Tunisia: Uproar at Kiss of President's Hand

This post is part of our special coverage Tunisia Revolution 2011.

Outrage, shock, and disgust; this is what Tunisian netizens felt when a YouTube video featuring two men kissing the hand of President Moncef Marzouki appeared on April 26, 2012. The video features Marzouki making an unexpected visit to a public market.

As he enters the market, some in the crowd start screaming “Long Live the President”, and “Long Live Marzouki”. As he shakes hands with some of those who work there, two men kiss his hand. Hand-kissing was popular during the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and is viewed as against the values of post-uprising Tunisia.

The Tunisian Presidency was the first to publish the controversial video via its YouTube channel. It then deleted it replacing it with another one in which no hand kisses occur. But it was too late; the video was already all over the web.


Mohamed Ali Chebâane was outraged:

@MedAliChebaane: Mr @Moncef_Marzouki, laisser un citoyen vous faire le baise main pendant une visite de terrain est écoeurant!

@MedAliChebaane: Mr @Moncef_Marzouki, allowing a citizen to kiss your hand during a visit is disgusting!
Moncef Marzouki Elected Interim President of Tunisia, Photo by Amine Landoulsi © Copyright Demotix (December 2011)

Moncef Marzouki Elected Interim President of Tunisia, Photo by Amine Landoulsi © Copyright Demotix (December 2011)

Emna Mejri felt the same:

@emnamejri: la vidéo de @Moncef_Marzouki 3ar 3ala tounes

@emnamejri: the video of @Moncef_Marzouki is a shame for Tunisia

Some believe that Marzouki is not to blame. Hamdi Gatri tweeted [ar]:

@hamdigatri: قبيل يد المرزوقي حركة يلام فاعلها و ليس الرئيس , نريد احترامًا و تقدير للرئيس لا تذللاً و عبدية
@hamdigatri: The perpetrator and not the president should be blamed for the hand kiss. We want respect and appreciation for the president, not groveling and subservience

Ghazi Hakim wrote [ar]:

@ElGueuzi: تقبيل يد المرزوقي دليل على أنه لا نجاح لثورة الشارع بدون ثورة العقول ‬‏
@ElGueuzi The kiss of Marzouki's hand is proof that the revolution of the street will not succeed without a revolution in people's minds

Blogger Fatma Riahi (who writes as Fatma Arabicca) asked the president a question [ar]:

@arabicca1:‏ صدر مرسوم الباي يوم 20 جوان 1860 بمنع “تقبيل اليد” سواء من قبل الرعيّة او الضيوف وأنت وقتاش ؟
@arabicca1: On June 20, 1860 the Bey issued a law forbidding “hand kisses” whether by the people, or guests – and you, when?

Blogger Emna Ben Jemaa likened Marzouki to ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in a post entitled “Long live mediocrity…Long live Marzouki” [fr]:

Une scène que je n’ai jamais oubliée, et pourtant j’étais très jeune
Ben Ali venait de faire son fameux discours du 7 novembre 1987, et une foule de tunisiens s’est mise à crier « Vive Ben Ali », il a souri et leur a dit « Non, dites Vive la Tunisie »
Quelques temps après, il s’est non seulement habitué à cela mais je suppose qu’il aurait même trouvé anormal que les gens ne crient pas à sa gloire
On s’est débarrassé fort heureusement du dictateur et de ses méthodes, et on a pour président PROVISOIRE un ancien militant des droits de l’homme. Mais…qu’est ce je vois sur la vidéo que je partage avec vous.
Marzouk s’offre son bain de foule, certains crient «Vive le président, Vive Marzouki !!! »…Et il ne réagit pas, il se limite à sourire fièrement.
Pire il tend sa main pour des baise mains ? Même Ben Ali retirait sa main quand certains voulaient l'embrasser. BAISE MAIN????
C’est quoi encore ce nouveau délire ?
Est-ce que notre destin c’est de vivre dans la médiocrité ?

Though I was very young, I have never forgotten this scene.
Ben Ali had just finished his famous speech of November 7, 1987, and a crowd of Tunisians started screaming “Long live Ben Ali!” He smiled and said to them, “No, say Long live Tunisia!”
After a short while, he not only got used to it, but I guess he would have found it unusual if people did not call out in praise of him.
Fortunately, we got rid of the dictator and his methods, and we now have for an INTERIM President a former human rights activist. But…this is what I saw in the video:
Marzouki walks through the crowd, some scream “long live the president, long live Marzouki!!!” He does not react; he just smiles proudly.
What is even worse is that he gives his hand for kisses? Even Ben Ali used to take his hand back when certain people sought to kiss it. A hand kiss???
What is this new mania?
Is it our destiny to live in mediocrity?

This post is part of our special coverage Tunisia Revolution 2011.

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