Tag Archives: Tunisia

Town hall from Tunisia on the protests and public order

From Greta Ghacibeh, Directrice, Association Tunisie Media

TUNIS – On Monday, September 24, 2012, America Abroad Media’s Tunisian office – Association Tunisie Media (ATM) – hosted its ninth town hall connecting Tunisian citizens for discussion about the critical issues they face during the democratic transition. The event – organized in partnership with and broadcast on Shems FM – connected individuals in  Sidi Bouzid, birthplace of the Arab uprisings, with others in the coastal city of Sfax to discuss the contentious relationship between Tunisia’s security forces and protesters.

The fundamental question posed was whether security forces have been using excess force to disperse protesting crowds, and whether or not this infringes on citizens’ civil rights. Many participants who were either victims of police violence or activists for the right to assemble and protest argued yes. State officials, who sat on the panel, argued no – providing explanations for the use of force against protestors who were breaking the law and posed a threat to public safety. When the recent attack on the US embassy was brought up, state officials said that they believed they “avoided a catastrophe, which was bound to happen if the security forces had intervened in more forceful ways, meaning the death toll of protesters could have been much higher than 4 people killed.”

The heated discussion also included numerous phone calls from listeners, as well as comments and questions submitted via Facebook. There was a strong sense from the tone and focus of the discussion that participants felt government security forces were indeed using excess force in dispersing protests, thereby infringing on civil rights. So it came as quite a surprise when, at the end of the town hall, the host read the results of an online poll from Shems FM’s website. A mere 12.27% said the state uses excess force in dealing with protesters, with a remarkable 87.73% saying the state doesn’t use enough.

Listen to audio interviews with some of the town hall participants below:

Gaith Youssifi, unemployed university graduate

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Khaled Aounia, lawyer and activist

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Lazhar Gharbi, political and union activist

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To see pictures from the event, click here .

Tunisian town hall on women’s rights

From Greta Ghacibeh, Directrice, Association Tunisie Media

TUNIS – The legal rights and freedoms which Tunisian women enjoy are unparalleled in the Arab world, thanks to the vision of former president Habib Bourguiba and his ability to institute sustained, far-reaching reforms. Among the first measures he took after independence was the introduction of the Personal Status Code to improve the social position and treatment of women.

But two weeks ago, Tunisia’s ruling Islamist Ennahda party proposed the controversial “Article 28” in the new constitution. The article has already been voted on by the National Constituent Assembly’s (ANC) Rights and Freedoms committee, but must be approved by all members of the ANC before it can be adopted.

The text outlines that, “The state guarantees to protect women’s rights, as they stand, under the principle of man’s complement within the family and man’s partner in developing the country.” In protest against the article’s use of the word “complement,” demonstrations were held in the capital Tunis as well as a number of other cities in the country.

Given these latest events, the main question that was asked in the most recent next town hall was: Are women’s rights in Tunisia under threat?

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Minority rights in Tunisia

From Greta Ghacibeh, Directrice, Association Tunisie Media

TUNIS – Khemaies Ksila, a member of the Constituent Assembly, explains that even though Tunisia is going through a transitional period, it has been suffering from a “general narrow-minded mentality,” especially when it comes to accepting others’ differences. Yemina Thabet, head of the Tunisian Association to Support Minorities added:

“Minorities have their own particularities and needs that have to be protected by the law. It is our role as a civil society to raise awareness about the matter.”

Thabet also refers to the importance of including minorities’ rights in the Constitution as a way to ensure a culture of tolerance for future generations.

In collaboration with Attounsia TV, AAM’s Tunis-based office—Association Tunisie Media (ATM)—brought together a panel of three government and civil society officials and an enthusiastic audience to discuss the concerns, demands and future of Tunisia’s minorities. These audience members were represented by a group of eleven participants belonging to different minority groups in Tunisia.

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Youth unemployment in Tunisia

From Greta Ghacibeh, Directrice, Association Tunisie Media

TUNIS – As unemployment in Tunisia hovers around 19%, and 120,000 young people are projected to enter the labor market annually, it would appear that Tunisia is suffering from a lack of jobs. However, experts at human resources expos and job fairs feel that the problem may lie in the disconnect between the education and skill sets of young Tunisians and the predominance of labor and tourism jobs throughout the country.

Is it the responsibility of the state to provide jobs to its people, or is it the responsibility of the people themselves and the job market?

Association Tunisie Media with Mosaique FM examined these questions, along with various causes of unemployment among young Tunisians, during a live town hall broadcast connecting three studios in the capital city Tunis, the coastal city of Nabeul, and the interior city of Syliana.

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Recent press from Tunisian town hall on civil society

Last week, Association Tunisie Media (ATM), AAM’s Tunis-based office, partnered with Hannibal TV to host a town hall discussion focused on the role of civil society in Tunisia’s democratic transition. Here are some of the news articles generated by the program from Tunisie Numerique and almourassel.com.

From Tunisie Numerique:

The role of civil society in Tunisia has been the spotlight, Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at night in the show “Likaa Maftouh” (open meeting) on Hannibal TV channel.

Very important guests like Badreddine Abdelkefi (member in the constituent assembly and responsible for relations with civil society), Mohsen Marzouk (a human rights activist and secretary-general of the Arab Foundation for Democracy) and Khlifa Ben Fatma (director of training and studies at the orientation center of associations) where in the studio to discuss about “The role of civil society in the success of democratic transition”.

In the presence of an audience that includes representatives of civil society, debates were rich and varied.

The discussions between guests on the set helped to introduce the experiences of each other on the ground and to expose new challenges faced by associations in the country which currently consists of 11000 associations instead of 9600 before the revolution of January 14, 2011.

The debates also focused on the evolution of the activities of civil society associations after the promulgation of the new law on associations.

The program also helped to evoke the overruns of some associations that do not always meet the required criteria.

Speakers stressed, in this issue, the importance of civil society in the success of the democratic transition in the country, calling for greater coordination of civil society organizations with the government.

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The role of the civil society in a democracy in transition in Tunisia

From Greta Ghacibeh, Directrice, Association Tunisie Media

TUNIS – Basli Raja, Secretary General of the Association “Generation Free Tunisia” stated:

“We do not know much about civil society as a whole. Civil society itself does not know itself very well; it is either not conscious of its strength or thinks it has no strength. After January 14, we realized that we must move. We created a citizens’ association to make our voice heard and realize many actions of awareness to participate in the democratic transition that our country is experiencing.”

Tunisian civil society is a major player in this transition. It led, in cooperation with others, the revolution against the dictatorship, and expresses the diversity and richness of the Tunisian people. But to fully play its vital role, the Tunisian civil society needs to recreate itself, and gain the proper experience and know-how in order to be more effective in delivering a smooth transition to democracy. Read more »

Political participation in Tunisia

From Greta Ghacibeh, Directrice, Association Tunisie Media

Reboot team members Zack Brisson & Kate Krontiris wrote in a World Bank report, on March 14, 2012:

“Many Tunisians are taking advantage of their new liberties and enjoying meaningful political participation. Nowhere is this more evident than in the flood of new political parties that ran in last year’s elections for the constituent assembly. Yet these opportunities are not without corresponding threats. Two main challenges face political participation in Tunisia. First, the inexperience that hinders many Tunisians’ ability to effectively engage with the political system. Second, while the volume of party activity is evidence of an open system, in practice this has caused confusion among less-informed voters who have difficulty choosing among the cacophony of parties and platforms.”

Since the fall of the autocratic regime of Ben Ali in January 2011, Tunisia has been undergoing a dramatic political transition. Have Tunisian political parties become more experienced since the October 23rd constituent assembly elections, and therefore more organized and effective? What will re-motivate citizens of all age ranges and genders, who have too quickly lost patience and faith in their newly founded political parties? Have Tunisians decided, too soon perhaps, to retreat from political life – in many cases preferring to engage in civil society activism over affiliating with political parties?

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Roots of the Arab Spring

From Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen, a youth-powered uprising is challenging the Arab world’s ruling regimes. It all started quite literally with the strike of a match when a young Tunisian man set himself on fire to protest the humiliation of unemployment. The demands of this Arab spring quickly expanded beyond economic grievances to include freedom, democracy and respect, but it’s important to remember the jobless young man and the fire he started across the region.

The Middle East is in the middle of a dramatic and growing youth bulge. More than half of the population is under 30 and faced with a frustrating paradox: the fastest rising level of education and the highest levels of unemployment.  And no matter which regimes fall and where new governments stand up, the economic plight for young Arabs will take years to improve.

Listen to reports from America Abroad’s award-winning series on Arab youth. These stories detail the links between unemployment, frustration, migration, and terrorism.