Opinions in English

Articles published under the Opinions section reflect the view and opinions of the author, but not necessarily that of Nawaat.



Opinions


29 November 2021

On October 15, 2021, I was stopped at the Tunis airport and denied entry into Tunisia on the basis of the same piece of paper that the police in Bab Souika guaranteed as allowing me the liberty to enter and exit Tunisia – a carte de séjour provisoire [provisional residency card]. It had been a year since I had submitted my file demanding a carte de séjour; as an Indian citizen who needs a visa to enter Tunisia, I had hoped that this card would make my research in and on Tunisia easier.


06 October 2021

I was on my treadmill exercising and watching Nicki Minaj “killing it” in one of her concerts when I saw a notification on my Facebook stating that Tunisian President Kais Saied had just nominated Ms. Najla Bouden as the new Head of Government. This would make her the first to hold such a high position in Tunisia as well as the first in the Arab world. I was excited for only a few seconds. As a Tunisian woman and a feminist who founded the association “Aswat Nisaa” to enhance women’s political participation and advocate for gender sensitive public policies, this should have been a celebratory moment! But it wasn’t for me. Why—I asked myself—am I being a joy-killer here? Am I being a “bad feminist ”?


05 August 2021

In what seems to be a confusing set of legal opinions, a number of jurists in Tunisia and elsewhere were unable to converge decisively on qualifying the nature of President Kais Saied’s decision to suspend the Tunisian parliament and sack the government on July 25, 2021. Technically sound arguments seem to be made on all sides. Saied on his part, based his decision on article 80 of the Tunisian constitution which allows the President to take exceptional measures “in the event of imminent peril,” and one can very well argue that a Parliament and a government that let 18,000 Tunisians die of Covid 19 in a year and a half are a peril already in place.


02 August 2021

It’s funny enough that post-2011 Tunisia was dubbed “democracy startup”. Well, why not apply a benchmarked and proven model if the playbook was matured by other players? Because the Tunisian people, consciously or unconsciously, are exploring a new path, and searching for a new model. And that’s what startups are about. In my view the Tunisian people are a rare kind of country-preneurs. But where are they heading to? Let’s look back at the roadmap, to try to understand where its trajectory may lead.


01 August 2021

On the 25th of July, Tunisia witnessed a major shake-up of the political landscape. Western “experts” could have predicted that. They were able to believe what they actually saw and heard. In their well-entrenched imaginary, something was decidedly wrong with this picture. The complexity was too much to handle for minds trained to see Tunisia, and the region as a whole, as easily knowable if not already known. No wonder many of them have rushed to cry foul.


14 May 2021

The tragic murder of a young woman by her husband has exposed the devastating failures of the authorities to protect Tunisian women from domestic violence. On 9 May, Tunisian Facebook timelines were suddenly flooded with a grim black image, bearing the words: “Her name is Refka Cherni.”


11 May 2021

Over last three weeks, I have been telling everyone around me that my parents in India have Covid, that they had Covid, that they continue to cough or have intense body pain. I tell them about my fears that my parents might suddenly need to go to a hospital, that there are no hospitals with vacant beds, that there are no oxygen cylinders left to keep us breathing when Covid chokes us. I tell this to distant faces I see over Zoom, to folks I run into on the streets in Tunis. Every time I am confronted with the same response: remarks about the pictures of cremations, the images of fire eating away the bodies of the dead, followed by a look of pity that I am forced to accept.


10 May 2021

One of the most beautiful lines ever spat in hip-hop comes from a song called « Last Supper » by D Smoke, in which he says “every kid needs a hero, I’m trying to be uncle Stan Lee.” In this context, Stan Lee represents the idea that no matter where you come from, you can make it if you put your mind to it, even when you live in a small hood in the capital of one of the tiniest countries in the world.


26 April 2021

When the Tunisian Republic was proclaimed on 25 July 1957, with Habib Bourguiba elected its first constituent president, long before the adoption of the constitution in 1959, the intention and spirit of the leaders were to give birth to a republican political system conferring the mandate of the head of state to the “Supreme Combatant” who had become the near-exclusive holder of power in the country. The First Republic rose up against the monarchy, and would henceforth be the regime of the new independent state. However, the people who had, according to Bourguiba, “reached a sufficient degree of maturity to assume the management of their own affairs” would first have to be guided in their choices by their zaïm-turned-raïs; liberator of the country and father of the nation. Democracy would have to wait.


09 February 2021

“There is no government, there is no state, we are the state”. These chilling words by a police officer, during a sit-in in the city of Sfax on 2 February, speak volumes about the dangerous turn of events in Tunisia in recent weeks. The latest unrest heightens risks of a return to a police state following years of shaky democratic transition which has failed to end abuses by security services and their rampant impunity for human rights violations.


30 December 2020

Gilbert Naccache, who passed away on December 26, 2020 at the age of 81, was the nexus of multiple stakes and causes which marked Tunisia since the early 1960s. He may have been the last in a line of a particular breed of public intellectuals: Jews of the Arab lands who rejected the Israeli birthright, which is steeped in sectarianism, colonialism and dispossession, and who claimed the right to belong fully to the lands of their birth. As a wave of “normalisation” with Israel sweeps across the Arab world, his positions are sobering. With Arab politics and society turning to the right, it behoves us to reflect on a life spent on the Left and in opposition to dictatorship and sectarianism. And as we reflect on the tenth anniversary of the Tunisian revolution and the rebellious wave it engendered across the region, we have a duty to remember one of those who paved the way. Along with this, and not to be underestimated, we need to recall Gilbert Naccache the writer.


08 December 2020

On October 6, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists in Tunisia raised their voices and banners in the street, amid the hundreds of demonstrators who were peacefully protesting a draft law that would drastically limit criminal accountability for the use of force by the security forces. By a cruel irony, police attacked the demonstrators, including LGBT activists, and arbitrarily arrested them.