Geopolitics

Tunisia's Drift From Democratic Revolution To Authoritarianism

The Tunisian president is cultivating his ambiguities and pushing his constitutional reform, without proposing a roadmap to get the country out of the crisis. Refusing to speak to the media, he has an increasingly populist tone with messianic accents.

-Analysis-

TUNIS — President Kaïs Saïed likes to surprise. Everyone expected an event on December 17 to mark the 11th anniversary of the founding event of the revolution, the immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi. It was finally in a speech on television on the evening of December 13 that Saïed announced that parliament would remain for a year until the next general elections, using a new electoral law — which amounts to a de-facto dissolution of the parliament. Only one thing is certain: he retains the full powers he assumed on July 25.

Until then, Tunisians are invited to vote on a constitutional reform project, an "electronic popular consultation" that will be held from January to March and will be sanctioned by a referendum in July 2022. Because according to the tenant of Carthage, the current semi-presidential regime based on the 2014 constitution is the source of all the ills from which Tunisia suffers.

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“Milder” Omicron, Tiananmen Statue Dismantled, Dylan’s Decorations

👋 העלא*

Welcome to Thursday where some hopeful reports on the effects of the new COVID variant, a new symbolic crackdown takes place in Hong Kong and the Bard of Malibu phones it in when it comes to Christmas decorations. We also feature a report from Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza on the deteriorating conditions for LGBTQ people in Poland.

🎄⏸️ *Also, a quick heads up: Much of our team will be taking a break next week, so we’ll see you tomorrow for the final edition of Worldcrunch Today of 2021…!

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“Less Severe” Omicron, Suu Kyi Sentenced, Buried By Volcano

👋 Xin chào!*

Welcome to Monday, where Aung San Suu Kyi gets sentenced to four years, there’s some positive news about the Omicron variant and a one-time Bill Clinton rival dies at the age of 98. We also explore the growing battles between parents and teachers in Tunisia, once hailed for its “golden age of education” in North Africa.

[*Vietnamese]

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Teachers v. Parents: The End Of Tunisia's "Golden Age" Of Education

Violence against teachers, poorly received educational reforms, conflicts with parents: In Tunisia, the entire education sector is in crisis.

TUNIS — In Sousse, a city in eastern Tunisia, students tried to burn down their school with Molotov cocktails. In Mahdia, a coastal city, an English teacher was dragged before the courts after having given an F to a student. In Ezzahra, in the southern suburbs of Tunis, a student stabbed his history and geography teacher after not being allowed to retake an exam for which he had been absent without an excuse. Another student exhibited female underwear in class to make his classmates laugh.

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Ideas
Sophie Amsili

Tunisia, An Ambiguous Role Model For Women's Rights In The Arab World

Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed caused a stir by appointing Najla Bouden, the first female head of government in the Arab world. But as the president has assumed full powers a decade after the launch of the Arab Spring, it is a choice with a mixed message.

TUNIS — On Najla Bouden's recent visit to Paris to participate in a conference on Libya, every step was being watched closely. The new head of the Tunisian government appeared both at ease and discreet. Her public agility may explain why Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed chose Bouden for this position with limited political weight, two-and-a-half months after he took full powers of the North African nation, where the Arab Spring began a decade ago.

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Society
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Roe v. Wade And Beyond: The Battle For Abortion Rights Around The World

As many look to an imminent threat to abortion rights in the U.S., there are changes afoot around the world, from strict new bans and more subtle means for limiting access to surprising progress elsewhere for women's right to choose.

PARIS — While Roe v. Wade cemented abortion access in the United States almost 50 years ago, the pro-life fight to overturn the landmark legislation has long kept the United States in the global spotlight in the debate over reproductive healthcare.

A recent Texas law banning the procedure once cardiac activity is detected (about six weeks into pregnancy) has resulted in an 80% reduction in abortions in the country's second-largest state. Now, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on November 1 to determine whether the federal government has the right to sue over the law, it's an opportune moment to also look at the status of legal abortions around the world.

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In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Germany’s Close Race, San Marino Approves Abortion Legalization, Turtle At Airport

👋 Laphi!*

Welcome to Monday, where post-Merkel Germany looks set shift to a center-left coalition, San Marino and Switzerland catch up with the rest of Europe on two key social issues, and a turtle slows things down at a Japan airport. Meanwhile, we take an international look at different ways to handle beloved, yet controversial, comic books and graphic novels characters.

[*Aymara, Bolivia]

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Geopolitics
Frédéric Bobin

Tunisia, Where The Arab Spring Blossomed And Democracy Now Withers

North Africa correspondent Frédéric Bobin analyzes Tunisian President Kais Saied’s recent decision to suspend parliament and sack Prime Minister Mechichi and what it means for the legacy of the Arab Spring — for Tunisia and for the region.

-Analysis-

In Tunis, suspending an elected parliament and ordering the army to cordon off the surrounding area is a symbol that speaks volumes. Tunisia, the true pioneer of the 2011 Arab Spring movement, is trapped, both geographically and ideologically, between neighboring countries that saw it as a hope for democracy. So much so, in fact, that what is happening in Tunisia has ramifications across the region.

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Geopolitics
Genevieve Mansfield

African LGBTQ Activists Fight To Undo Colonial Legacy

Both north and south of the Sahara, Africa's gay, lesbian and trans activists are fighting for their rights … and for many, that means returning to a much earlier history.

Ten years after Tunisia's pro-democracy revolution, activists are continuing to fight for the rights of all … and that increasingly also includes members of the LGBTQ community. Like Tunisia, other African countries are confronting the challenge of overcoming conservative attitudes and the legacy of colonialism that too often still stands in the way of providing equal protection and dignity to gay, lesbian and transgender citizens.

History might surprise you

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Tunisia
*Frida Dahmani

Femicide In Tunisia: Why A New Law Couldn't Crack The Patriarchy

A recent spousal killing in El Kef demonstrates how vulnerable Tunisian women remain despite the introduction, four years ago, of a law specifically designed to protect them.

-Analysis-

TUNIS — Her name was Refka Cherni. She was 26 years old and had a whole life ahead of her when, on May 9, in the city of El Kef in northwest Tunisia, five shots fired by her husband snuffed out all her hopes and dreams.

Before falling victim to her husband — a national guard officer who used his service weapon to end a marital quarrel — this mother of three children was first a victim of those who refused to hear her.

Cherni had suffered from domestic violence for some time, just like an estimated one-third of Tunisian women. She even tried, finally, to put herself under legal protection by filing a formal complaint. That was three days before she was shot at close range.

"Although she presented a medical certificate and the attacker was an agent of the security forces, the deputy prosecutor on duty had not seen fit to arrest him," says Karima Brini, president of the Association Women and Citizenship of El Kef.

Since its implementation in 2017, Law 58/17 has aimed to eliminate violence against women and provide a protection tool available to all, one that police and legal stakeholders can't ignore. Better still, a specialized brigade including female agents is dedicated, in each delegation, to following up on cases.

Nevertheless, Cherni did not benefit from this system, and that's because all the laws in the world will not change the archaic and conservative mentalities that magistrates often display. The law banning violence against women has disturbed their established order: that of a patriarchal and macho world where the family unit must not be touched, even if it means that the woman will keep silent about abuse.

It's as if the wife, the mother or the sister has to sacrifice herself and be an accomplice of the silence that accompanies the domestic violence to which she herself is a victim.

It's an unmentionable disease enshrined in the texts of law.

The first to pave the way for these unspeakable acts are the women themselves. With incredible confidence, some women on social media advocate obedience to their husbands and castigate those who do not understand that the man is king and that the aggression of a husband is an act of love, even a benevolent one.

"He who loves well, punishes well" still has meaning for those who also have a role in influencing the younger generations.

It is on this foundation that values are biased, that society loses its compass in wanting to judge good and evil. But this is not what is asked of it. Some people get panicky and are embarrassed at the idea of condemning a practice that seems to them to be an ancestral custom, legitimized by time.

Social media tribute post to Refka Cherni — Source: Association Femme et Citoyenneté via Facebook

The magistrates, the investigating judges, the police and more generally all the representatives of the law are children of this society that uses and abuses denial so as, above all, not to recognize that it is sick and that its pathology is transmissible and potentially fatal.

It's an unmentionable disease masked by the emancipation of the woman which is, in fact, enshrined in the texts of law. The most devious will object that Tunisian women are lucky to be protected by the Personal Status Code (PSC). But after 65 years of existence, it needs a facelift in terms of equality and rights.

Refka Cherni is a victim of this ambivalence that is no longer hidden by common sense, as it has long been in Tunisia. Indeed, all Tunisian women are victims in this sense, albeit some more than others.

At fault is a conservatism fed with religious preconceptions by pseudo exegesis who in the media dispense clichés and calls to violence without being contradicted. Their words are even used in popular Ramadan soap operas, whose heroines justify the rape and aggression suffered by women.

This state of affairs is part of everyday life and does not bother anyone. On the contrary, some people consider it to be freedom of expression, an encouraging aspect of a democracy that is taking hold. No one denounces these increasingly widespread reflections, no one points out the absurdity, no one protests against an erroneous approach to religion and even less against the fact that crimes are absolved in this way.

What are they afraid of by simply enforcing the law?

Sooner or later, these issues related to Islam and society, which directly concern Tunisian women, or some 50% of the population, must be addressed. Is it because of these retrograde references that, too often, judges do not take into account the complaints of women who have suffered violence? In any case, they seem to confuse violence, which sometimes leads to death, with domestic accidents.

The main thing is to keep quiet, to diminish the importance of the facts, to reduce them to a simple incident. What are they afraid of by simply enforcing the law? These are questions that none of them answer, as they are so unseemly.

Refka Cherni"s blood has not yet dried and they already argue that she had reconciled with her husband and that only the peace of the household counts. None of them has the decency to keep quiet, especially since her murderer is a member of the National Guard who used his service weapon. To the preconceived ideas is added the corporatism which makes the representatives of the judicial apparatus of El Kef accomplices of a murder.

In fact, in the absence of an authority and a political will, small arrangements between friends are the order of the day, especially since they have a free hand; the system tolerates abuses and ensures impunity for abusers. And after all, why be indignant? When a woman is beaten or shot, no man is killed.

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Geopolitics
Dominique Moisi

Ten Years Later, How Arab Spring Delusion Feeds Islamist Rise

When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010, it first triggered a wave of revolts, then hopes of a historic liberalization in Arab countries. But the doors of democracy, barely half-opened, have been shut ever since.

-Analysis-

PARIS — Exactly 10 years ago, on December 17, 2010, a low-key Tunisian fruit and vegetable seller felt so harassed and abused by public officials that he set himself on fire. Bouazizi's fatal act of desperation and revolt would mark the beginning of a wave of uprisings in the Arab world, that spread from Tunisia to Egypt, and then on to Libya and Syria.

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INTERNAZIONALE
Jacopo Lentini

The Solitude Of Sicily's Tunisian Wives And Widows

Most Tunisian men in the Sicilian port town of Mazara del Vallo work in the fishing industry. But while they're out at sea, their wives stay home, where the rules of tradition leave little room for integration.

MAZARA DEL VALLO — In her home in this historic fishing port in western Sicily, Habiba Harrazi prepares three different types of makroud, the typical sweets of Tunisia. "Dates, chickpea flour and sorghum," she explains to those who want to place an order.

Cooking used to be a pastime, but since her husband, Salem Alilou, died in 2018, it became much more than that. Her son is a college student in Siena, and Habiba's monthly income consists of her 500-euro survivor pension. And so, to make ends meet, she cooks. "I also embroider clothes for weddings," she says in her blue and white tiled living room, which overlooks the street.

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Economy
Lilia Blaise

In Tunisia, A Digital Revolution For Agriculture Takes Root

A new crop of Tunisian engineers are coming up with clever ways to help farmers streamline their operations and adjust to a changing climate.

TAKELSA — Mahmoud Bouassida has a worried look on his face as he tastes his oranges. In recent days, torrential rains have fallen on his 12-hectare orchard in Takelsa, on the northeastern tip of Tunisia, where he grows different varieties of the citrus, including sanguine, sweet oranges and clementines.

Rainfall is welcome, but in reasonable doses. "We had a dry spell just before, so with the rain, the fruit can get too much water and explode from the inside," says Bouassida, who gave up a career in the oil industry 10 years ago to buy a piece of land and start cultivating oranges. "It's like a thirsty human being who will rush on a bottle of water and drink too quickly, and then have a stomach ache afterwards."

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BBC

The Latest: HK Security Law Trial, Last Miami Building Victim, Tesla Record

Welcome to Tuesday, where the first person charged under Hong Kong's national security law is found guilty, the final victim of the Miami building collapse is identified, and Tesla reports skyrocketing profits. Meanwhile, The Conversation offers a deep dive into the Australia vs. UNESCO spat over the decision to list the Great Barrier Reef as "in danger."

• First person charged under national security law: The first person charged and tried under Hong Kong's national security law, 24-year old Tong Ying-kit, has been found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession. This landmark case came out a year after the law, imposed by Beijing, was implemented.

• Tunisian president accused of staging coup: After suspending parliament and sacking Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, President Kaid Saied has also removed the defense minister and acting justice minister from their posts. He imposed a month-long curfew and banned public gatherings, moves that critics describe as a coup.

• South and North Korea restore hotline: South and North Korea have restored hotlines, a year after Pyongyang severed them. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have exchanged multiple letters since April and agreed to restore relations.

• COVID-19 update: Australia's Victoria state may lift its current lockdown but neighboring New South Wales, which includes Sydney, faces an extension as daily cases are spiking. The U.S. has said it will not lift any travel restrictions, in place since early 2020, due to concerns over the Delta variant and the rising number of cases within the the country/ Meanwhile, India has reported 29,689 new cases, its lowest since March.

• Final victim of the Miami building collapse identified: Authorities have identified the final victim of the Miami Surfside collapse, thereby ending a month-long search and recovery operation. A total of 242 people are accounted for, according to Miami Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

• Naomi Osaka surprise Olympics exit: The 23-year-old Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka suffered an unforeseen exit in the Olympics after Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic earned a straight-set victory in Tokyo. Osaka, born in Japan, lit the Olympic cauldron to officially open the games and was considered one of the event's biggest local stars.

• Britney Spears asking for new conservator: An attorney for Britney Spears has asked that a new conservator be named to oversee the singer's finances, following allegations that her father, her current conservator, had used the arrangement to mistreat her. Her lawyer requested that accountant Jason Rubin be named conservator of Spears' estate instead.

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Coronavirus
Frida Dahmani

In Tunisia, Women's Healthcare Is Collateral Damage Of COVID-19

The pandemic added an extra layer of obstacles for patients with already limited access to quality attention for their sexual and reproductive health needs.

TUNIS — Malek has been nursing for three weeks, but she still can't believe her eyes. "This birth is a small miracle," she says. "I was very afraid of the coronavirus and that something would happen to the baby."

The young mother says the anguish and confinement made her see the virus everywhere, even though she delivered her child in a private clinic where all precautions were taken. As her obstetrician, Faouzi Ariane, explains: "My facility has the strictest hygiene rules. It was especially important to manage the apprehensions of new parents."

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LA STAMPA
Fabio Albanese

The Struggle To Track Shifting Mediterranean Migrant Routes

A top prosecutor in Sicily informed the UN in a recent report that so-called 'phantom landings' — vessels that reach the island undetected — are on the rise.

AGRIGENTO — Together with the island of Lampedusa, Agrigento, a city and province on Sicily's Southern coast, is where the bulk of Mediterranean migrants have arrived in the past year.

Some are rescued in the middle of the sea en route from Libya and brought to Agrigento by NGOs and military ships. Others come from Tunisia on wooden boats: These are the so-called "autonomous landings," which can refer to vessels making it to port on their own, or those that are "hooked" and reeled in by either the Coast Guard or anti-smuggling ships from Italy's Financial Crimes division.

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