Rachel Linn writes on Tunisian politics in The Guardian.
Rachel, who is doing a PhD in International Studies, wrote on the Comment is Free section of the Guardian of a meeting she had with Nejib Chebbi, the chairman of the Parti Democrate Progressiste (PDP), which she describes as the most credible opposition party in Tunisia, which has been ruled by one party since independence in 1956.
He and Maya Jribi, the PDP secretary-general, had been on hunger strike in protest at the government’s attempt to block publication of the latest issue of the PDP’s newspaper.
Rachel says foreign or domestic journalists who publish material that is seen as critical of the Tunisian government find themselves unable to work in the country and that Tunisians who join unapproved political movements are liable to “find themselves followed by police and quietly dismissed from their job, while their family is harassed and they are perhaps thrown into jail or, worse, tortured”.
She writes: “The government has accomplished pervasive control by constructing a fearsome security apparatus and an extensive system of patronage and bribes that is continually leveraged to maintain the support of those who might otherwise cause problems for the regime, such as judges and the country’s economic elite.”
She says the West tends to regard the country as relatively stable, but states that this “stability” does not run deep. She says it is in the West’s political interests to support democratic movements in Tunisia.
She writes: “If we truly want to improve the brand image of the west in the Muslim world, we ought to consider seriously whether our engagement in such countries is genuinely supporting the best outcome for their populations. Supporting citizens’ desire to pursue their own political aspirations – whatever those may be – by resolutely standing by political freedom would seem a basic start, and something I would argue is the only justifiable option in Tunisia.”
Rachel plans to pursue a career in policy research, specialising in the politics and economics of the Middle East and North Africa. For her PhD she is studying the comparative framing of mainstream Islamist movements in Tunisia and Morocco.
Picture credit: M. Bartosch and www.freedigitalphotos.net