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Arab Spring
In 2010, the first of a series of protests and uprisings that would sweep across several countries took place. The Arab Spring, as it became known, began in Tunisia and spread to fellow nations such as Egypt and Libya. The purpose of this was to restructure these governments and bring about cultural liberation. In Tunisia and Egypt, uprisings successfully overthrew the government. With the old regimes dismantled, people believed that democracy would prosper in the region. In Libya specifically, citizens overthrew the government, causing the state to devolve into an ongoing civil war. Other states have seen more positive results.

No Absolute Victories

Many have considered Tunisia successful in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. In 2013, Tunisia passed a law with the intent of exposing government abuse and holding the abusers accountable. It founded the Truth and Dignity Commission in order to handle such cases by 2014. Over the course of four years, the commission opened 62,720 cases and held 49,654 private interviews. Finally, in May 2019, the commission began passing cases through 13 special courts.

However, Tunisia’s commission was not the first of its kind. It followed in the footsteps of several others before it, as seen in Chile and South Africa. When the commission’s motion to review government abuse cases ended, several key figures returned to power in 2014. People construed this as a step backward from the Arab Spring with the return of earlier members of government resulting in a political atmosphere hostile to past reflection. While government abuses are less common than they were prior to 2010, such societal issues continue to occur. Unreformed laws from the old regime continue to jail vulnerable people without free-speech protections.

Poverty in Conflict

Poverty and unequal distribution of employment opportunities helped precipitate the uprisings of the Arab Spring. The income gap across the population was so severe that poverty all but completely swallowed up the middle class. Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor who had endured constant harassment from law enforcement and struggled to make a livable wage, set himself on fire in front of the governor’s offices. This act brought the Arab Spring across Tunisia and immortalized Bouazizi as a symbol of the revolution.

In the case of the Arab Spring, conflict was a means for the people to bring about the changes they wanted to see in their countries. However, even when the long-term consequences were to the people’s benefit, the immediate aftermath of the uprising had its issues. Poverty makes an area more susceptible to conflict and war by undermining and weakening government institutions, overloading welfare services and diminishing economic performance. When conflict breaks out, the poor are often most vulnerable. Welfare goods and services often go toward the war effort, causing agriculture to suffer as a result of land destruction and security measures for protecting the elite.

In December 2010, a largely impoverished population overthrew the Tunisian government in a violent conflict that killed 338 people. The people dismantled the government, leading to the dissolution of political police and the relinquishing of assets back to the people. Despite this occurrence, the Tunisian people faced an uphill battle, with the need to restore and maintain normalcy remaining.

The International Labour Organization (ILO)

The International Labour Organization (ILO) emerged in 1919 in a partnership effort to set labor standards and develop policies intended to help people work in respectable conditions. Upon identifying the income gap in Tunisia as a large contributor to starting Arab Spring, the ILO works closely with local organizations. It strives to provide more lucrative work opportunities for the people. Specifically, the ILO initiated a project that will install a covered market in Sidi Bouzid, the sight of Bouazizi’s self-immolation. This program will ensure that vendors may gather to sell their wares in better conditions.

The ILO partnered with the E.U. to create the Programme to Support the Development of Underprivileged Areas (AZD), which teaches locals how to farm. The program has educated almost 100 people to prune and graft fruit trees, as well as to transport their crops to the market effectively. This organization does not limit itself to agriculture; the ILO serves also in teaching technical skills to women. As a result, increased numbers of women have the ability to self-provide and are becoming empowered in society.

Work programs will not solve all of the issues Tunisia’s been grappling with for the past decade. The country must still address issues of government corruption, regional stability and the rate of poverty. In the meantime, however, such programs help in returning some of the power back to the people – another holdover perhaps, from the Arab Spring.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

 
Tunisia stands as the only Arab country to have undergone democratization due to the Arab Spring protests that shook the region in the 2010s. Fueled by widespread poverty and a low standard of living, along with many other factors, the nearly month-long campaign of civil disobedience led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. However, installing a functioning democracy has not alleviated all of the problems that Tunisians faced pre-revolution.

The Jasmine Revolution

In December of 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a Sidi Bouzid fruit vendor whose goods had recently been confiscated by the local authority, self-immolated outside of the local governor’s office. His sentiments echoed amongst many frustrated with poverty in Tunisia, corruption and the suppression of freedoms. Leading up to the revolution, an increasing number of middle-class citizens expressed dissatisfaction with their living standards. Despite an approximate 7% increase in GDP per capita from 2008 to 2010, the percentage of the country’s middle class that rated themselves satisfied with their current and future prospects dropped from 24% to 14%. Due to other factors such as government corruption, which is not accurately reflected by metrics like GDP, Tunisians felt as if they had little to gain from their country’s economic growth. As a result of these factors, many Tunisians took to the streets soon after Bouazizi’s defiance act.

As riots escalated and protestors were dying under live fire from police, President Ben Ali appeared on national television and made some concessions, reducing food prices and internet usage restrictions. These remarks proved too little too late, however, and the protests continued. By January 14, state media reported the dissolution of Ben Ali’s regime and the establishment of legislative elections. As unrest continued, Ben Ali fled the country. While new leadership took the reformed government’s reins, unrest continued as many of these new politicians were once members of Ben Ali’s Democratic Constitutional Rally. Eventually, Mohammed Ghannouchi, the acting prime minister, announced several figures from other parties in the interim government. He also reemphasized the new government’s pledged efforts to maintain economic prosperity and freer speech. Eventually, the Democratic Constitutional Rally dissolved in the face of continued protests over the inclusion of politicians from the old regime. These reforms within the Tunisian government stood as one of the major catalysts for the Arab Spring protests, a series of demonstrations across the Arab world that demanded alterations to many standing regimes.

Fundamental Changes?

While the Tunisian government changed drastically in the face of civil uprising, Tunisian citizens still face some of the issues that plagued them prior. Socially, there has been continued strife between Islamism and secularism in the country, with violence spreading throughout the country in 2012 regarding the connections between religion and government. While secular parties have slightly outpaced Islamist parties, there have been problems with fundamentalist violence both domestically and abroad—Tunisians have joined terrorist organizations such as ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Lybia, making up large percentages of their foreign recruits. Additionally, terrorist groups have staged attacks on Tunisian soil, attacking institutions such as museums and resorts.

Economic troubles have also challenged Tunisians—since 2011, nearly 100,000 highly skilled workers and professionals have migrated out of the country. Despite the changes in government, unemployment is still a significant issue. Nearly 23% of university graduates were unemployed right before the onset of the revolution. That figure has since risen to 29%. Government corruption and protracted bureaucracy have done less than initially desired in helping the Tunisian middle and lower classes. Unfortunately, some Tunisians have started to doubt the new government’s effectiveness, with only 46% saying that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government” in 2018, dropping from 71% in 2013. Moreover, there has been some support from the international community in alleviating these issues.

The International Labour Organization

A wing of the United Nations, the International Labour Organization has devoted resources towards alleviating some of the poverty in Tunisia and societal issues facing Tunisians. Some initiatives include construction projects, such as a covered market in Sidi Bouzid. These initiatives provide vendors more favorable conditions to sell their goods and provide construction workers with employment. In Regueb, a village near Sidi Bouzid, the ILO implemented the Programme to Support the Development of Underprivileged Areas, providing around 100 individuals with agricultural skills. Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, the Tunisian Minister of Social Affairs, has endorsed the collaboration of local organizations and the ILO in improving the conditions of Tunisian citizens.

Many challenges face Tunisians in the near future in alleviating the societal and economic issues that stand before the country. However, the success of Tunisians in standing for a reformed government inspired generations across the world. With support from the international community and dedication within the country, a bright future may lie ahead in alleviating poverty in Tunisia.

– Samuel Levine
Photo: Flickr

tunisian povertyTunisia stands as the only Arabian country to have undergone democratization as a result of the Arab Spring protests that shook the region in the 2010s. Fueled by widespread Tunisian poverty and a low standard of living, alongside many other factors, the nearly month-long campaign of civil disobedience led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. However, the installation of a functioning democracy has yet to alleviate all of the issues that Tunisians faced pre-revolution.

The Jasmine Revolution

In December of 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a Sidi Bouzid fruit vendor whose goods had recently been confiscated by local authorities, self-immolated outside of the local governor’s office. His sentiments were echoed amongst many citizens frustrated with Tunisian poverty, corruption and suppression of freedoms. Leading up to the revolution, an increasing number of middle-class citizens expressed dissatisfaction with their standards of living. Despite an approximate 7% increase in GDP per capita from 2008 to 2010, the percentage of the country’s middle class that rated themselves satisfied with their current and future prospects dropped from 24% to 14%. Due to other factors such as government corruption, something that is not accurately reflected by metrics like GDP, Tunisians felt as if they had little to gain from their country’s economic growth. As a result of these factors, many Tunisians took to the streets soon after Bouazizi’s act of defiance.

As riots escalated, with protestors dying under live fire from police, President Ben Ali appeared on national television and made some concessions, including a reduction in food prices and in restrictions on internet usage. However, these remarks proved too little, and the protests continued. By Jan. 14 2011, state media reported the dissolution of the Ben Ali regime and the establishment of legislative elections. As unrest continued, Ben Ali fled the country. While new leadership took charge of the newly reformed government, protests continued, as much of this new leadership consisted of members of Ben Ali’s Democratic Constitutional Rally. Eventually, Mohammed Ghannouchi, the acting prime minister, announced the posting of several figures from other parties in the interim government. He also reemphasized the new government’s pledged efforts to maintain economic prosperity and freer speech. Eventually, the Democratic Constitutional Rally was dissolved in the face of continued protests over the inclusion of politicians from the old regime. These reforms within the Tunisian government stand as one of the major catalysts for the Arab Spring protests, a series of demonstrations across the Arab world that demanded alterations to many standing regimes.

Fundamental Changes in Tunisian Poverty?

While the Tunisian government changed drastically in the face of this civil uprising, Tunisian citizens still face some of the issues that plagued them before. Socially, there has been continued strife between Islamism and secularism in the country, with violence spreading throughout the country in 2012 over the interaction of religion and government. While secular parties have slightly outpaced Islamist parties, there have been problems with fundamentalist violence both domestically and abroad. Tunisians have joined terrorist organizations such as ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Lybia, making up large percentages of their foreign recruits. Additionally, terrorist groups have staged attacks on Tunisian soil, attacking institutions such as museums and resorts.

Economic troubles have also challenged Tunisians. Since 2011, nearly 100,000 highly skilled workers and professionals have left the country. Despite the changes in government, unemployment still stands as a grave issue. Nearly 23% of university graduates were unemployed right before the onset of the revolution. This number has since risen to 29%. Government corruption and protracted bureaucracy have done less than initially desired in helping the Tunisian middle and lower classes. Unfortunately, some Tunisians have started to doubt the effectiveness of the new government, with only 46% saying that “democracy is preferable to any other kind of government” in 2018, dropping from 71% in 2013. However, there has been some support from the international community in alleviating these economic issues.

The International Labour Organization

A wing of the United Nations, the International Labour Organization, has devoted resources toward alleviating Tunisian poverty and some other societal issues currently facing Tunisians. Some initiatives include construction projects, such as a covered market in Sidi Bouzid. This provides vendors with more favorable conditions to sell their goods while providing construction workers with employment. In Regueb, a village near Sidi Bouzid, the organization has implemented the Programme to Support the Development of Underprivileged Areas, providing around 100 individuals with agricultural skills. Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, the Tunisian Minister of Social Affairs, has endorsed the collaboration of local organizations and the International Labour Organization in improving the conditions of Tunisian citizens.

Tunisians face many challenges in the near future in alleviating the societal and economic issues that stand before the country. However, the success of Tunisians in standing for a reformed government has inspired generations across the world. With support from the international community and dedication within the country, a bright future may lie ahead in regard to Tunisian poverty and political stability.

Samuel Levine
Photo: Flickr

#metoo movement in EgyptEgypt has consistently struggled with sexual assault, an issue that goes hand-in-hand with poverty. A United Nations study showed that 99% of all Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual assault. Additionally, another study in 2017 declared Cairo the most dangerous city in the world for women. Learn about the history and reasoning behind the #MeToo movement in Egypt.

Egypt’s History of Sexual Violence

The #MeToo movement in Egypt may be contemporary, but Egypt’s sexual assault problem has been around for many years. In an attempt to replace the president of Egypt with a more democratic figure, people took to the streets in early 2011 in what is known as the Arab Spring. Although the protests succeeded in orchestrating the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, any dreams of a democratic ruler failed to come true, and women faced worsening sexual violence.

Under Mubarak’s rule, sexual assault was covered up by the president’s own police force. After these aggressive authorities were removed, Egypt’s sexual assault issue was thrust into the world spotlight when stories emerged of several women being sexually assaulted in a public square in Cairo. The perpetrators faced no consequences, and the women were blamed for their own assaults. This paved the way for future sexual assaults to go unpunished in Egypt.

The Allegation that Reignited the Movement

Despite protests and performative legislative changes, the sexual assault of lower-class citizens in Egypt continues to occur at alarming rates. Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a 22-year-old former student at the American International School and the American University in Cairo, was accused of sexual assault by over 100 women in June 2020. The schools Zaki attended are regarded as some of Egypt’s most elite universities for wealthy families, which is what makes his case so unique. For the first time, an upper-class male was held responsible for sexual violence.

Zaki has been officially accused of blackmail and rape, with one of his victims being just 14 years old. Combined with several other stories of sexual assault that emerged in the last decade, this story contributed to the resurgence of the #MeToo movement in Egypt. The country’s campaign is supported by an Instagram account called Assault Police, where Egyptian women have shared their stories of assault. Zaki’s story clearly demonstrates that, regardless of age or social standing, sexual harassment is a rampant issue throughout Egypt. Although this concept applies to countries worldwide, the Egyptian government’s choice to ignore this problem has earned Cairo its reputation as an unsafe space.

Change Is on the Horizon

The Egyptian government has prioritized its presently unstable economy over many of its other problems, including sexual violence. Although Egyptian women have protested this issue in the past, their protests have failed to gain traction due to the dangers they face in public places. Furthermore, the default response to a woman’s sexual assault story in Egypt is to place the blame on her for dressing or behaving a certain way. Both of these considerations have essentially barred women from coming forward to share their stories, until now.

Women have embraced the opportunity to finally share their stories, and the prosecution of wealthy men like Zaki is a powerful step in the right direction. In response to Egypt’s #MeToo movement and the Assault Police Instagram page, current president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has enacted a law that increases protections for sexual assault victims. Although the country still has much work to do, the #MeToo movement in Egypt has made one thing clear: the country’s women refuse to be silenced any longer.

– Natalie Tarbox

Photo: Flickr


There has been a battle over national governance in Libya ever since the dismantling of the Muammar Gaddafi authoritarian regime in the 2011 Arab Spring. A majority of Libyans are hopeful for a unified democratic governance in Libya; unfortunately, the Fragile State Index has listed Libya in the top 25 most fragile states in the world.

Political History in Libya

Dr. Federica Saini Fasanotti, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, described that “Libya has never been (truly) unified.” In a conversation on October 6, 2017 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) headquarters, Dr. Fasanotti described the historical significance of conflicts and changes of power in relation to rule of law in Libya.

Throughout the history of Libya, the state had many different rulers, contributing to the divided government. Up until 1911, the country was an autonomous territory under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. After 1911, Libya was controlled by the Italians in the western world’s quest for colonies. Then, in 1951, the Allied powers of World War II granted Libya independence, and the state created a federal constitution and monarchy; in 1969, Muammar Gaddafi led a coup d’état of the monarch.

Local, Regional and Strategic Issues

Dr. Fasanotti described the three fundamental issues to democratic governance in Libya. The local issue is the many internal divisions caused by the history of political upheavals and usage of tactics like Gaddafi’s ‘divide and rule’ concept — a tactic where  different ethnicities and tribes are pitted against one another. The regional issue is the absence of current leadership to direct the country on the path of democratic governance. The strategic issue is the presence of terrorism, troublesome migration patterns and economic beneficial resources.

Alice Hunt Friend, a Senior Fellow with the International Security Program at the CSIS, stated,“It is very hard to take these complex, contingent situations and hundreds of years of history and translate it into prescriptive policies.”

Civil Society Formation by USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports the project of Libya Elections and Governance Support Program to create effective practices for sub-national governance. The duration of the program is from October 2012 to September 2019.

The goal of creating municipal governments in Libya has served as an attempt to fill the national governance void. In the southern desert city of Sabha, the USAID assisted in the formation of a community center to provide the citizens the opportunity to engage in the decision-making process.

Uniting Communities

The community center attempts to create partnerships between people of different ethnicities and tribes to form ideas out of mutual interest. The additional partnership between local leaders and citizens assists in creating transparency and credibility with the government.

To have local municipalities work together to create a stable national government — like the community center in Sabha — is the goal of the civil society formation by the USAID; local authorities’ soft power has extremely high value. 

Democratic governance in Libya has a formulation in municipalities and initiatives at the local level that once implemented, can reach national proportions.

– Andrea Quade
Photo: Flickr

Lessons from Anonymous: Using Social Media to Help End PovertyIn 2010, the Internet activist group known as Anonymous lent its technological expertise to Arabs who were protesting injustices in the countries they lived in. This aid let to an event known as the Arab Spring, in which the governments of several Arab nations were overthrown by their people. The ways that Anonymous utilized technology to help protesters are important lessons for activists trying to enact global change on both how not to use technology to enact global change and how to properly use social media to help people who live in poverty or under a repressive regime find their voice.

How should technology not be used by the modern activist?

Even though Arab people were aided by the help from Anonymous, Anonymous employed several methods which modern protesters should not use, because they rely on destroying the computational infrastructure used by a country and would risk generating bad publicity if they were used. One such example, known as black faxing, is a method in which Anonymous faxed black pieces of paper to various government agencies to cause the fax machines used by those agencies to run out of ink.

Anonymous also committed distributed denial of service attacks, in which members of Anonymous overloaded key web servers in a given country to prevent government officials from accessing network resources on the Internet. Anonymous carried out these disruptive activities so that members of the government would not be able to communicate, which made it much easier for the protesters to overthrow the government.

These methods should not be used by modern activists because they are more likely to be viewed as an act of cyberterrorism and not as a legitimate form of protest. Such methods would cause people to focus on the methods used by the protesters rather than the societal issues that the people using these methods were protesting.

What positive lessons can the modern activist or protester learn from Anonymous?

In addition to the use of technology for disruption, Anonymous also used technology to help the Arab protesters mobilize within their country and communicate with the outside world. The main tools used by Anonymous to connect the protesters with each other and with the outside world were social media platforms. Anonymous also helped protesters use proxy servers so that they could communicate with the outside world without the risk of being detected by their government. Anonymous used social media to help ensure that the voices of the protesters were heard by the world.

Anonymous used social media to help support the Arab Spring

Anonymous helped protesters in Egypt by reposting information that people in Egypt gave to them on Twitter, and by helping people in Egypt bypass firewalls set up by the Egyptian government. Anonymous also helped protesters in the Arab world by setting up IRC servers where protesters could virtually meet to organize and to plan their protests. Anonymous teamed up with Telecomix, another “hacktivist” group, to help people in Arab countries who were protesting their government connect to the Internet even after the government blocked Internet access.

People protesting against poverty, child soldiers, human trafficking or any other issue could learn from Anonymous and use social media to help people who are affected by such issues communicate with others or to help activists fighting against such injustices safely communicate with each other.

– Michael Israel

Photo: Flickr


Of the countries in the Arab world, Tunisia has proven itself among the most westernized. Still, it struggles to maintain a steady economy, especially during a time plagued with fear of extremist attacks and civil unrest. Because tourism remains the number one industry in Tunisia, the country’s entire economy has taken a significant hit in recent years.

Now more than ever, efforts toward humanitarian aid to Tunisia have reason to increase. Countries across the globe have stepped forward to provide assistance ever since the people initiated the Arab Spring and overthrew their former president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in January 2011. While some have provided one-time aid, others continue to help build the country today.

Global Humanitarian Aid Efforts

China responded to the state of emergency by March 2011, offering $2 million in cash to the country along with $4.6 million worth of materials such as food, tents, blankets, medicine and power generators. China delivered these materials in two major shipments, providing relief to thousands of people.

Gruppo di Volontariato Civile (GVC), an organization from Bologna that focuses on international development aid, has continually provided humanitarian aid to Tunisia since 2011.

The organization has focused on responding to the refugee and migration crises, building and expanding rural communities, and empowering Tunisian women to play an active role in civil organizations and the economy.

Recently, GVC has partnered with EU Aid Volunteers in Action, an organization established by the European Union for humanitarian operations. Both have partnered with the MENA Seminar, hosted by the Fibre to the Home Council Middle East and North Africa (FTTH). The conference exists to promote adoption of high-speed networks throughout the Middle East.

“Creating a sustainable future is not just about protecting the environment, but it is also about wider benefits to society and its citizens, and the economic health of communities and nations,” a representative from FTTH said. These sorts of efforts toward quality of life improvement help to build a foundation for long-term growth and relief.

The United States Aid Efforts

In the meantime, the U.S. has also committed itself to humanitarian aid to Tunisia. The United States Agency for International Development, a government agency that directly deals with the fight against global poverty, has provided nearly $300 million to support Tunisia’s economic growth and democracy since 2011.

The U.S. Embassy in Tunisia gives a platform to those who wish to propose funding ideas for projects that help advance the country. Whether in education, economics, national security, or otherwise, it provides financial resources to fund project ideas. However, this funding is “extremely limited,” according to the embassy’s website.

The influx of humanitarian aid to Tunisia remains steady with devoted efforts from both governmental and non-governmental foreign organizations. However, the hopeful and determined attitude of the Tunisian people really makes these efforts successful. The citizens have a true desire to improve their general quality of life, and foreign aid, as well as domestic programs, provide the resources to boost Tunisians out of their economic slump and into a more comfortable state.

– Francesca Colella

Photo: Flickr


Tunisia is a small, African nation located on the Mediterranean Sea and nestled between Algeria and Libya that transitioned to a democracy after the 2011 Arab Spring and adopted a progressive constitution in 2014. In the same year, it held elections to elect a president. Its location makes it a favorite point for refugees in Tunisia, but most see it as a transit country.

10 Facts About Refugees in Tunisia

  1. Before 2011, only 100 refugees arrived each year in Tunisia. These refugees came primarily from Algeria, other western African countries, and Palestine.
  2. During the height of the Arab Spring in Libya in 2011, some 990,900 people (10 percent of Tunisia’s population) crossed the border into Tunisia. However, 77 percent of the Libyans who became refugees in Tunisia later returned to Libya.
  3. Since 2011, there has been a steady decrease in the number of “persons of concern” — a designation of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for refugees, returnees, stateless people and asylum-seekers — in Tunisia. The number of Tunisian refugees in 2017 is close to 1,000.
  4. Libyans arriving in Tunisia have three months before they must apply for a work permit from the Ministries of Interior. An organization called International General Services was created in Tunisia to assist refugees in becoming more self-reliant. Refugees sign one-year contracts with the service organization for jobs in fields such as maintenance in electricity and air conditioning.
  5. Tunisian refugees often arrive after being rescued from sea trying to get to Europe. Of the 900 people rescued by this method in 2015, 147 people claimed asylum in Tunisia.
  6. At the beginning of 2015, 80 percent of those who boarded boats in Libya and arrived in Tunisia were economic migrants looking for a better life. The remaining 20 percent were Eritrean, Somalian and Syrian refugees. The UNHCR assists Tunisia in determining if the person is a migrant or a refugee.
  7. Tunisian refugees have access to French and English language classes and may enroll in Information Technology training in the towns of Medenine and Ben Guerdane.
  8. The UNHCR is assisting Tunisia in drafting a new asylum law. Until that time, UNHCR is the sole entity conducting refugee status determination.
  9. All elementary school-aged refugees are enrolled in primary school once they have reached Tunisia.
  10. All asylum seekers in Tunisia receive health care. UNHCR covers the cost of primary and emergency visits through their partner, Tunisian Red Crescent.

Tunisia has seen the number of refugees increase greatly since 2011, and then decrease to a much smaller number today. The country’s location attracts both migrants and refugees. It has promised to adopt a national asylum law soon, which will take the burden away from the UNHCR as the sole entity conducting refugee interviews.

Jene Cates

Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About the Libyan Crisis
Disputes in Libya date back to the 7th century when the Arabs conquered Libya and first spread Islam. Since then, it has developed first into a united country, then into a divided one. Now, the Libyan crisis is worsening. Here are eight facts about the Libyan crisis:

  1. Conflict in Libya has a long history. The beginning of the conflict in Libya dates back to the 7th century when Islam spread widely and became the national religion. In 2011, Arab Spring protests led to the first civil war in Libya.
  2. The conflict that led to the 2011 civil war began in 1969. Muammar Gaddafi led a group of military officers in a protest against King Idris in 1969, which landed Gaddafi in power of the new Libyan African Republic. As all power and wealth within Libya were under Gaddafi’s control, many pro-monarchy civilians lashed out, and anti-Gaddafi groups formed.
  3. Protests in neighboring countries spurred the war on. Word spread of revolts in neighboring countries, which inspired protests in Benghazi and other cities in Libya. War broke out in early 2011 as rebels opposed the Gaddafi government, but security forces defeated them. With the National Transitional Council, the main opposition group, now recognized as the new Libyan government, the first civil war ended in October 2011. The second civil war began in 2014, as the conflict began between various rebel groups seeking control of Libyan territory.
  4. During the Libyan civil war of 2011, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed. Death sources are from rebel sides, government forces and civilians. To date, since the 2014 crisis broke out, there have been 5,871 civilian deaths in Libya.
  5. Countries across the world have aided Libya’s citizens in a number of ways. Over the course of the Libyan crisis, the European Union has given almost $160 million in aid. Aid came in different forms: civilian resources, transportation, sanitation, healthcare resources, food supplies. Many other countries around the world have also donated generously, but those within the EU take the lead as a combined force.
  6. The Libyan crisis has produced thousands of refugees who flee to neighboring countries, for example, Egypt, seeking asylum. In May 2011, already around 746,000 people had fled Libya since the beginning of the War. Most Libyans fled to Italy, where 36,222 refugees currently reside. Surrounding European countries also continue to allow migrants to seek refuge.
  7. Gaddafi’s capture was a major turning point. The rebels captured and killed Colonel Gaddafi on Oct. 20, 2011. This is a key event within the Libyan crisis because the beginning of the conflict started with pro-Gaddafi forces and anti-Gaddafi rebels.
  8. International organizations tried to help Libya in solving civil issues. In March 2011, the United Nations Security Council issued a no-fly zone over Libya. NATO then authorized air strikes in order to protect civilians. Many countries give help by providing Libya with vital resources for its citizens, such as warmth, food and shelter.

For now, Libya continues its division while the international community continues providing aid. Recently, African leaders have held a mini-summit in Congo to discuss what further action is necessary. They decided that lifting the arms embargo was necessary to begin a more proactive approach to ending the war in Libya. Over 29 countries in the Middle East and Europe are continuing to open their borders to refugees, which is the greatest help that Libyan citizens can receive at present.

Georgia Boyle

Photo: Flickr

Education in Tunisia
Commissioner Johannes Hahn of the European Union recently announced a 213.5-million-euro aid package for Tunisia aimed to support the newly established democracy and tackle some key socio-economic projects within the country.

Tunisia was the first country to have a regime change after the Arab Spring. Their democracy was established in 2011 and promptly after they drafted a constitution aimed at providing a more reliable and just form of government for years to come.

Their new constitution and government have been successful thus far but they have run into some economic woes. Ongoing instability in neighboring Libya and terrorist attacks in their own country have equated to a decline in their tourism industry which is vital to their economy.

The EU has been alongside the new Tunisian government since the establishment of the new democracy. From 2011 to 2016, the EU has provided 2 billion euros to assist with the government’s transition and plug any budgetary deficits that arose.

Much progress has been made but there is much more to do according to a recent EU Commission report. “Decisive action is needed to sustain the democratic transition as social discontent, especially among young people, continues to grow.”

The new aid package will support social infrastructure projects focused on education, healthcare, access to clean water and sanitation. Education in Tunisia stands to improve with this increased focus. The funds will be distributed to urban and rural schools that are most deprived of resources.

There will also be vocational job training that will be included in the school curriculum that is paired with local labor market needs. They will be trying a different method of schooling in which education in Tunisia becomes a vehicle for more effective job placement.

Since 2011, Tunisians have been participating in an EU program called Erasmas+ in which teachers and students have an opportunity to receive schooling and vocational training with participating organizations within the EU. The 2016 aid package will expand the eligible number of teachers and students in this program by 1500, adding further strength to education in Tunisia.

By providing stability for the government and increasing funding in education, the EU hopes to reduce the volatility in the Tunisian economy. Currently, 60 percent of Tunisian trade is with the EU and 70 percent of foreign investment is from EU countries. The EU commissioner believes that by adding stability to the Tunisian economy all parties involved will be positively affected.

According to the EU Commissioner, the long-term goal for Tunisia and the EU is to improve its national security. To date, Tunisia has sent more foreign fighters to ISIS than any other country in Europe or the Middle East. Also, with Libya on its southeast border, there are concerns that instability might spread to within their country. With this aid package, the EU hopes to make Tunisia less susceptible to national security risks that are common in the region.

Brian Faust

Photo: Flickr