Tunisia is often viewed as the success story of the Arab Spring. Tunisians were the catalysts for the wave of revolutions that swept across the Middle East and North Africa. They were the first to oust their dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The transitional government produced a constitution that brought together secularists and Islamists. Tunisia is the first country in the Arab world to be classified as “free” by Freedom House, something that hasn’t happened in 40 years. In October, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet for “building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011”.  


But the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy hasn’t been easy. High unemployment among youth and slow economic growth continue to pose significant challenges. The country has also struggled with the threat of violence from armed groups like ISIL. In March, an ISIL attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis left 21 tourists dead. In June, an ISIL gunman killed 38 tourists on a Tunisian beach in Sousse. In November, an explosion killed a dozen Tunisian presidential guards and wounded several others on a bus in the central part of the capital.

Back in July the government responded by declaring a state of emergency which suspended some liberties and granted the police and military exceptional powers. Parliament then passed a controversial counter-terrorism bill, which critics say jeopardises basic constitutional rights. A few weeks later, the state of emergency was extended for two more months.

President Beji Caid Essebsi says his country is at war with terrorism. But some Tunisians fear that the state of emergency and the new “anti-terror” law are undermining the political progress that has already been made.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with: 

Faycal Gouia
Tunisian Ambassador to the US

Skander Ben Hamda @BulletSkan
Cyber activist

Mariem Masmoudi @YngDemTunsia
Tunisian political and civil society activist

Ines Amri @Iness_Amri
Deputy Secretary General, Maghreb Economic Forum

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.