Announcing a new maritime operation in the Mediterranean and intelligence center in Tunisia, NATO has asserted that it intends to intensify its role and partnerships “to support the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.” While some compare NATO’s declarations following the July 9 Warsaw Summit to the EU’s maritime military strategy, calling it the “militarization of misery,” others have highlighted the intent to establish an enduring presence in the south of the Mediterranean, and Tunisia in particular.
Comparing the nature of political discourse and media response in the US and Tunisia following such tragedies reveals key debates that have been stirred up in each country, as well as some fundamental commonalities; namely, failure to face the underlying, internal factors that fuel terrorism.
With each measure of “support” the EU has offered Tunisia—whether in the form of a sizable loan for security reforms, or a free trade agreement for economic growth—particular emphasis has been placed on the recent successes and imperative role of civil society in the country’s path to democracy. But if what Tunisian civil society demands is a shifting of the scales and relations based on reciprocity, is Europe really prepared to listen?
In seamless consistency with the government’s response to the Bardo and Sousse attacks in March and June, official discourse, superficial security measures, and the actions of security forces since last Tuesday’s tragedy reflect the absence of a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy and have kept alive the notion that effective security requires the relinquishing of certain rights and liberties.
Nearly five years into the democratic work in progress and in the immediate wake of a bomb explosion that killed 12 in the capital, demands for and promises of US support for the Arab Spring’s sole success appear increasingly tired and misguided.
The Tunisian constitution of 2014 enshrines (via Article 24) the protection of privacy at home and in the domains of communications correspondence and personal data. The text itself conforms with European case law, but what about current legislation, its application, and its impact on Tunisians?
As civil society and political forces across the Mediterranean debate Europe’s Agenda on Migration, in Tunisia it is the absence of a comprehensive national strategy, cohesive immigration legislation and designated State institutions which is at the heart of migration discussions.
Amidst the distilled information and tones of alarmism and pessimism that stifle quality discussions on terrorism in mainstream media, one finds the insight and information provided by members of civil society, activists, government officials active on social media platforms. Such a plurality of perspectives is important for fleshing out and expanding a discussion that is commonly portrayed as a two-sided debate between human rights advocates who demand the protection of civil liberties at the expense of effective security measures, and conservative political figures whose rhetoric of national security and unity in the face of terrorism is construed to harbor power and by extension repress fundamental rights.
Now, three years after the uprising, Tunisian democracy is showing first signs of maturity, openness and equality, which can be observed in multiple elements on the political spectrum: coalition government (progressive and secular, despite having Islamist nationalistic majority) government voluntarily stepping down to give place to technocratic care-taker cabinet leading the way to the next elections
After perusing the American Embassy Tunis Facebook page, the page welcome statement seems either a laughable euphemism or an endearing show of naïveté. The description is accurate to the extent that the the page accomplishes what it promises and what one would expect from an embassy Facebook page, for it serves as a cultural counterpart to the official Embassy of the United States Tunis website’s services and procedural information and news updates.