On Friday, October 9, the Norwegian Nobel Committee bestowed the 2015 Peace Prize to Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet. Comprised of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers, the Quartet has been awarded for having supported «the work of the constituent assembly,» helped to «secure approval of the constitutional process,» and «paved the way for a peaceful dialogue between the citizens, the political parties and the authorities and helped to find consensus-based solutions to a wide range of challenges across political and religious divides».
Amidst the flurry of headlines and articles to have surfaced since yesterday’s announcement, reports indicate a range of reactions, from unabashed praise to skepticism. Foreign Policy’s Why Tunisia Absolutely, Totally Deserves the Nobel features the moving personal story and political journey of controversial Ennahda member Said Ferjani, and highlights the Party’s gaining and eventual relinquishing of power in pursuit of inclusive, democratic elections. The Boston Herald cinematically recounts the political tensions of 2013 when Quartet «stepped into the fray» and guided Tunisia through transition to become the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring. In The Nobel Peace Prize celebrates Tunisian progress, Tunisia is acknowledged for its “rare” and “remarkable” by The Economist in its ever-doomful evaluations of the “Arab world.”
The country offers a rare example of progress in an otherwise wretched region. It deserves encouragement. And the rest of the Arab world deserves a little cause for hope amid all the anger and bloodshed. The Nobel Peace Prize celebrates Tunisian progress, The Economist, 9 October 2015.
Other outlets reveal a less enthusiastic response to the Nobel Prize Committee’s decision. In an Al Jazeera interview published on Saturday morning, Nicholas Noe of Mideastwire.com expressed concerns about the selection of the Quartet as a model of the democratic process, and emphasizes the increasing fragility of Tunisia’s security sector since 2013. In this vein, Noe recalled President Essebsi’s ominous statement in June predicting State collapse in the event of further terrorist acts.
In an article published by The Independent, Myriam Amri explains Why Tunisians like me are cynical about our country’s Nobel Peace Prize winners. With an observation that is relevant to how international media outlets have reported on Tunisia since 2011, Amri writes:
What is most striking about today is the gap between how the world views Tunisia – as the last remaining hope of democracy after the Arab Spring … and the struggles we face at home.
She also points to a contradiction which has proved to have no obvious or easy explanation: «We are the country that produced the largest number of foreign jihadists in Syria, while still being the most successful democratic nation in the Middle East».
Indeed, on the #NobelPeacePrize Twitter feed, commentaries from Tunisian netizens that resonate with Amri’s observations certainly constitute the more colorful—and necessarily critical—category of responses to the Nobel Peace Prize designation for 2015.
— Kaïs Berrjab (@OstezEdgar) October 9, 2015
* In this post, the author sarcastically likens the Quartet’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize to a particular brand of (canned and therefore presumably inferior quality to fresh) harissa which won a food award in Switzerland.