functions, but not to attack people, regardless of the differences we have with them,” Saied said, as reported by Arab Weekly.

Saied froze parliament and suspended immunity for MPs on Sunday, firing Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi in a move he said would “save the state” of Tunisia by restoring peace after mass protests.

The incident was seen as representative of the chaos that had engulfed Tunisia’s political system.

Moussi has long been a thorn in the side of Ghannouchi and his Ennahda party, highlighting its links to the Muslim Brotherhood and accusing it of spreading Islamist ideology in Tunisia.

In a fiery speech in June of 2020 she accused the Ennahda co-founder of carrying out political assassinations, and criticized him for reportedly referring to women as little more than vessels for sex.

She became known in Tunisia for her firebrand style that included livestreaming herself in parliament from her phone, and interrupting other ministers with a megaphone.

After the assault, she began appearing in parliament wearing a motorcycle crash helmet and flak jacket, claiming she needed them as protection against attacks from other members of parliament.

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