Two years on: Lessons learned from Tunisia


Despite scorching heat, opposition demonstrators gathered last week on the main thoroughfare in Tunisia’s capital to denounce policies pursued by President Kaïs Saied, two years to the day after he suspended parliament in the first step of a gradual rollback of Tunisia’s democratic freedoms, AP reports:

Hundreds of people joined the protest by a coalition of opposition parties and independent politicians, chanting “Down with Kaïs Saied.” A reinforced security presence surrounded the crowd gathered in front of the capital’s municipal theater. The demonstrators called for the release of political prisoners on trial for an alleged plot against state security, and other political opponents jailed or facing investigations.

The focus for Tunisia’s civil society should be on fostering grassroots organizations that rely on networks of committed volunteers and strong connections with their constituencies, argues Lamine Benghazi, a Nonresident Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP). Such organizations should move away from being solely project and donor-driven and instead prioritize their deep engagement with the communities they serve. In turn, these grassroots organizations can become strong advocates for a “thick interpretation of the rule of law,” linking the concerns of their constituencies to broader democratic challenges that the country is facing.


As Tunisia’s struggle for democracy continues, the Steering Committee of the World Movement stands in solidarity with Tunisian democracy advocates and joins them in calling on the international community to:

  • Urge the Tunisian government to end the practice of trying civilians in military courts and to return to credible, just, and independent judiciary practices.
  • Request immediate release of all political leaders and civil society activists detained on politically motivated grounds.
  • Support and encourage an inclusive and participatory dialogue process to address the country’s political and economic crises.
  • Amplify Tunisian pro-democracy voices advocating for putting a democratic transition process back on track through promoting and protecting human rights, civil liberties, the rule of law, an inclusive political process, freedom of speech, and separation of powers.

The Washington Institute hosted a virtual Policy Forum (above) with POMED’s Amy Hawthorne, Jean-Louis Romanet Perroux, and Sabina Henneberg, author of the Institute study “Tunisian Civil Society: Resetting Expectations.”

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