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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

TUNISIA: Compromise-style politics

Around 5 million Tunisians were registered to vote, and 65 % of them did. Nidaa Tounes won 85 of 217 seats. This party was formed in 2012 and unites supporters of the pre-revolutionary regime, trade unions, opposition activists and anti-Islamist groups.

The Islamist party Ennahda, which has historical ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brothers, came in second with 69 seats. In the Constituent Assembly, it was the strongest party, and led a coalition government called Troika for two years after the revolution. Ennahda later gave up administrative power and agreed to a technocratic government when it became obvious that Troika rule had become divisive. People were upset because the government had not been able – or perhaps unwilling – to prevent two assassinations. Partly inspired by the Muslim Brothers’ disaster in Egypt, Ennahda’s priorities became passing the new constitution and preparing orderly elections.

Ennahda’s two secular coalition partners were punished by the electorate. Other secular parties fared better. Radical Salafis were sidelined and will not play a role in parliament.

Both Nidaa and Ennahda ran professional, rational and pragmatic campaigns. Neither party claimed to offer solutions to all problems or to possess an eternal truth. On the other hand, both indicated that they wanted to assume responsibility. Nidaa strategically argued:  “Not voting for Nidaa is a vote for Ennahda”.

Tunisia has been through many political crises since Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the dictator, was toppled in early 2011. These crises were resolved in national dialogue. Compromise-style politics has worked. The election results show that Tunisians appreciate this, and that they want politicians to stay on this path. It was most welcome that Ennahda’s leadership congratulated Nidaa graciously.

The next major step will be the formation of the new government. Nidaa has three options. It can form an alliance with smaller secular parties, join forces with Ennahda or establish another technocrat government. The decision will not be taken fast. Beji Caid Essebsi, the leader of Nidaa, has said: “Everything will wait until after the presidential elections.” Those elections will take place at the end of November, and a run-off election may be needed in December. Nidaa suggests  it may ally with Ennahda if the Islamists support Essebsi's campaign to become president. He is the Nidaa candidate.

Twenty-seven other politicians are running too. Essebsi is the frontrunner, but he is also the oldest candidate. A lawyer and politician, Essebsi held several important positions in Tunisia between 1963 and 1991, under both Habib Bourguiba and Ben Ali, before being appointed prime minister of the first transitional government in 2011.

Essebsi likes to speak of the “the prestige of the state”, pointing to the need to stabilise Tunisia’s politics, economy and security. Supporters say only he can stop the rise of Muslim fundamentalism. His opponents, on the other hand, accuse him of being a product of the ancien regime. Some  leaders want the smaller secular parties to unite behind a single presidential candidate to beat Essebsi.

Mustapha Ben Jaafar, who is the Social Democrat who headed the Constituent Assembly, could be their man. Other contenders in the presidential race include the entrepreneur Slim Riahi and Moncef Marzouki, the current president. Kalthoum Kannou is the only woman running for the highest office. She is a champion of judicial independence and known as a fierce opponent of the former Ben-Ali regime.

Ennahda stated  it will not compete in the presidential race. It is not officially backing any candidate, but many of its members support Marzouki on social media.

In any case, the next president will have a the huge responsibility to restore stability, security and economic prospects. Terrorism is rocking the Arab world, and Tunisia needs to find its path. The good news, however, is that the next president will not enjoy absolute powers. The government and future legislation will depend on the recently elected parliament.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Co-writing the article with Katharina Walbert 
Published on European Youth Press Magazine during Peace Journalism Meeting 
"Rethinking Journalism" in Berlin

Republished on the North South Centre

While lyrics of the German anthem call for a “united Fatherland,” in other parts of the Mediterranean, many Arab countries are referred to as “the Motherland.” For decades, gender has been perceived differently where women and men are treated based on the influence of cultures, media and the marketing industry.

Tunisia, has been a leading country on women’s rights in its region. Tunisia’s laws have provided women an immersive measure of equality largely absent among its neighboring countries. Women have one of the most progressive Personal Status Codes: polygamy there is banned, and women have equal rights in marriage and divorce. The code also guarantees strict women rights in the criminalisation of domestic abuse and marital rape. On the other hand, this very Code has settled discriminatory provisions. For instance, According to Article 58, judges can grant custody to either the mother or the father based on the best interests of the child, but prohibits the mother from gaining custody if she has remarried. No such restriction applies to fathers. Unequal inheritance and the total absence of shelters for homeless, abused or battered women are still one of Tunisia’s biggest issues.

In Austria, things look quite different. There are approximately 30 women shelters located all over the country. Women who are in danger receive aid and protection from the state. Beyond that, Austria fosters strong gender-sensitive language discussions and initiatives. The Austrian anthem, for example, has been changed: The line which once referred to Austria’s “great sons,” was modified to now reflect Austria’s “sons and daughters.” Although there are laws protecting women, punishment for sexual harassment and rape are still low. According to § 201 StGB (Austria’s panel code), rape is prosecuted with a prison sentence between six months up and 10 years. In cases where the action is especially violent, or causes the death of the victim, the punishment can be raised up to 20 years in prison. However, perpetrators of sexual violence are often released after just a few years. Marital rape has been penalized in Austria since 2004, but refusal of sexual actions within marriage is still a reason for getting divorced. In addition to rape and sexual abuse, “every day-sexism” is problematic. Sexual harassment often happens in public spaces and work environments. Although the topic is highly discussed, the harassment is not deterred. Almost every woman has been sexually harassed in some manner at least once in her life.

Patrick Grunhag, a German gender-activist and member of Pinkstinks– a campaign that aims to challenge the heavily stereotyped roles of young children in media and marketing–thinks that Arab women are still fighting for the right to education and that “men have more power because of the religion.” He adds: “Women are punished when they are raped.” On the other shore of the Mediterranean, Alia Awada, a Lebanese activist and co-founder of Fe-Male, believes that laws protect women in Europe: “As long as there is a law to be implemented and respected, then it’s a way to protect women.” She believes that women in the Arab region “have a very long way to achieve women’s rights.”

The activists have also stated their perceptions regarding each other’s field of expertise. Alia had the chance to work with Oxfam on an inequality campaign in the UK, and deduced that “there’s no gender equality in the UK, even among women themselves.” Patrick also believes that in Western Europe, feminists shouldn’t talk on behalf of women “if they want to wear the veil or not.” He adds: “We should be an open society that accepts other cultures as we claim. As feminists movements, we shall connect, listen and help other movements when they ‘want [us] to,’ show how it works in our society, but not ‘tell’ them what they ‘want.’”

Sexual harassment, gender-insensitive language, the representation of women in the media, and sexism in advertisement are common struggles to mention a few. In Western Europe, products for children are overtly gender stereotyped. “There are two different types of nachos, a spicy one for boys and milder softer one for girls,” Patrick describes. “We also have BEEF Magazine, which is targeting men based on the prejudice that only men are interested in barbecues,” he adds. Patrick also criticizes casting shows like “Germany’s Next Top Model” broadcasted on Austrian and German networks that “show girls that they have to use make up and wear high heels to be considered beautiful and popular.” The ad and media industries try to shape the ideal woman looks, be it in weight or looks.

Alia is fighting gender stereotypes through television programs, talk shows and commercials in Lebanon as well. “We are still using images of women on TV that we’ve been using for 40 years now,” she confirms. One of her organization’s advocacy projects was an online campaign raising awareness on these stereotypes in the media. Alia clearly states the danger in the use of “sexually violent” images as a “joke” on TV. Overtime, violence against women becomes normalized and emphasized in society and in people’s mindset. Interestingly, Alia and Patrick both mention the same example of a female portrayal by the marketing industry used to sell cars, by which beautiful women are always placed next to. “Even when a woman is in power, the media discusses her fashion rather than her leadership,” Alia concluded. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014


I grew up with multiple identities that I questioned throughout my teen years. The strongest identity I was brainwashed with, is being “Arab”. Since primary school, my education, which curriculum I didn’t choose, has been mainly about the Arab civilization and the invention of the zero! My library has been full of books of Gibran Khalil Gibran and Mahmoud Darwish.

I actually loved Arabic, which I believe is my native language. I used to write a lot of poetry and short stories and have always been top of my Arabic prosody class. I lived in a country that has always been portrayed as part of the larger Arab region, with which it shares a language and many cultural elements, including a political identification.

I then learned French since the 3rd grade, which cultivated my Mediterranean identity. But French, as my Algerian friend mocks, “is just a bad habit”. The sense of national identity is constantly maintained by reference to recent national history, particularly the struggle against French colonialism (1881–1956) and the subsequent efforts to create a modern society. This narrative is persistently rehearsed in the sequence of public holidays, in the names of streets, and in the subject matter of films and television shows, but especially in history classes.

Regional dialects are also tending to disappear under pressure from mass media centered in Tunis where French is the language of the “elite”, because massive French investment ensured that the business elite valued French speaking employees.

My Maghrebine identity surfaces naturally though, by frequent contact with our neighbors. In the summer, Tunisian coastal cities fill up with Algerian tourists and regular trade flows on the borders with Libya. My Muslim identity also rises strongly from memorizing the Quran in preparatory school to religious classes in primary school and Islamic festivals throughout the year. But there was always a confusing mixture between culture and religion and that’s probably why the world also confuses all Arabs as Muslims!

In the end, I chose to embrace these complex identities because all of them undeniably make me who I am today. However, unlike the majority of Tunisians, if not all, I’ve never felt that I belong to the Middle East because I’m Arab Muslim, or to Europe because I speak French or to the Maghreb just because we make couscous. These identities were attributed to me as I was born Muslim. I was told to be Arab, my education system taught me one side of my history and my political system tied me with Europe and the Maghreb.

At the age of 13, while living in a southern city called Medenine, I visited neighboring cities, among which a small town called Matmata where I found out about “Tamazight”. I thought people were speaking a very hard southern accent I couldn’t understand, but then the children I was playing with told me that Tamazight is the native language of North Africa. Kids younger than me - some of them dropped out of school - knew the history that I’ve never read in books or studied in school. I realized then that our beautiful history of thousands of years is manipulatively summed up in our school studies, as general as “Tunisia's geopolitical location was a crossroad of civilizations”.  We’ve been taught that by the end of the nineteenth century, Tunisians comprised Moors, Turks, Jews, Andalusians, Arabs, and various sorts of Europeans but no clear mention was made about the original population of Amazigh.

A certain article mentioned that you can only find “one sentence on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” in textbooks in Japan. Well, I might understand why China teaches a different history to its children than what Japan teaches its citizens, clearly based on their relationship. However, what I cannot understand is why Tunisia’s textbooks will totally remove the beginnings of our recorded history where Tunisia was inhabited by Amazigh. Instead it was narrowed to a glimpse about Phoenicians, Romans and the Vandals, then a closer look at the seventh century when the Byzantines were replaced by Muslim Arabs – when Tunisia became Arabic-speaking and Muslim. We end up at the medieval Hafsid dynasty and 1574, with the incorporation into the Ottoman Empire, then a bigportion on the French colonization.

So, education played the major role in growing the Arab identity, strengthened by international categorization describing our region as “Arab Africa”. But, education is based on policies directed by certain political orientations.  Our politics since independence, with the support of Europe, aimed to tie us with the other part of the Mediterranean and thus disconnected us from the continent.  By the end of the day, there is no clear feature of the Tunisian society - a very attached society to the Arab culture with family values on the one hand and very independent citizens with well-established principles of the Modern State, on the other hand. The missing picture was the African identity, denied or ignored by the greater majority of Tunisians. By doing so Tunisians even deny their ignorance of their own history, their racism towards other Africans and discrimination towards Amazigh. Instead, they claim living in “one Tunisia for everyone in coexistence” from the lens of pan-Arabism.

Reading more about different narratives and having Amazigh friends, I constantly learn about Tamazgha, Ifriqiya and how Carthage has been the metropolis of Punic civilization in Africa and capital of the province of Africa in Roman times. I learned more about Africa listening to Senegalese and Malian students, most of them who had terrible racist experiences living in Tunis. My quest to learn more about my vanished African identity has only intensified. Still, I couldn’t even find African literature on our library bookshelves or African courses at our colleges. So, I decided to go out to explore Africa for myself, outside the boxes of my education and political systems - a place from which I believe I’m totally disconnected while born and raised inside it!

Life just paved the way for me to be all over North and East Africa, most of the West and few countries in the Southern part. I then met Nubi friends from Egypt, learned about Swahili in East Africa and the Bantu across the African Great Lakes. I found out that my identity lies even deeper and it’s not only the dilemma of Tunisia, but also North Africa at large, a region in denial of its Africanism. To bridge the widening gap of the North with the rest of the continent, we need to open an honest discussion about our Africanism, transfer vanished knowledge, re-read our history and connect the continent by celebrating its diversity from both the North and Sub-Saharan Africa. While strengthening our understanding and self-discovery within the continent, we need to strongly face the world with their enforced division of Africans ethnically, culturally, economically and politically.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Since the early 20th century, Tunisian women played a key role in securing the independence of their country. August 13, 1956, marked the promulgation of the Code of Personal Status (CPS) that included progressive laws aiming at the institution of gender equality.

The Code is known for abolishing polygamy, creating a judicial procedure for divorce, the regulation of family law, marriage, social security, and abortion, among other issues. At the time, it also gave women a status that allows them to create their own businesses, have a bank account and the ability to have their own passports.

The Tunisian woman then, has been portrayed and perceived in the region as independent and emancipated. This image has been well used by both former presidents, constituting a main argument for the country's favorable image in the West, because the suppression of free expression and political opposition tarnished the country's reputation abroad. Under Bourguiba's administration, Tunisia profited from a solid reputation as a civil and secular republic in a region more often comprised of military dictatorships and religiously dependent monarchies.

However, the Code itself was promulgated in an authoritarian manner, as it wasn't the object of public debate, or considered in a constituent assembly. So, the leadership’s reputed modernist conviction masked its democratic deficit. Tunisia is considered as exemplary in advancing women’s rights in the region. However, if you look more closely to the society you may wonder if this image corresponds to reality. Domestic violence, for example is tarnishing the country's shining reputation.

Moreover, the same progressive Code still contains discriminatory provisions that make women “second-class citizens” in their families. For instance, Article 58 of the CPS gives judges the discretion to grant custody to either the mother or the father based on the best interests of the child, but prohibits a mother to have her children live with her if she has remarried. No such restriction applies to fathers.

The Transition

As in many conflicts, women and children are the major victims. During the 2011 Tunisian revolution, women have been subjected to all kinds of violence. A woman’s body has become a threat to her life. Following the overthrown of the former regime, the violence escalated to the kidnapping, raping, trafficking and sexual harassment of girls. Men had even joked about it on Facebook, posting: "The girls that will not be kidnapped today means they're not pretty enough"!

Since the spark of the uprising, women have been frontline protesters, journalists, photographers, volunteers, elections observers, bloggers, and campaigners despite the violence they have to endure. The police, for instance, was taking advantage of the chaos to sexually harass women on account of them being protesters, journalists or detainees. Police might even share their violence to the victim as was the case in September 2012, when a woman had been arrested and charged with public indecency because she had been raped by two police officers! So, Tunisia is still the place where both law and patriotic society would take the side of the perpetrator.

A few weeks after the National Constituent Assembly elections, Souad Abderrahim, the “non-veiled” spokeswoman of the Islamic party Ennahda, said that “single mothers are a disgrace to Tunisians and do not have the right to exist”. She added: “In Arab-Muslim customs and traditions in Tunisia there are no room for full and absolute freedom…”. Such statements eventually paved the way for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, calling for polygamy and Shariaa Law.

For a country that glows like a beacon of women's progress in North Africa, the government's first shelter for survivors of domestic violence was only inaugurated in December 2012. Tunisia didn’t have one single shelter for women abused, homeless or subjected to violence. Only on 2012 International Day of Women, the provisional interim president Marzouki mentioned the need for the country's first public shelter for victims of domestic violence. Only then, did the Ministry of Women and Family take the first step by bringing the issue of violence against women on board. A few months later, a pilot center, which can only accommodate 50 women and their children, was opened.

On the one hand, Tunisia’s new Constitution, adopted on January 27, has strong protection for women’s rights. Article 46, declares that “The State commits to protect women’s established rights and works to strengthen and develop those rights.” It further guarantees “equality of opportunities between women and men to have access to all levels of responsibility and in all domains” and “guarantees the elimination of all forms of violence against women.” This is an improvement from previous constitutional drafts that invoked notions of “complementary” gender roles that risked diluting the principle of equality between men and women. One of the moments of backwardness was while discussing the issue of "Equality or Complementarity" between men and women after a century of guaranteeing progressive gender equality laws. On the other hand, the new constitution still fails to fully embody the principle of equality between the sexes as it refers to equal opportunity in “assuming responsibilities,” but not to the broader right to equality of opportunity in all political, economic, and other spheres.

Looking forward

The CPS, in many cases, has been used by the male counterpart as a “perfect and complete” paper although it dates back to the independence days! Women’s rights should not only be guaranteed by the CPS but also by the right to education, security, health and employment. The notion of “the most progressive” code in the region doesn’t reflect the reality when it’s lagging far behind neighboring Morocco that has tens of shelters for women, while Tunisia is struggling to sustainably establish its first shelter.

Only in last April Tunisia officially lifted all of its specific reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which is an important step toward realizing gender equality. The government should next ensure that all domestic laws conform to international standards and eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

Tunisia is also one of a handful of members of the African Union that did not sign, let alone ratify, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), which sets out additional rights to CEDAW. To ensure that it continues this leadership on gender equality, Tunisia should also sign and ratify the Maputo Protocol.

Finally, both women and men have to protect women and help them understand that they are born with compromised rights and freedoms. When we talk about gender equality, we usually talk exclusively about women and we forget that gender includes men and women. Gender-based violence, for instance, is mainly about empowering women and exclude the essential contribution of men as perpetrators of violence in most cases. Engaging in creating male awareness of gender issues can let men question their involvement in the problem and in doing so, bring about gender equality.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Youth are the Resource not the Problem #YouthPolicies #Tunisia

In order to address the future of youth policies in North Africa, it has become necessary to look at the system before and after the ongoing revolutions and political change in the region. Among many indicators to assess youth policies, I would like to explore two crucial ones: youth legislation and youth participation. I will take Tunisia as an example and explore its youth policy based on those indicators.

The role of Tunisian youth in the revolution was fundamental because they have been the most affected and marginalized by the previous regime’s inability to live up to their demands. The uprising itself is known as a “youth uprising” and the post-revolutionary state has adopted this language only as a defense of the revolution. However, following Tunisia’s first freely elected parliament in place, many of the problems facing Tunisia’s youth remain - namely jobs and opportunities for Tunisia’s highly educated and most important demographic, as over 51% of the population is under 30. In fact, following the revolution, Tunisia’s overall unemployment rate spiked by 6%, up from 13% to 19%. For highly skilled youth, aged 15-29, the unemployment rate exceeds 44 %.

There is a growing frustration among youth that the current leadership is not listening to their aspirations but viewing them only as numbers at the voting box. Issues such as drafting a constitution and establishing a democracy have taken precedence over social-equality demands. This is why we need to look at the different indicators that play a major role in advancing youth agendas to understand the failure of fulfilling the goals of the revolution led by young people.

In respect to youth legislation, the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Women and Families is responsible for the implementation of youth policies. Services to young people are delivered through centralized administrative units and a network of youth centers. Amongst its many responsibilities, the ministry focuses mainly on the sport sector while youth centers focus on the cultural programs for youth. There is an issue of decentralization and a lack of coordination of services across the agencies to effectively address youth issues, leading instead to fragmented coverage, ambiguity and overlap in roles.

Tunisia had the Higher Youth Council, which was a government forum of consultation on youth issues, totally aligned with the ruling political party Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique (RCD), whose regime was toppled in 2011. Now, we do not really have a National Youth Council or national youth organization, besides a few attempts by civil society to organize programs such as the Youth Parliament and Model UN. This decreases our representation in Africa. The association of youth work with political parties, such as the former regime in Tunisia, is a major problem in Africa, which detract institutionalized bodies from youth work activities. Youth workers should recognize the importance of being independent actors, serving youth and not the state. 

In regards to youth participation, especially in politics, young Tunisians have been excluded from its political process. The date, 23 October 2011, marked the first transparent elections, registering only 17% of youth participation (18 to 25-year olds) and electing only 10% of young people out of the 217 deputies. Tunisian youth have been active participants in the campaign period, both as members of political parties, and in drafting the constitution, frequently protesting for the inclusion of youth rights within the new constitution. Nevertheless, the numbers of youth actually entering the system is still marginal. 

To some extend, the Tunisian government offers a range of services as employment, training opportunities, civic participation, and recreational activities. However, there is not enough concrete involvement and political inclusion of young people to get them to leadership positions. The tremendous increase in the number of civil society organizations (CSOs) that are youth-led and youth targeting, alone, will not take youth to decision-making positions if they remain only to be used as volunteers, campaigners and voters.

Politics is still restricted to elite circles and political parties are outmoded. Again, there is no political will to engage youth. Recent registration for the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in October and November, shows that young people’s motivation has decreased since the revolution because of deception and exclusion. 

Looking to the future, Tunisian and African bureaucrats in general have to act upon the understanding that:
1. Young people are the resource not the problem: young people are always associated with problems, mainly unemployment. However, youth are an immersive resource for every nation’s development. We will not move forward until our leaders change their problem-oriented approach.

2. Young people should be part of the process not the result: The absolute majority of Tunisians either have never heard or known about the African Youth Charter or, if known, haven’t read it. This is partly because they have not been part of the process of its drafting and consultation.

3. There is tension between the will and the expectations of young people, and the will expressed in policies designed to target their needs. It is more accurate in Tunisia’s case, to speak of plural strategies concerning youth rather than a single youth policy. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Future of MENA -Part I

Day after day, our region (Middle East and North Africa) is portrayed as the most dangerous and desperate in the world because of the ongoing political change and uprisings.

Young people of the MENA -who have led the change- have different view!
They have a realistic view of the current turmoil which comes with optimism, hope and determination that ongoing grassroots movements are being established to move forward.

Check out what young activists from Algeria, Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon think about the future of their countries!!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Migration Dilemma in North Africa

The dramatic political changes and instability in North Africa following the civil war in Libya and the partition of Sudan, in addition to the conflicts in Syria and Mali, have created new waves of movements in the region. The crisis has two main faces; the sub region serves as either a transit or final destination for sizeable mixed migration movements from neighboring countries, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

Despite the risk of arrest and detention, Libya continues to see the arrival of many refugees and asylum-seekers. According to UNHCR, over 37,000 asylum-seekers and refugees are registered with their Tripoli and Benghazi officers, with Syrians making up the largest group (18,655), followed by Eritreans (4,673), Somalis (2,380) and Iraqis (3,105). In Egypt, there has been an increasing number of asylum-seekers from Syria and Sudan. In addition to Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf camps of Algeria, Algerian families along the border were hosting Malians who sought safety in Algeria in 2012. Early in the crisis, one effect of the Libyan civil war has been the migrant workers fleeing to Tunisia and Egypt. Morocco is also tripling in the number of asylum-seekers, with most coming from Côte d'Ivoire and Syria.

However, North African countries are experiencing huge gaps in existing mechanisms to grant temporary protection and asylum to persons in genuine need of protection. In Tunisia, for instance, the Palestinians of Syria are facing difficult socio-economic conditions because of a lack of tools to manage the type of migrants “trapped” in a third country. Many asylum-seekers live in precarious conditions, with lack of residence permits and little legal access to employment, having even further displaced by the current unrest in Libya.

Therefore, most of the countries receiving mixed migrants are already dealing with their own internal issues of political instability and terrorism, which doesn’t make them a safer place for the refugees.
The new waves of migration from other parts of Africa and the Middle East are seeking instead the “smuggling points” in Libya and Tunisia to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Spiraling numbers of both economic migrants and refugees are attempting perilous journeys across the Mediterranean, on unseaworthy vessels to Lampedusa, an Italian island used as an entrance to Europe. The high concentrations of overcrowded boat crossings brought the death toll from dangerous sea journeys to 1,500 people in 2011. Bodies from boat accidents are usually found in the waters off Italy, Turkey and Greece. While the conditions in North Africa continue to be desperate, large numbers of desperate migrants will attempt to make this trip. They are forced to resort to irregular ways of reaching a country where they are safe and where economical survival is possible.

The regime change and political circumstances leading to this situation in North Africa are turning into a long-term crisis. The continuing unrest in the region has had a negative impact on protection climate, with terrorist activity in the Sahel and Sinai regions, as well as Libya and Tunisia.  The increased arrests and detention of refugees and asylum-seekers, especially those from sub-Saharan Africa, coupled with Europe’s fear of migration, dampened the broader political and public response to the historic revolutions in the Southern Mediterranean.

While governments of different countries continue to deport migrants, increase surveillance and sign security pacts, there is an urgent need for a humanitarian response as well as legitimate legal avenues for migrants who are fleeing from instability and unemployment in their countries. By concentrating on the expulsion of migrants through the use of security measures, their very rights, freedom and humanitarian assistance have been denied. By reinforcing exclusionist policies, the realities of death tragedies and political and socio-economical turmoil triggered by the uprising in North Africa are being ignored and silenced, indeed.

Europe, in particular, accepts far less refugees than those welcomed by much poorer countries. Some of the European media and politicians portrayed these safety seekers and migrants as a serious threat to Europe, creating panic on immigration. European governments tend to implement harsher border control and militarisation policies, which unexpectedly increases illegal immigration and the number of deaths in the Mediterranean and in detention. This can be best described as “death by policy” caused by displacements and the lack of legal modes of travel. On the one hand, hundreds of millions of Euros have been invested in external border controls, and thousands of people have died as a result of this strategy, on the other hand. However, European Union member states are compelled by international law - the Dublin Convention - to host asylum seekers seeking international protection and to examine and evaluate their applications. While some European countries do not sift economic immigrants from refugees arriving together, other states that respect this process makes the migrants’ lives miserable, under inhumane detention conditions for prolonged periods of time, life on the streets without state support - many being under constant threat of deportation- or death facing extreme hardships.

The fragmented response from Europe is lacking conviction and vision to protect migrants and rethink its policy. There is a need for a political will from Europe and the international community to effectively respond to the migration dilemma in North Africa. Mechanisms related to migration, mobility, detention and asylum should be readdressed by assuming responsibility for developing asylum procedures. This should be done in conformity with international standards and by assessing the migration governance gaps that the current crisis exposed. As we reflect on new solutions for a more just and humane immigration system, we shall ask:

Are migrants and asylum seekers, dying in one of the best-monitored and yet deadliest seas in the world, the problem? Or does the serious problem lie behind in the countries they flee or forward in the countries they seek?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

My Talk at Stanford University "Changing Stereotypes through Alternative Media"

#Tunisia #USA #Education #Terrorism #Stereotypes #Blogging

My Talk at Stanford University about intercultural dialogue through the lens of my camera! don't be scared of Ben Laden's picture, it's just a small example of many stereotypes that need to be exposed and broken! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Do you Think Arabs are Terrorists?

I filmed this video during my stay in Georgia, USA!
Check out what Americans think about Arabs on questions of religion, terrorism and stereotypes!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Future lies in Africa #PanAfricanism

Africa is usually depicted as moving from the days of an independence era through four decades of neo-colonial exploitation, to recent waves of revolutions against domestic dictatorships and continuing poverty, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

However, we cannot shrink the future of Africa in accepting its reality. We need to acknowledge even the small meaningful changes and growth, in the hope of transforming it. 
In this quest for hope and transformation, North Africa needs to be integrated in the continent’s entire transformation. The rest of Africa should be aware of the transformation North Africa could bring to the continent politically, strategically and economically.

The origins of exchanges, interactions and ties, which we have gradually been losing between North Africa and the rest of the continent, date back to antiquity, including cultural, scientific, diplomatic, military and commercial movements. If we look back to independence movements when the Algerian revolution was embraced as part of the African revolution, there was no division between black Africa and Arab Africa. It was a strong connection as the Algerians were considered African heroes by most Africans and vice versa, the Algerians considered the liberation struggle in the rest of Africa as part of their struggle. , Muammar Gaddafi played a momentous role in supporting the anti-apartheid movements in South Africa and Zimbabwe and behaved generously to the rest of Africa based on his record of the last few years.

Therefore, as a starting point to revive the ties of history, North Africa is hoping to receive solidarity, unity and support from the rest of Africa in its ongoing political and social change.

On the other hand, North Africa has yet to realize that its future lies in Africa. It needs to use the changing economic and social conditions to positively affect its relations with the rest of Africa. Tunisia, unfortunately, continues to reinforce its close ties with Europe, both economically and politically, without balancing these partnerships with its African counterparts. The European Union has, in fact, decided to give Tunisia an overall budget of around €550 million including approximately €250 million in donations and €300 million in the form of macro-financial assistance to support economic and social development efforts in the country, during its democratic transition.

However, Morocco is making the strategic choice of "south-south cooperation," recognizing the enormous potential of some African states to become the highest growth economies in the world. Despite the limits of its economy, Morocco has managed to create and develop a substantial business within by increasing cooperation with its new continental partners.

In fact, North African countries need to assess Africa’s place in their foreign policies. The movement of populations in both directions across the Sahara was significant to the transformation of state, economy and society in the ancient times. Therefore, we need to regain mutual understanding and accommodation between North and South by creating conditions for fostering mutual acceptance and cooperation. The future of Africa lies in the mobilization of its resources, goods and capital within the continent and across the Sahara. This will also help to have a rapid response to our different crises across the continent as we:
  • Re-visit the history of relations between North Africa and the rest of the continent with a foresight vision to integration.
  • Reflect on the central factors, including religion, mobility and commerce that have helped to shape the history of intra-Africa’s relations.
  • Reflect on the sub-regional cooperation and integration promoted in North Africa and their connections.
  • Reflect on the impact of the struggle for national liberation in North Africa as well as the new uprisings on the continent.
  • Explore which skills are critical to implement the priorities after defining our common goals.
The ties between North Africa and the rest of the continent have been crucial to the definition of the role and place of the sub-region in the pan-Africanist vision. Now, attention should be drawn again to North Africa’s place and contribution to Africa’s future because it is not an option anymore, but an economic necessity. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

نداء لدعم فلسطينيي سوريا في تونس نشر في نواة 

فيما يقيم العالم هذا الشهر ذكرى يوم اللاجئ العالمي، تكرم تونس في الأشهر الأخيرة  الفلسطينين وخاصة القادمين من سوريا بحجزهم أو ترحيلهم
آخر هذه الخروقات الجسيمة يتمثل في قصة ثلاثين لاجىء فلسطيني قدموا من سوريا متوجهين إلى
 ليبيا عبر مطار قرطاج الدولي منتصف شهر أيار الماضي، إلا أن الاشتباكات الأخيرة في ليبيا عموماً وبنغازي خصوصاً جعلتهم حبيسي مطار قرطاج لخمسة ليال طوال، إذ لا يحق للفلسطيني القادم من سوريا دخول تونس دون تأشيرة !!! ليفرج عنهم بعد ضغط إعلامي كبير من هيئات وأفراد المجتمع المدني التونسي، إذ منحتهم الحكومة التونسية تأشيرة لمدة شهر انتهت في 21 حزيران الجاري، فيما حجزت السفارة الفلسطينية أوراقهم وأودعتهم وزارة السياحة التونسية في مدرسة 
داخلية "مركز كركوان السياحي في الحمامات" منذ شهر

لمعرفة مستجدات هذه القضية على وجه التحديد، هنا روابط بيانات الرابطة الفلسطينية لحقوق الانسان/سوريا، وهي منظمة حقوقية سورية مسجلة في السويد تتابع عن كثب قضية العالقين الثلاثين

إلا أن إعلان دخول اللاجئين الثلاثين إلى تونس ومنحهم التأشيرة التي انتهت منذ أيام لم يؤدي إلى انتهاء معانتهم، بل على العكس، فإن الحالة الضبابية لما سيحمله لهم المستقبل أشد وطأة عليهم من الشهر المنصرم، مطالبهم واضحة في البيان الأخير للرابطة الفلسطينية والمعنون
تونس: بعد حل أزمة مطار قرطاج، الغموض يكتنفمصير ثلاثين فلسطيني من سوريا

إن ما أنوي فعله في معرض هذا النص هو أن أحمل الأطراف المعنية جميعها المسؤوليات الواقعة على عاتقها، إذ أن ما يجري في سوريا اليوم من موت ودمار يومي ينبغي أن يدفعنا لأن نقلل خسائر هؤلاء الذين أصبحوا خارج حدود البلاد

بداية إلى الحكومة العزيزة

في ظل قطعكم للعلاقات الدبلوماسية مع سوريا وطرد سفير بشار الأسد من تونس وسحب الاعتراف بنظامه، اعتقدتم أنكم قمتم بالواجب وأنكم اتهذتم خطوات شجاعة وجريئة في المنطقة ولكن ما الذي تلى هذه الاجراءات وما الهدف الذي صبوتم إليه؟ فإذا كنا نريد دعم الثورة السورية والاعتراف بحق الشعب السوري بتقرير مصيره، فقد كان من الأجد بنا أن نرحب بهذا الشعب الذي أتى لاجىء إلى تونس، خاصة فلسطينيته. أما أنها مجرد تصريحات رمزية من حكومة تونس "مهد الثورات"

إذا كانت حكومتنا تعتقد أن اتخاذ الاجراءات الدبلوماسية آنفة الذكر قد دعمت الشعب السوري وحفظت كرامته، ينبغى أن تعلم ايضاً أن حفظ كرامة السوري والفلسطيني السوري تكون أيضاً بحمايتهم قانونياً على أراضيها، خاصة بحسب ما ينص عليه الدستور الجديد الذي يقر بحق اللجوء في الفصل خمسة وعشرين منه، وذلك وفقاً للمعاهدات والمواثيق الدولية التي صادقت عليها تونس.
ولكن قبل النصوص القانونية يأتي التزام أخلاقي قامت به تونس لدعم الشعب السوري وعلى أساسه تتحمل الحكومة أيضاً مسؤولية حماية اللاجئين القادمين من سوريا إلى أراضيها سواء كانوا سوريين، فلسطينين من سوريا أو من أي بلد آخر

إلى السفارة الفلسطينية في تونس
سعادة السفير الفلسطيني في تونس

أكتب إليكم اليوم وأنا أشعر بحاجة ملحة لأفهم الدور الذي لعبتموه في الآونة الأخيرة للمساهمة في حل ما يتعرض له اللاجئين الفلسطينيين القادمين من سوريا إلى أو عبر تونس
سعادة السفير، لقد تعبنا من الوقفات الاحتجاجية التي لا تغير في مجريات الأحداث المصيرية مما يدفعني لتساؤل عن دور السفارة الفلسطينية اتجاه فلسطيني سوريا في تونس والتي تبدو وكأنها قد استقالت من مسؤولياتها التاريخية

أليس من المخزي يا سيادة السفير أن تستقبل وزارة السياحة التونسية ضيوفك بدلاً من سفارة بلادهم في تونس؟ وأليس من المخزي أيضاً أن تخبر المحتجزين الثلاثين في مطار قرطاج أن حل قضيتهم يكمن في ترحيلهم إلى لبنان؟ بكل ما يعنيه هذا الترحيل من مخاطر أمنية وإعادة قسرية محتملة إلى سوريا؟ ثم يدخل المحتجزون البلاد بعد يومين، أي تخل عن المسؤوليات هذا؟
من الجدير بالذكر أيضاً حادثة سابقة في معرض العام الجاري تم على إثرها ترحيل 13 لاجىء فلسطيني من
 سوريا باتجاه الجزائر بعد عدم مساعدة سفارتكم لهم
إلا أن الأكثر فداحة، معالي السفير، هو أنكم لم تزورا ضيوفكم العالقين في الحمامات وقد مضى شهر على تخبطهم في المجهول
أرجو أن تلقى هذا الرسالة بالاً من قبلكم

إلى مفوضية الأمم المتحدة العليا للاجئين في تونس

أكتب إليكم اليوم إثر استغرابي لعدم استجابتكم لمأساة فلسطينيي سوريا القادمين إلى والعالقين في تونس، وعلى وجه الخصوص أولئك الذين أمضوا خمس ليال في مطار قرطاج الدولي منتصف الشهر الماضي قبل أن تمنحهم السلطات التونسية تأشيرة دخول لمدة شهر واحد

لطالما كان الشعب التونسي سباقاً في التضامن مع اللاجئين من أينما أتوا. إذ لازلت أذكر بوضوح دعم التونسيون للاجئين الليبين إثر اندلاع الحرب الليبية، عندما فتحوا منازلهم لإخوانهم الفارين من ليبيا وتحرك المجتمع المدني التونسي، ذلك قبل أن يتحرك الجيش التونسي للمساعدة وقبل أن تتدخل المفوضية العليا لتقديم الخدمات المنوطة بها، هذه المعلومة التي خبرتها بأم عيني في مخيمات رأس جدير وشوشة أثناء ايصالي للمعونات

إن عدم متابعتنا كمجتمع مدني تونسي لأداء المفوضية في متابعة عدة قضايا سابقة أدى إلى ما حصل اليوم من 
عدم استجابة من قبلكم لمعانة فلسطينيي سوريا في تونس، إذ أنكم لم تتكلفوا عناء زيارتهم في مكان اقامتهم في منطقة الحمامات السياحية حيث لا يملكون أية أوراق ثبوتية ليتمكنوا من التحرك بحرية، هذا كان أقل ما يمكن للمفوضية فعله، أو على الأقل توجيه النصح والمعونة بمخاطبة السلطات المسؤولة في حال عدم قدرتكم على العون المباشر

إلى منظمات المجتمع المدني التونسي
"صورة من الحمامات" 

لقد استطعنا القيام بالكثير سابقاً ولكن اليوم دورنا أكبر وأكثر الحاحاً وعليه ينبغي على منظمات المجتمع المدني التونسي أن تسارع لدعم العالقين الثلاثين في منطقة الحمامات خاصة بعد توارد أخبار من مصادر ضمن المجموعة عن توقف تزويدهم بالطعام من قبل وزارة السياحة وعدم وضوح الجهة المسؤولة عن اطعامهم في الوقت الراهن
إلا أن الضغوطات يجب ألا تكون آنية ومطلبية فقط، حيث من واجبنا أن نحث الحكومة على انهاء هذه المعانة المستمر منذ قرابة شهر لمجموعة بينها ثلاثة أطفال وسيدة مسنة والكثير من القصص الحزينة، الضغط يجب أن يكون باتجاه ايجاد حل مستدام للعالقين ولمن سيأتي لاحقاً في ظل اشتداد وتيرة العنف في سوريا

إلى الإعلام التونسي
مازال إعلامنا يختار المواضيع التي يشاء أن يغطيها دون غيرها، إعلام في أعظميته يحب "البلبلة" فقط، أما في القضايا المصيرية فلا إعلام ليغطي؟
لقد مضت مع الأسف تلك الفترة التي ظننت أننا تحررنا خلالها من ديكتاتورية  رؤوساء التحرير، "باعث القناة"، والإعلام الموجه... لصالح الصحفيين المستقليين والصحافة الاحترافية والاستقصائية وما إلى ذلك، إلا أن العودة إلى المدونة تبدو ضرورة لا غنى عنها لنكتب ما لا تكتبه الصحافة.
إن تجاهل القضايا التي ينبغي أن تعالجها السلطة الرابعة لا يثمر في حل على حد تعبير الصحفي طارق الغوراني الذي ساهم بفعالية في تسليط الضوء على معاناة الثلاثين فلسطيني سوري الذين كانوا عالقين في مطار قرطاج الدولي منتصف شهر أيار الماضي أثناء عبورهم الأراضي التونسية باتجاه ليبيا.
لم يعلم بهم في البداية أحد، أو بالأحرى لم يرغب أحد في أن يعلم، هل سيتحرك الإعلام نحو العالقين في منطقة الحمامات الآن؟ هنا يكمن السؤال المفصلي

أيها التونسيون: مواطنون، حكومة، إعلاماً ومنظمات حقوقية
!!!!إن مهزلة احتجاز فلسطيني سوريا في تونس يجب أن تنتهي
مطالبهم معقولة: "إقامة مؤقتة واستعادة لجوازات سفرهم التي تحفظت عليها السفارة الفلسطينية"، يضاف إلى ذلك ضرورة فتح مكتب أو توفير جهة رسمية لتسيير أعمال السوريين والفلسطينين السوريين اللاجئين في تونس، فهذه حالة من عشرات الحالات التي لا نعلم بها.
!!!!علينا التحرك الآن

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