Tunisia has become a police state. This has not happened overnight. But it is still a shocking reversal in democratic development.
This is the country whose former dictator was overthrown in a few days in 2011. His was the first scalp claimed by the Arab revolutions of that year. But where the tyrant Zine El Abidine Ben Ali once went (apart from running away in disgrace), his latest successor, Kais Saied, longs to follow.
The past year has seen Tunisia — long heralded as the single success story of the Arab Spring — edge toward dictatorship. It is feared that the results of the looming referendum on July 25 will be the final nail in the coffin of the country’s democracy, a fragile system that has nevertheless endured in the 11-plus years since Mohamed Bouazizi, a market trader, set himself on fire and sparked protests that spread across the region.
Read the rest of this essay by Lydia Wilson and an extended interview with Rached Ghannouchi at New Lines Magazine.
Visibly, and with very little pretence, Tunisia is sliding into tyranny. In the last two years, its president, Kais Saied, has frozen and dissolved the country’s parliament, and threatened its former members with prosecution. He has dismissed an errant prime minister. He has ruled by decree. He has quashed the high judicial body attempting to scrutinise his changes to the constitution, and replaced it with a new organisation filled with hand-picked appointees.
Permanence has its attractions. It seems stable and without threat. Things we elect to do indefinitely are likely to be activities we enjoy, or can endure. We hope conditions that do not change might make us safe.
This reasoning is naïve, of course. And we know it, or come to learn it through experience. True permanence is as impossible as perfection, each equally out of reach. Continue reading →
The capture of El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexander Kotey, two British men attempting to flee Syria for Turkey, was a brief moment for celebration. The men had formed part of a brutal Islamic State (ISIS) cell, dubbed ’the Beatles’, which had executed foreign hostages on camera and become the global face of the terror group. Continue reading →