« Not for fame, not for nikah, not for fun », once tweeted a female ISIS member called Shams . Women have long been valued fighters in liberation movements and other politically motivated armed guerilla warfares, but recently a new troubling form of women’s political militantism has emerged and raises a serious question: Why would women eagerly join a violent terrorist movement that is strongly patriarchal, misogynistic and moreover profoundly disregards their dignity as human beings? Understanding why women have joined ISIS is essential if we want to create effective prevention and reintegration programs.
The legal framework governing associations is high on the reforms agenda, at least according to a meeting held by Mehdi Ben Gharbia and a group of legal experts in February. The initiative echoes a recent Financial Action Task Force evaluation in which Tunisia was knocked down a grade for its non-profit sector. And while the fight against money laundering and terrorism is the government’s key argument when it comes to reforming legislation on associations, the proposed amendments, in parallel with the demonization of certain associations, portend rights violations and a gradual lockdown of the sector.
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.
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.
Informal commerce is not limited to one category of merchandise, one geographic region, one demographic; trafficked items include weapons, food products, and gasoline and circulate the country via markets in Ben Guerdane, Kasserine, Sfax, Tunis; smugglers range from merchants of little means to prominent businessmen who are comparatively economically resilient and more likely to withstand trade restrictions imposed at the borders. For many smugglers of lesser means, survival depends upon their ability to navigate a political vision and legal framework which serve neither to sustain nor protect them.
…Everyone, it seemed, was talking about the wall, a trench-lined sand barricade that is to stretch some 200 kilometers along Tunisia’s border with Libya. In the capital, a world away from the country’s borders, conversations are based on hear-say, rumors, and speculation. Approbation, uncertainty, suspicion…the sentiments provoked are varied, though many remain simply baffled at the belated unveiling and precipitous construction of the government’s latest counterterrorism mechanism, a wall between Tunisia and its neighbor to the south-east.
The facts are clear. The trial concerning the assassination of Chokri Belaid has been deferred, not a single terrorist crime has been tried, and the attack in Sousse has exposed security and political failures. Four years after the Rouhia case, it seems that the more insecurity has grown, the more opaque the security institution has become.
In the minutes and hours following attack transpired the ungracious diffusion on Instagram and Twitter of victims lying lifeless between beach chairs and parasols; dramatized headlines announcing the “beach resort massacre” and innumerable variations recounting the scene … But after the initial shock of and Western media’s knee-jerk reaction to one of three attacks which occurred on June 26, mainstream news reports on terrorism in the country are relatively more substantial and worth contemplating than was the case several months ago.
With war waged against terrorism, questions of ethics and deontology have faded into the background. In the meantime, media treatment of the Bardo Attack is a textbook case of politicization that allows us to measure the ambiguity of relations between media and power. The trigger effect of security discourse has mobilized judiciary and police organs born and bred under a dictatorship that was immune to the threat of terrorism. To what extent can regulations contain this return to normalization?
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.
Given mainstream Western media’s portfolio of news reports on Tunisia since 2011 and also in light of the country’s constitutional guarantee for a pluralistic and fair media, it is regrettable as seems to be the case in the days and weeks that have followed the attack that foreign press should be granted more access to events of public interest in the capital than many local, independent media outlets.
After two strange and stunned-to-silence days in the capital, Friday morning on Avenue Habib Bourguiba bore much the same eager, pent-up energy as the first sunny day following weeks of grey and rain. It was only Wednesday that twenty tourists and three Tunisians (one policeman and the two assassins) were killed and forty-seven wounded at the Bardo Museum, while close by the Parliamentary Rights and Liberties Commission discussed the new antiterrorism law.
These pictures do not comply with most Western media esthetical editorial codes, so I did not see them reappear on television or in news papers…nevertheless they had struck my eye … these poorly dressed men with their worn out guns and the reversed rain of bullets that had smashed them down… the one with the red cloak jacket was covered with sandy debris that had spat from the impacted walls in a corner where he had been driven in…
كبرت مآسينا وأصبحنا نرى أشياء صارت مألوفة ولم نعهدها. أيام وأسابيع وأشهر وسنوات تمر وتفرض علينا واقعاً لم نألفه . صار حمل السلاح وتجارته في بلدي واقعاً …اغتيالات سياسية …مواجهات مع عناصر مسلحة…استهداف أبناء الوطن وحماتها من جنود وحرس وأمن. أصبح مشهد الدم متكرراً وكأن السلم الذي عهدناه ولى ليلفنا سواد كاد البعض يستسلم له. ماذا بك يا تونس؟ أمام الحزن والألم والدهشة والغيض تدفقت الأقلام كل يعبر عما حصل وكل ينظر لمشاهد العنف وينادي باجتثاث هذا السرطان الناهش أحشاء الوطن.
Parliamentary elections, presidential elections, the forming of a new government – Tunisia’s young democracy has covered many milestones within the last months. What picture of Tunisia has been conveyed in German media during this important period in history? The following is an overview of how German journalists portray the political situation in Tunisia at the moment and which aspects catch their interest.
The prevalence of mud throwing and below-the-belt jabs, the blatant lack of engagement in the very social and economic issues that were at the heart of uprisings four years ago, are certainly not features of a political scene that promises the effective leadership or imminent reforms for which Tunisians have so hoped.