Category: Revival in Tunisia


May 30, 2017

The wave of protests in the Tunisian province of Tataouine to demand development and jobs is still ongoing.

The El Kamour sit-in is continuing in the desert of Tataouine for the second month in a row. In addition, a week ago, a group of El Kamour protesters headed to the province’s headquarters for a sit-in, while waiting for the resumption of talks with the government.

Movement through the Dhehbia-Wazzin border crossing has been blocked for a week due to a decision by Libyan border guards to ban Libyans from crossing in light of the tense situation in the region.

Last week, Imed Hammami, the minister of employment and vocational training, who is in charge of the issue of development in the province of Tataouine, called for holding negotiations at his ministry to end the protests. The session was however postponed after the region’s governor resigned last Wednesday.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170530-protests-continue-in-tataouine-tunisia/.

December 24, 2016

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — About 200 people have protested in the Tunisian capital against the return of Tunisian jihadis who have fought abroad. The gathering Saturday was prompted by the deadly truck attack in a Berlin Christmas market by Tunisian Anis Amri, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and was killed Friday in a police shootout. Amri, 24, was slated to be deported home from Germany.

Banners at the protest in front of Parliament in Tunis read “Close the doors to terrorism” and “No tolerance, no return.” Protesters waved Tunisian flags and sang the national anthem. Protester Faten Mejri said “for us, they are not Tunisians. They are awful people.”

Tunisia says at least 800 Tunisian jihadis are under surveillance since returning home after fighting in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

December 16, 2016

Dozens of Tunisians gathered before parliament this week to denounce the enforced marriage of a 13 year-old girl to an elderly relative who, it is alleged, raped her and made her pregnant. Public outrage at the legalization of the marriage by a court in the north-west of the country included allegations that the “marriage” was simply a way for the attacker to avoid prosecution.

According to a spokesman for the court, however, the ruling was given after ensuring that the girl had not been raped. ”We heard from the girl,” explained Chokri Mejri, “and after checking all the details, we considered that she was fit for marriage.” As both families asked for the marriage it does not make it a scandal, he insisted.

The head of child welfare in the Kef region contested the court’s findings. “When it is a child of 13 years, one cannot speak about sex with consent,” said Houda Abboudi. “This is rape.”

Human rights groups have criticized article 227 of the Tunisian Penal Code adopted in 1958, which punishes anyone who rapes or sexually abuses a female younger than 15 years of age with six years in prison if it is “without violence.” The relevant article goes on to explain that if the guilty person marries the victim, the prosecution will stop. The repeal of this article has been a recurrent demand of women’s rights organisations for decades. They condemn the very notion that sex can take place with a minor “without violence”.

A lawyer and activist for the rights of women and girls pointed out that this law has never been repealed because it is not part of the political agenda. “There is also the desire to protect a patriarchal and conservative society in which women and girls continue to be sacrificed on the altar of family honour,” concluded Alya Cherif Chammari.

Since the fall of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, several bills on the comprehensive reform of the Penal Code as part of the struggle to stop violence against women and girls have failed to become law.

Chammari hopes that this latest case can prompt the outrage needed beyond the traditional circles. “Tunisian society is ready for these changes. In general, it is necessary to harmonize laws with the Constitution, which affirms equality between men and women and the fight against all forms of violence against women. The State scanner passes laws in the light of these constitutional principles.”

Since the outcry, the Attorney General has demanded the cancellation of the court decision to allow the marriage. Women’s rights organisations are asking for a formal annulment in the case.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20161216-outrage-in-tunisia-over-girls-marriage-to-rapist/.

May 24, 2016

There are problems within the Ennahda party but assessing the situation is part of how the group operates, the party’s head Rachid Al-Ghannouchi said in a speech yesterday.

Ennahda has succeeded in renewing itself according to the needs of the Tunisian people, Al-Ghannouchi said, promising a path of reform and development.

The group has pioneered the way to revisit its thoughts and further reinforce democratic values, he said during a speech at the group’s tenth congress.

The veteran leader seemed for a moment moved when it was announced that he was re-elected as the party’s head with a comfortable majority.

“Ennahda was a pioneer in reinforcing the idea of democracy and in self-criticism and accepting constant revisions,” he said.

The party has already dealt with the issue of separating between religion and politics and is now focused on the Tunisian people’s daily needs, he explained.

During the congress, Nahda announced the full list of elected Shura council members. They include former ministers, parliamentarians and senior leaders.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160524-ghannouchi-re-elected-as-head-of-ennahda/.

Berlin (AFP)

Feb 21, 2016

Germany is considering sending troops to Tunisia to help train soldiers in the fight against the Islamic State group, a newspaper report said on Sunday.

Bild am Sonntag said that representatives of the defense and foreign ministries would hold talks in Tunis on Thursday and Friday about how the German military could lend support in a training mission.

It said the engagement envisaged training Tunisian soldiers first and could eventually be extended to setting up a training camp in Tunisia for Libyan soldiers, run with other international partners.

“The IS terror is threatening all of North Africa,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the newspaper.

She said it was thus crucial “to make every effort to support countries struggling with democracy such as Tunisia”.

Von der Leyen told the newspaper that a training camp in Tunisia would be a contribution toward regional stability.

“And if its direct neighbor Libya manages to put in place a unity government one day, its security forces could also benefit from established training facilities in Tunisia,” she said.

A defense ministry spokesman told AFP he had no further details beyond the minister’s remarks.

A foreign ministry spokesman confirmed the planned talks in Tunis “on further cooperation on security” but declined to provide more information.

German forces are currently engaged in the international alliance against the Islamic State group, including by arming and training Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and flying reconnaissance missions over Syria with Tornado jets.

Since 2013, Germany has provided Tunisia with more than 100 million euros ($111 million) in programs to improve its economy. It also provides its security forces with equipment and training.

However the country’s defense commissioner Hans-Peter Bartels warned in a report last month that the German military was overstretched and underfunded and had reached “the limit of its capacity for interventions”.

Tunisia suffered two devastating attacks targeting its vital tourist sector last year, in the beach resort of Sousse and on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis, that together left 60 people dead. Both were claimed by IS.

IS has also been gaining ground in Libya amid the unrest that has gripped the country since longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi was ousted in 2011.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Germany_mulling_military_training_mission_in_Tunisia_report_999.html.

2016-02-15

VIENNA – Austria announced Monday it will place six nations including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on its list of “safe countries of origin”, as it seeks to curb the number of economic migrants.

The decision, which will also see Georgia, Ghana and Mongolia added to the list, was taken after the government carried out a “thorough examination of the situation”, the interior ministry said.

“In the case of economic migrants, we need unambiguous signals that there is no protection for them in Austria,” Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner warned.

The cabinet will sign off on the decision during its weekly meeting Tuesday.

Last month, neighboring Germany — the favored destination for most migrants — also declared Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia safe countries of origin.

The classification means that their citizens will have little chance of being granted asylum.

It will also allow Vienna to speed up case procedures and deport migrants more quickly.

The combined number of arrivals in Austria from Algeria and Morocco remains well below the 2,000-mark — a tiny fraction of the 55,000 Syrians and Iraqis who sought asylum between January and November last year.

In total, the nation of almost nine million people received 90,000 asylum claims in 2015, one of the EU’s highest rates per capita.

The Austrian government has noticeably hardened its stance as the bloc grapples with its worst migration crisis since World War II.

In 2015, over a million people reached Europe’s shores — nearly half of them Syrians fleeing a civil war that has killed more than a quarter of a million people.

In response to the influx, Austria is due to announce this week a daily cap on migrants allowed to enter from fellow EU member Slovenia, the next country down the migrant trail along the Balkans.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=75258.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Two female MPs of the parliamentary bloc of Nidaa Tounes resigned from the party on Monday, bringing the number of those who have resigned to 21 members out of 86.

A resigned member from Nidaa Tounes Walid El-Gallad named the two MPs as Huda Slim and Rabha Bin Hussein.

Tunisian Radio Shems FM quoted El-Gallad as saying that there are eight other members who announced their resignations from the party as a first step.

This leaves the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, previously the minor coalition party, with a parliamentary majority.

The Nidaa Tounes party has been plagued by continuous resignations as a result of internal divisions and the resignation of the former Secretary General Mohsen Marzouk from the party.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/23297-mp-resignations-leave-tunisias-ennahda-party-with-parliamentary-majority.

December 17, 2015

SIDI BOUZID, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisians who won the Nobel Peace Prize joined townspeople in the country’s beleaguered heartland to mark five years since a desperate street vendor set himself on fire, unwittingly setting in motion upheaval across the Arab world.

Tunisia is the only country to have emerged with a budding democracy. But it’s grappling with the threat of violent Islamic extremism, now ravaging the region from neighboring Libya to Syria, after uprisings inspired by Tunisia’s revolt that led to lawlessness or civil war.

Members of the Tunisian quartet of non-governmental groups that won this year’s Nobel took part in a series of events Thursday in Sidi Bouzid, the epicenter of Tunisia’s revolution, where fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself afire on Dec. 17, 2010.

It was a personal gesture of protest by Bouazizi, 27. But his cry of despair captured the plight of the poor and jobless and echoed throughout the North African country, triggering protests that left 300 dead and thousands injured.

Within a month, the country’s autocratic ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, had fled to Saudi Arabia after nearly a quarter-century as president — and soon protests erupted in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Morocco.

A statue of a wooden cart like that used by Bouazizi to sell fruits stands on the main road. A huge banner and posters hail Bouazizi, now a national hero. But its residents are still struggling. “Since Dec. 17th, the only thing is that we can speak freely,” said Jamel Saghrouni, a schoolmate of Bouazizi’s who has a degree in French literature, but is jobless.

“But there is corruption. There is no work, no progress,” Saghrouni said. “We can only speak, but we can’t do anything.” Tunisian leaders worked tirelessly to establish a new structure to birth democracy in a land that has known no such thing since it gained independence from France in 1956.

It has been a rocky path, and the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet won the Nobel for preventing its collapse. It stepped into a political crisis in 2013, pushing rival leaders toward a caretaker government to organize elections. Parties returned to the table to complete a new constitution.

“We are bringing a message of hope to the population of Sidi Bouzid and other regions pushed aside,” Abdessattar Ben Moussa, head of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights told The Associated Press. “Because five years after the revolution there has been no solution to the economic and social problems they suffer.”

The main labor union, the bar association and the employers’ association are the other member organizations of the Quartet. Unlike in neighboring Libya or Egypt, where long-time leaders fell, Tunisia has worked to put in place the structural requirements for democracy, and tried to seed the mindset crucial to ensure it flourishes. But, as in those countries, it has contended throughout with rising Islamic extremism.

Deadly attacks this year by extremists on tourists at the Bardo National Museum and a luxury hotel in the resort town of Sousse struck at the heart of the tourism industry, a mainstay of the Tunisian economy. Most recently, a suicide bomber hit a bus carrying presidential guard members down the main avenue in the capital.

“We praise God that Tunisia hasn’t fallen into chaos like other countries,” said Ali Bouazizi, a political activist and distant cousin of Mohamed Bouazizi. “Our revolution was peaceful from the start and until today. Thanks to dialogue and consensus we’ve overcome crises,” he added, “which is why we’re considered an exception.”

Ben Bouazza reported from Tunis.

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, which helped build democracy in the violence-torn country after the 2011 revolution, collected the Nobel Peace Prize in the Norway’s capital on Thursday.

This year’s award was picked up at a ceremony in Oslo City Hall by members of four organizations, representing unions, industry, trade and human rights. The quartet is made up of four key groups: The Tunisian General Labor Union; the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers, the country’s bar association.

Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairwoman Kaci Kullmann Five cited the group for “its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy” following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that overthrew its long-time authoritarian president.

The gold medals and diplomas were picked up by Houcine Abassi, the labor union leader; Mohammed Fadhel Mafoudh, head of the bar association; Abdessatar Ben Moussa, president of the human rights group and Wided Bouchamaoui, the head of the employers’ association.

Addressing the audience of 1,000 people, including royalty, government members and foreign dignitaries, Kullmann Five described as “dramatic” the narrative behind this year’s peace prize. “It speaks to the core of Alfred Nobel’s will and Nobel’s vision of fraternity, disarmament and peace-building forums,” she said. “Against a backdrop of unrest and war … (their) resolute intervention helped to halt the spiraling violence and put developments on a peaceful track,” after the summer of 2013 when Tunisia was on the brink of civil war.

She said the 8 million Swedish kronor ($960,000) prize was for the quartet as a whole, not for the four individual organizations. All four prize winners took turns at addressing the gathering in the traditional peace laureates’ speech.

According to an English translation of the remarks in Arabic, Abassi expressed their sorrow and anger at the “terrorist acts” that had killed and injured hundreds. This year, two major attacks on tourists in Tunisia killed 22 people at the Bardo Museum in the capital, Tunis, and 38 at a resort near Sousse.

He said their “feeling of euphoria and pride does not obscure the grief sorrow and anger” they feel about recent violent events, including “Sousse, the Bardo Museum, Beirut, Paris, Sharm el-Sheikh and Bamako (with) scenes of barbaric and heinous terrorist acts.”

The peace award was the first of the Nobel prizes to be presented on Thursday. Later, the prizes in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and the Nobel Memorial Prize in economic sciences, are to be handed out to the winners in the Swedish capital, Stockholm.

Police in the two countries had increased the already tight security surrounding the events since the Paris attacks, but gave no details. Last year, when prize winners Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi were receiving their award, a Mexican student ran onto the stage waving his country’s flag, which he had smuggled into the heavily guarded ceremony without an official invitation. The young man, who had applied for asylum in Norway, was quickly whisked away by a guard.

November 27, 2015

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — An attack by Islamic State militants on Tunisia’s presidential guard has left this North African country, its economy and its democracy even more vulnerable just days before four Tunisians head to collect the Nobel Peace Prize.

Five years ago, a desperate Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire, unleashing a pro-democracy movement that swept the Arab world. This week, a Tunisian street vendor blew himself up on a presidential bus, killing 12 others in the name of the Islamic State and further darkening hopes for this country’s economy and newfound freedoms.

Alone among the nations that underwent the turmoil of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has emerged as a democracy, but just this last year has seen three devastating terrorist attacks claimed by the Islamic state that killed more than 70 people, mainly tourists and security forces.

What Tunisia needs now, analysts and the government say, is better intelligence and jobs for youth who see holy war as their only future without resorting to the brutal tactics that first sparked the revolution.

After each attack, the government has promised better security — including passing a counter-terrorism law over the summer criticized by human rights activists as draconian — yet the attacks have continued.

Their goal is to “seed chaos and destabilize the country, and in doing so, make a fledgling democracy fail,” Prime Minister Habib Essid said after the attack Tuesday, when a street vendor-turned-suicide bomber hopped on a bus carrying members of the elite presidential guard, killing 12 of them.

In March, two gunmen trained in a camp in neighboring lawless Libya unleashed carnage in the country’s leading museum, the Bardo, killing 22, mostly foreign tourists. Three months later, the Mediterranean beach resort of Sousse was the stage of a bloody operation by a student, also trained in Libya, who killed 38 tourists, mostly British.

Tunisia has already sought Western help for better police and border technology, built a sand wall on the Libyan frontier and shut down social media accounts of people suspected of terrorism links. But the problem is deep and broad.

More than 3,000 Tunisians are believed to be fighting along with other Islamic extremists in Syria, Iraq and Libya, and several hundred are believed to have returned to Tunisia and authorities have had trouble tracking them.

“While Tunisia has stepped up its policing, which is relatively easy to do, its intelligence capabilities, which are significantly harder to develop, are lagging,” Geoff Porter of North Africa Risk Consulting said in a research note.

The overthrown regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was known for its ruthlessly efficient network of informers, but they targeted mainly political dissidents and not the hardened jihadis in the poor neighborhoods.

Police, who are regarded with a great deal of suspicion by many sectors of society because of their brutal reputation, have struggled to build up networks of informers among the urban poor that feed the ranks of the jihadis.

The government announced a new string of measures after the latest attack to combat the extremists, putting the country back under a state of emergency with an overnight curfew around the capital. “It’s total war against terrorism,” the president’s office said in a statement. The border with Libya has been closed and security tightened at sea ports and airports.

The government is now revising next year’s budget — already tight because of economic troubles — to spend more on security and defense. It plans to create 6,000 more jobs linked to the army and police.

They’re also trying to speed up court proceedings — some 1,200 terrorism-related cases have been dragging through the courts for years. Issandr El Amrani, the North Africa director for the International Crisis Group, said efforts at beefing up intelligence gathering are just starting out and without a coherent strategy for reform it will be easy for police to fall into the kind of bad old habits that just feed the problem.

“The government as a whole — not just security forces — need to address socio-economic woes,” he said. “Otherwise the security forces end up having to bear the brunt alone, and Tunisians from marginalized areas — especially the urban poor and those in interior provinces — end up increasingly hostile to a state they only interact with when police are sent in.”

Samir Taieb, head of the opposition Al Massar party is all for a muscular government response, including calling up reservists, but he too cautioned not to forget the social and economic dimensions of the crisis, including a 25 percent unemployment rate among young people.

“We should also pursue the path of dialogue and consensus that won us the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize,” he said. Four Tunisian groups in the National Dialogue Quartet won this year’s prize for their efforts in 2013 to resolve a constitutional crisis and rescue the country’s efforts to build a democracy.

Residents of the capital don’t appear to be ceding to fear despite this week’s attack and crowds have been lining up to see movies as part of the Carthage Cinema Festival currently under way. The night of Tuesday’s attack, organizers decided to go ahead with the show.

“If the terrorists think they’ll scare us, they’ve got the wrong address,” said 30-year-old public servant and festival-goer Ahmed Sassi. “We are attached to life, we love culture and we will continue to go out.”

Angela Charlton in Paris and Paul Schemm in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, contributed to this report.