Tunisia Expects $1.8 Billion IMF Accord by May

Tunisia’s Finance Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said last week the government expects to sign a $1.8 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund by May. An IMF team arrived in Tunisia for talks on April 8 before another meeting in Washington later this month, Fakhfakh said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Middle East headquarters in Dubai. After two years of political upheaval, the Tunisian economy seems to be stuck in a groove. But the new IMF and European loans risk locking Tunisia into policies that will make recovery more difficult. Tunisia’s unemployment rate stands at 17%. Meanwhile, the credit agency Standard & Poor’s has downgraded Tunisia’s credit rating for the third time on Feb. 19 due to civil unrest following the assassination of the leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid.

The delegation received an angry welcome from protestors affiliated with Islamist party Hizb Ettahrir at a rally in al-Kasbah square on Monday. Critics of the current leadership’s subservience to the IMF and the World Bank said the money will only benefit the rich and the deal should be stopped. On the other hand, opposition figures and left-leaning activists have voiced some opposition to the IMF deal saying the conditions attached on the loan would deepen social division. They criticized the Islamist led government’s ‘neo-liberal’ agenda which would increase inequality and poverty in post revolution Tunisia.

According to some leaked documents published on Nawaat last month, it seems that Tunisia’s economic policy for 2013 has been shaped by the IMF’s recommendations. A review of IMF documents suggests that some reforms should be implemented in exchange for “assistance”. The economic reforms seem to be embroiled with the specter of foreign involvement in Tunisia’s affairs.

Ennahda Leader for Death Penalty

From the perspective of Rached Ghannouchi, the head of Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party, the application of capital punishment conforms to the “natural laws”. In a television interview for France 24, Ghannouchi said “We say that capital punishment is a natural law, a soul for a soul. And whoever threatens the life of another must know that his life is also threatened,”

Ghannouchi‘s defense of the legitimacy of capital punishment provoked strong anti-death penalty outcry. Following the toppling of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, death penalty remained in force but no death sentences were known to have been imposed and there were no executions. Tunisia has maintained a moratorium on executions since 1991. Human rights groups have called for the Constituent Assembly to abolish capital punishment, saying it does not befit the image of the “new Tunisia”.

Tunisia Celebrates Martyrs Day

On the commemoration of the Martyrs’ day, protesters chanted slogans against the government. On April 9 2012, thousands of people took to the streets of Tunis to mark Martyrs Day and to show solidarity with the martyrs and the wounded of the revolution. Around 20 people were hurt during that day of clashes in Habib Bourguiba Avenue between demonstrators and police, who fired tear gas to disperse them.

The investigation found that “The incidents that took place during last year’s march on April 9 in Habib Bourguiba Avenue on Martyrs’ Day were considerably amplified and politicized,” Interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh said Tuesday -The file was closed.

Amnesty International expressed its profound concerns at the Tunisian authorities’ failure to promptly, thoroughly, impartially and transparently investigate allegations of excessive and unnecessary use of force.

Dear White Man, Please Give her Refugee

The good news is that Amina, the Tunisian Femen, activist/”icon” is safe. The bad news is that she fears for her life in her homeland and must leave the country. Unable to open a magazine, newspaper or TV station without an image of Amina Tyler exposing her boobs instead of her brain, I must say that the controversy is not over yet. Speaking in an interview broadcast Saturday, Amina told a French television station that she must simply “leave”. Tired already from the fight for women’s rights?

Femen activists staged demonstrations near mosques and Tunisian embassies across Europe on Thursday to show support for Amina since a preacher openly called for her death. Too often women are their own and each other’s worst enemy. Stripping down for the sake of nation building is a stunt show. Blindly replicating Western feminist models of activism in the Tunisian context is simply counterproductive. While confronting repressive ideas and defending human rights are noble and important objectives, bare breasts will not save Tunisia. No, most probably!! depending on their size.