On September 16, the ruling Nidaa Tunis coalition, backed by the Islamist Ennahdha movement, finally succeeded in passing a modified version of the Economic Reconciliation Bill that Essebsi pushed forward two years ago. This bill, now labeled the Administrative Reconciliation Act, was the first proposal suggested by the Tunisian presidency to the parliament, and Essebsi’s majoritarian bloc in the parliament defended it continuously for over two years, even holding a special parliamentary session during the summer parliamentary break. The decision to hold the session meant that the bill was voted upon without receiving the opinion of the Supreme Judicial Council, which viewed the bill as unconstitutional.
Overall, if the results of the last legislative and presidential elections could reflect something, it would be that the average Tunisian citizen still does not feel included or appreciated in either the process of reconciliation or decision-making. Young, desperate Tunisians would rather take small boats to cross the Mediterranean instead of bearing another statement of the president and his prime minister. Dozens of boats full of Tunisian migrants were reported to have reached Italian shores, and dozens of others, if not more, sank in the deep sea. Meanwhile, a game is played out between the political machines, the instruments of propaganda, and the wealthy businessmen. Chahed wages his “war on corruption” every other day, he brings back figures of Ben Ali’s regime to key positions even within his cabinet, such as the new minister of defense, Abdelkarim Zbidi. Chahed freezes the assets of “corrupt” businessmen, and Essebsi greets them at Carthage presidential palace days later. This is all while austerity measures in Chahed’s 2018 budget threaten to place more pressure on the economic well-being of many ordinary Tunisians.
As a member of Tunisian civil society who has worked to help the country’s democratic transition, nothing hurts more than feeling obliged to stop those who say its process of transitional justice is better than that of other countries in the region. Almost seven years after the eruption of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, questions remain unanswered, wounds remain open, and the dream of a by-the-book transitional justice has been deferred. While Tunisia has made some strides in reconciliation and areas such as women’s rights, the country’s leadership has failed to truly unify Tunisians in the process of reconciliation.
Tunisia’s progressive achievements are in danger, with deliberate delays of parliamentary work causing the absence of a supreme court and the collapse of the independent commission overseeing elections. In the meantime, unconstitutional bills can be passed by a conspiratorial ruling coalition. As previously discussed, Tunisia’s presidency has disturbed the process of transitional justice for over two years. The finally adopted Administrative Reconciliation Act, which would provide amnesty to public officials for corruption and misuse of public funds, has been the sole project Beji Caid Essebsi has pushed forward since he became president following 2014 elections. After being reviewed by the Constitutional Interim Commission and ruled constitutional by the president, the act’s passage means that Tunisia will officially institutionalize impunity again by creating a parallel route for transitional justice with no guarantees of accountability.
Unless you’re familiar with American news and geography, you may have recently heard about the state of Virginia in the news following the unfortunate Charlottesville incident. I personally have a different story and experience with State of Lovers. Although I live in Washington D.C., I have been spending every single Sunday since my arrival to the United States in Arlington, Virginia. Every Sunday morning, my friend Denise comes to pick me up and we go have coffee and doughnuts with friends from The Redeemer church of Arlington.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi’s call for full equality between men and women has been received mostly with applause in Tunisia, but with more mixed feelings from Muslims elsewhere in the region. During his speech on August 13 for Tunisian National Women’s Day, which commemorates the abolition of polygamy in 1956, Essebsi called for legalizing Muslim women’s marriage to non-Muslims and ensuring equality in inheritance. While the overwhelming atrocities in the region from anti-revolutionary fronts may shape views towards the Arab Spring, let us not forget that there’s a small North African country that is making different strides in the region.
On May 24, 2017, as protesters walked away from Habib Bourguiba Avenue in downtown Tunis, something unusual for this northern African country was happening. Activists on social media started sharing news of several police raids targeting “big fish” businessmen and public officials. As hours passed and more prominent names joined the list of those arrested, Tunisians on Facebook began cheering for their government for the first time in years. Later in the day, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed briefly appeared in front of the government’s headquarters. “In the war on corruption, there’s no choice,” he declared. “It’s either corruption or the state. Either corruption or Tunisia, and I’ve chosen Tunisia. I’ve chosen the state.”
It has been exactly five weeks since I first landed at Dulles international airport in Virginia. When I first saw “Dulles” I wondered: what am I doing in Texas? Now I know why Americans have spelling bees… Anyways, soon I was reminded that whether you’ve landed in Dulles or Dallas, the way you look determines the treatment you receive.
What is it that makes us different? Is it language? Is it faith? Is it color, or is it sexuality? But since we all share these characteristics whether we’re born in the biggest western cities, or the most remote villages of the east, how are we still different?