Tunisia’s Counterterrorism Strategy Could Fuel Extremism

Tunisia’s Counterterrorism Strategy Could Fuel Extremism
Protestors gather during an anti-extremism march, Tunis, Tunisia, March 29, 2015 (AP photo by Hichem Jouini).

On Thursday, Tunisia’s parliament adopted a series of articles in a new counterterrorism bill to replace its authoritarian 2003 law, part of the government’s efforts to bolster security in response to rising domestic and regional threats. Amid outcry from human rights groups, deputies overwhelmingly voted in favor of three provisions authorizing the death penalty for acts of terrorism, despite a de facto moratorium on executions that Tunisia has observed since 1991. Critics argue that the bill, which was issued following the March 26 attack on the Bardo museum that left 22 dead, falls short of international rights standards—notably in its broad definition of terrorism, identical to the 2003 version, and detention policy—and could fuel extremism.

Tunisia has fared relatively well since the 2011 uprising that unseated dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, boasting a new constitution, a democratically elected coalition government and a recently launched truth and dignity commission. But grievances over unemployment persist, and episodic violence has targeted foreigners in a deliberate attempt to undermine Tunisia’s tourism sector, which accounts for 20 percent of its economy.

“Tunisia is living a paradox,” Tunisian journalist Sarah Ben Hamadi said in an email. Despite its successes, it “represents the largest contingent of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, and is now a target for attacks launched by its ‘own children.’” Ben Hamadi attributes this duality to a weakened state that, following Ben Ali’s ouster, granted amnesty to extremists and, in an attempted departure from authoritarian practices, disinvested in security. Regional turmoil hardly helps, and Tunisia’s porous borders with Algeria and Libya facilitate the flow of arms and extremists in both directions.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review