CSID Bulletin - February 13, 2016
In This Issue
Fight ISIS With Democracy
Tunisia ranked as Lone...Free...country in the Arab World
Arab Voices on the Challenges of the New Middle East
Tunisia and Ukraine:...Linchpins of U.S. interests
Tunisia Holds the Key to Defeating ISIS
slam, Democracy And The Tunisian Bargain
After Kasserine, what is next for Tunisia?
Impatience rising in Tunisia's young democracy for jobs, better pay
Angry Tunisians Are Short of Money and Jobs
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Fight ISIS With Democracy


The so-called "Islamic State" (ISIS) offers a false choice between dictatorship and extremism. Tunisia proves there's a better way.

It is no accident that ISIS has had its greatest recruiting successes in societies that suffered for decades under dictatorship. The citizens of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Libya experienced long years of endemic corruption, bad governance, and the repression of their rights and freedoms.

Second, the fight against ISIS must be not only a fight against something, but a fight for something. ISIS recruits by highlighting the shortcomings of the status quo-corruption, insecurity, poverty, discrimination, injustice-and appearing to present an alternative in the form of a fantastical utopia in which justice and order reign supreme.

People across the Arab world need a genuine alternative, not a false choice between ISIS and the kinds of dictatorships, like Bashar al-Assad's, that helped produce the terrorist group.

Young people growing up in the era of former dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia from 1987 until he was deposed during the Arab uprisings, had no reference point for moderate Islamic thought, so they turned to extreme sources instead. Countering violent extremism thus requires ensuring that people understand the true teachings of Islam, which challenge the radicals' black-and-white views and allow for interpretations that accommodate the needs of modern life.

Angry and frustrated youth will more easily be drawn to angry and frustrated narratives like that of ISIS - indeed it is youth who make up a large proportion of ISIS's foreign recruits.  We must give young people hope and tangible change, and restore their trust in a new system of inclusive governance that puts them at its heart.

Tunisia ranked as Lone Free country in the Arab World

Freedom in the World Anxious Dictators, Wavering Democracies: Global Freedom under Pressure

The map that shows most and least free countries in the world
Freedom is in decline across the world 


Five years after the Arab Spring, the crisis of legitimacy that helped precipitate it has lost neither its resonance nor its urgency

The experts are almost unanimous in their extreme dissatisfaction with their governments' responses to the many challenges they face.

The objects of their ire take many forms, from authoritarianism and militarism to corruption and cronyism to external interference. These varied sources of discontent highlight the underlying absence of meaningful social contracts between states and citizens in most Middle Eastern countries.

Do you think representative democracy is a suitable form of government for your country? Why or why not?

Please rank the following issues in order of importance in the Middle East.

Tunisia was ranked as having the most successful form of governance in the region, followed by Morocco, then UAE. 


Tunisia and Ukraine: Linchpins of U.S. interests

Ukraine and Tunisia offer crucial opportunities for America and its allies to advance their strategic interests and potentially transform today's dangerous security environment at a time when U.S. national-security policy resembles an endless and dangerous game of geopolitical whack-a-mole.

Both countries are strategic linchpins.  Both countries merit U.S. backing that includes -- but also extends far beyond -- military support.
Tunisia is the Middle East's only Arab democracy.  It also has a freely and fairly elected government that is struggling against radical extremists who are intent on derailing it.  
A failed Tunisia would not only be a tragedy for Tunisians who led the Arab Spring and united to transform their society peacefully.  It would be an unparalleled victory for ISIS and other extremist movements - already recruiting heavily in Tunisia -- as well as a blow to all those within the region who wish to establish just, representative governments.

Both countries need U.S. and European assistance urgently to consolidate their respective transitions and meet legitimate citizen demands.  This should include
financial assistance to shore up struggling economies.

A U.S. foreign policy that prioritizes Ukraine and Tunisia is a strategic vision with the potential to transform, not just respond to, a threatening global security environment. It is a vision both Democrats and Republicans have reason to support.


Tunisia Holds the Key to Defeating ISIS


The country that rules by moderation and consensus is setting an example for the region to follow.

The turmoil generated by authoritarian regimes refusing to make way for peaceful change has created a space in which ISIS has emerged, presenting a political vision that stands for nothing but violence and death.
Yet amidst the difficulties, Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began, remains the shining light of the region. Although our country's democratic project is still in its infancy - with the protests of last week serving as a reminder of the challenges we still face - there are countless reasons to be positive.

Decision makers around the world must recognize that there are no easy solutions to complex problems. Yes, we need to combat this threat through better policing and better training and equipment for our security forces. However, a sophisticated strategy to counter extremism is needed that specifically looks at the drivers of support for extremism. Often, extremist groups gain support through playing on people's fears for the future and by providing economic opportunities to the most vulnerable.
"The protests of last week stem from frustration at unemployment and emphasize the importance and urgency of offering a more prosperous future to Tunisians. 
Change is not easy-reform always engenders resistance and opposition. Tunisia's coalition government is now working on economic reforms to address the economic and social grievances highlighted by the revolution, with job creation and alleviation of poverty as the key goals. The support of friends and allies is critical for Tunisia, as a bridge to the Arab world, a mediator for peaceful change and an example of dialogue, consensus and reform. Our democratic journey continues.


Islam, Democracy And The Tunisian Bargain

The 2014 Tunisian constitution and the aftermath political atmosphere in Tunisia of compromise and bargain, on the other hand, show how Islam and democracy work in tandem albeit with its share of troubles and encumbrances.

The bargain between groups of various persuasion in Tunisia is a testament to a moment of religious and non-religious political actors negotiating over consensus building in the backdrop of Islam as a state religion.
Contextualizing this bargain is important to comprehend truly its tenor as well as the historical and conceptual breath it seeks to traverse.

Tunisia offers a glimmer of hope in the socio-political morass haunting the contemporary Middle East. Its constitution from 2014 and consequent politics shows that a consensus model based on political inclusion rather than exclusion can pave the way for considerable stability though riddled with encumbrances. Islam is the state religion of Tunisia, but the constitution guarantees freedom without discrimination and accords equal rights to all.

The bargain and compromises forged in the Tunisian case moreover show that political theologies emanating out of Islam are fluid working in contravention of the commonly held assumption that they are etched in stone.

After Kasserine, what is next for Tunisia?


"There will be another revolution if the social and economic circumstances do not change,"   said Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi on 17 December 2015, the fifth anniversary of the eruption of the Tunisian revolution in Sidi Bouzid.
These problems have been piling up for decades and remained the same after the revolution, which toppled former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in the midst of political conflicts.
Many viewed the youth abstention from voting in the 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections as a red alert for the general disregard for the seriousness of unemployment and social justice which threatened Tunisia's emerging democracy

 Some of the political elite in Tunisia do make acknowledge the impact of last year's three terrorist attacks on the economy and employment opportunities. Others, however, believe that the problem is much deeper, arguing that no departure from pre-revolution patterns of development has taken place.

Even after imposing a curfew, peaceful protests and sit-ins take place every day in Kasserine and in a number of areas in Tunisia, in protest of unemployment.  Tunisian authorities are fully aware that they cannot add fuel to the fire and suppress these peaceful moves.

Thousands of Tunisian police rallied this week for pay raises, joining a growing movement of Tunisian citizens turning up the heat on Prime Minister Habib Essid with demands for "work, freedom and dignity."

Once hailed as the success story of the Arab Spring for its democratic progress, Tunisia has become a poster child for the dangers in ignoring economic malaise, alienation and frustrations of North African youth.
The loss of hope for a better future has helped militant groups recruit jihadist fighters for their ranks in Syria, Iraq and now Libya. More than 3,000 Tunisians are believed to be fighting in Iraq and Syria. 
The government is also being squeezed by international lenders who want cuts in public spending and a trimming of the budget deficit. Unlike its oil-wealthy neighbors Libya and Algeria, Tunisia has few natural resources.

Angry Tunisians Are Short of Money and Jobs

Tunisia plans to hold a donor conference as it seeks to mobilize aid to revive an economy battered by terrorist attacks and contain mounting anger over unemployment.

The government is preparing a five-year economic plan it hopes to present to parliament in March that will include policies to tackle unemployment and regional disparities, issues that helped sparked nationwide protests last week, Employment Minister Zied Ladhari said in an interview. An international conference will follow later in the year, where Tunisia will pitch for aid, loans with concessions, as well as public and private partnerships, he said.
Tunisia is also in talks with the International Monetary Fund, and Prime Minister Habib Essid said at Davos last week the negotiations would likely yield results by April, without giving details. The amount sought won't be less than $1.7 billion, Tunisia's central bank governor has said.

Lack of jobs was a key reason cited for the recent protests -- a nationwide curfew imposed on Jan. 22 was eased this week. Overall unemployment is about 15 percent, compared with 13 percent before the 2011 uprising. The figure rises to 32 percent for university graduates and 31 percent for people aged 15 to 24.

"People thought that after the revolution everything would be fixed, but there's a distinction between living in a democratic country and living in a prosperous one," Ladhari said. "It's up to our people to work, innovate and create -- we are trying to act as enablers, facilitators."

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