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An Analysis of Tunisia and the Arab Spring

Updated on July 26, 2019
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Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

An Analysis of Tunisia and the Arab Spring

Tunisia in a Time Capsule

Tunisia was originally inhabited by Berbers but was later socially overrun by Phoenician immigrants who founded Carthage. Back then, it rivaled the pomp and power of the Roman Republic. The small nation near the Mediterranean has endured numerous interventions and imperialism beginning with the Romans in 146 B.C. it was occupied for more than 800 years. In 697 AD, it fell in the hands of Muslim invaders and was subsequently controlled and governed by the Ottoman Empire in 1534 which lasted for more than 300 years. In 1881, France took interest in the small nation and eventually colonized in 1881. By 1957, Tunisia gained independence from foreign control. However, many of the people do not seem to have taken a liking of the repressive government of the time. Many still long for the economic and social freedom afforded by the French during their occupation of the country. This dislike is what led to the famed revolution (Brown et. al., 2018).

Dec. 18, 2010 was the beginning of the Arab Spring or Tunisian Revolution which paved the way for many Arab nations to perform similar protests and express their grievances against repressive governments and regimes. Protests, riots, demonstrations, foreign interventions, civil wars, and coups characterize the Arab Spring. In 2011, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown from office leading to parliamentary elections. However, with almost all political, social, economic, and even religious machinations and systems either faulty or missing, the country had to experience major unrest leading to parliamentary election on Oct. 26, 2014 and a presidential election on Nov. 23, 2014 although by May 2018, only Tunisia was successful in securing a constitutional economic transition (Krauthammer, 2005).

It must be understood that the psychological drive behind the overthrowing of the government and installation of a democratic one was largely influenced by the stark differences between the conditions the people had experienced during the French occupation (the democratic life) and the Islamic way (Ottoman Empire-inspired rule) (Basak & Yilmaz, 2013).

The Impact of the Arab Spring to Tunisia

The main purpose of the revolution was to end corruption, bring greater economic equity, and increase political participation. For this reason, many states and Islamic nations experiencing repression and coercion from regimes followed Tunisia path towards democracy. Basak and Yilmaz wrote in their 2013 paper that the “institutional political design includes constitutional structure, perception of human rights, women in society, electoral systems and the experience of the elections, freedom of speech as well as freedom of association; both in political fields and in civil society and the role of a free media” (p. 317). This is the greatest result of democracy leading to many other relevant and free-promoting rights and actions such as mentioned in the quote. Other notable effects include the realization and eventually following of countries such as Syria, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen also felt the need for reforms. Lebanon, Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Iranian Khuzestan, Sudan, Algeria, and Morocco experienced sustained demonstrations on the streets hoping to establish replace their existing regime. Milder versions of these protects were also felt in Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, the Palestinian territories, the Moroccan controlled Western Sahara, and Mauritania (Krauthammer, 2005).

In Tunisia, the 2014 Tunisia Constitution guarantees rights for women. Tunisia enjoys having more than 20% in the bicameral parliament as held by women since. Political parties have been encouraged and has since 2014 noted a sudden increase in number. Hosts of free agreements and treatise have been signed since the revolution with the Tunisian Human Rights League, United Nations, the European Union, and the European Neighborhood Policy to name a few. By 2017, it was the first Arab nation to outlaw domestic violence against women, something which was never considered crime in many Muslim country or even before in Tunisia (Barnell, 2017).

Backlash of the Revolution

While the desires of the Tunisian people to experience democracy was achieved, the dominoes effects of the succeeding lack or loss of necessary machinery, platforms, and infrastructures along with the sincere effort to pursue the dream of a free and developing nation was eventually felt snowballing into a threatening catastrophe. First, large-scale conflicts were the product the Arab Spring such as Yemeni crisis and civil war, the Syrian Civil War, the Libyan Civil War, the Egyptian Crisis, Iraqi insurgency, and social unrest and insurgencies in the affected countries and territories. With most central leadership dismantled or fleeing, the areas had power vacuums resulting is a very chaotic methodology of usurping, controlling, or seeking the highest power in each state. There was much social unrest, economic instability, and ensuing wars between religious groups and pro-democratic Muslim groups (Barnell, 2017).

Social unrest and lack of strong political machinery often leads to lack of investments, high unemployment rates, increasing number of crimes and violations even when the small nation seems to have many highly educated people in its population. Social welfare cases have also significantly increased following the continuous social unrest and chaotic conditions in the country. It also has become a target of terrorist attacks such as separate cases in 2015: Bardo Museum and Sousse Beach Resort attacks (Brown et. al., 2018).

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) froze the second installment of the approved $ 2.9 billion reform budget due to undelivered economic and political results. The backlash of these would be the massive cut off or sudden halt of government services which would alleviate the already bleak conditions of the population. With plans to stop public hiring of workers, cutting of subsidies and pension system, the nation’s future will definitely be in peril. (Barnell, 2017).

References

Barnell, Owen. (2017). Seven years after Arab Spring revolt, Tunisia's future remains uncertain. https://www.france24.com/en/20171217-tunisia-seven-years-after-arab-spring-revolution-protests-economic-uncertainty

Basak Akar Yuksel and Yimlaz Bingol (2013). THE ARAB SPRING IN TUNISIA: A LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION? www.esosder.org. pp. 311 – 325. file:///C:/Users/the_r/Desktop/ContentServer%20(1).pdf

Brown, Carl. Emma Murphy, John Innes Clarke, Mohamed Talbi, and Neville Barbour, (2018). “Tunisia,” Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p. Web. Retrieved from: < https://www.britannica.com/place/Tunisia>

Krauthammer, Charles (21 March 2005): "The Arab Spring of 2005" Archived 10 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine. The Seattle Times. Retrieved from: < https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/the-arab-spring-of-2005/>

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