Reflections on the blogging experience.


I always felt I knew a good amount about the Middle East. The area had always fascinated me from the time I was a child due to the amount of history in the region. Great empire rose and fell, and it is the cradle of civilization. What I learned through doing this piece, is while I know a lot of the history, I’ve never kept up as well as I should have on the current events and how the region is changing so rapidly. I chose to focus on one country during this blogging experience so I could get more than just a very basic overview. For me it was important to know more than just one topic of interest different countries, I wanted to delve into more of what makes Tunisia so different from the rest of the area it is in.

I started where it all starts, at the beginning. Learning about our past, can help us see the future. Also as the famous saying goes, if we do not learn the past we are doomed to repeat its mistakes. In contrast, maybe we can replicate the good we did in the past as well. One of our controversies this semester was that of preserving a culture and if it is even possible to do so. I think Tunisia is a living example of how culture changes as time goes on. It has also chosen to pick and chose the good parts of the different empires that have occupied it to create it’s own spin on what their culture should look like. They’ve borrowed from the Ottoman Turks, who largely left them alone in Carthage as an independent part of the empire, the Romans, and the Arabs who has control of the region for a while. Most notably they have a strong French connection since up until 1956 they were still occupied by the French. While as a country they have take the time to preserve the historic sites and use them for their continued cultural and tourism benefits, they have not tried to force their society to stay stagnant or chained to past ways in order to remain “authentic” to their past. In many ways they are a surprisingly liberal Arab state.

In class we had a discussion about how Islam is being perverted in a lot of the Arab states to make the state’s repressive towards women. Women’s rights are another controversy we covered, and one that many of my classmates spoke of. One of my classmates made sure to state that he did not want us to confuse Islam with being this anti-woman. It is the one point we all agreed on. In fact Tunisia is experiencing some of this currently. As I noted in my blogging experience the women of Tunisia have been lucky for a very long time to be treated so well. In fact the women hold a higher status in their society then we women in America do. In Tunisia you truly have equal work for equal pay, you also have access to health care, preventative and otherwise when it comes to reproductive health. They were also given access to these services back in the 1950’s, when it was largely unheard of. If there is to be a “blue printing” of women’s rights for the Middle East, it should start in a Middle East country, and Tunisia is a good place to start. The only downside is that since the Jasmine Spring, radicals are starting to push a repressive Islamic agenda, instead of the secular government that the people of Tunisia have largely enjoyed in their history.

As for the 5 perspectives we covered this semester? I am honestly not sure. In a way I think the previous regime while totally autocratic in its running of a crony government that was corrupt in many ways, didn’t do much. To me you have to look at the first post French government that was put in place. That was more of a political liberal government. They knew enough to know they needed help, and so drew influences from other nations, their own history, and other learnings to build a strong country. Ben Ali’s government was just terrible, and it took radicals to overthrow it. I guess in a way you could say the first non French government was also Radical in that it wanted to be on its own and throw out the old rulers, but at the same time they were sort of cosmopolitan about it. Ben Ali’s overthrow his predecessor in a radical coup sort of move, it was bloodless, but still a throwing out of the old regime. He more implemented a political realist approach I suppose you could say. He took no advice except how to make himself, his family, and his friends rich. He was fairly isolated, and didn’t draw attention to himself or his country. He spoke softly probably hoping to avoid confrontation. The new regime, it’s sort of a wait and see sort of thing. Many people are weary of the current president as he did work for Ben Ali, and I believe they are distrustful of him due to this.His Prime Minister is sort of Political Liberal though, he realizes that they country needs the help of NGO’s and foreign GO’s to make his country profitable and stable again. He knows there could be hard measures taken to ensure the health and welfare of his people and has said so. The people may not be happy with it, as we have seen in the past, most notably with Greece. However, he may have caught it in time to not have a Greece type situation on his hands.

Overall Tunisia is sort of Cosmopolitan in its thinking. They have a wide and varied past, and because of that they are more easy going about the things they are willing to adopt and try. This makes them flexible and fixable in terms of their economy. But many people warn, it also makes it easy for their young people to be swayed into radicalism. One thing I learned for sure through this blogging experience is how worried the world is about Tunisia. The experts are worried to lose this open minded liberal oasis in the Arab world to radicalism, due to the liberal nature of the country. Students in Tunisia are free to express themselves and explore the world around them, about ⅓ of its youth plans to migrate to other countries for jobs in their lifetime. They also have to look at Libya and hope it stays under control because they could easily get lost in that never ending civil war if they are caught up in it. Libya is one of the main reasons the world is worried for Tunisia. One thing is for certain, this is a country on the precipice. It will either go down as a strong, forward thinking Arab nation who withstood the test of time, or we shall start seeing some very conservative religious changes come to the country as a last ditch effort to preserve its way of life, the unfortunate consequence of the latter, is that it will forever alter the spirit of that nation.

Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Politics of Tunisia Blog #7


Politics. What a dirty word in today’s vernacular. In Tunisia it is no different. Tunisia’s government is most commonly known as a Parliamentary Republic system. Coupled with this is also has a strong presidential system which can make it hard to dispose or oust leaders who the people have no confidence in.

This article by the BBC goes over some very basic history of the politics of Tunisia, up the present day struggles that the country faces. As discussed in the first entry about Tunisia, is has a wide and varied history. The Ottoman Turks, the Arabs, and the Romans all had their time in Tunisia. It was ultimately the French who gained and kept control of the country until the 1950’s. A peaceful withdrawal by the French in 1956, lead to Habib Bourguiba leading the country for three decades. During this time Habib pushed forward secular ideas, many which still remain to this day. It is a time period also known for its advancement of the women of Tunisia. Ben Ali disposed Habib in 1987, but having him declared unfit to rule. He the gained control of the country for himself until 2011. The Jasmine Spring of Tunisia is what lead to Ben Ali’s ousting as president of the country. The current President is Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi and his Prime Minister is Youssef Chahed. As this article points out, it is interesting to note that the current president was actually involved in Ben Ali’s government. This had lead some people to wonder if this leader is just a new incarnation of the old.

This is a very interesting and somewhat distressing article about the young people of Tunisia’s involvement in politics. As the article points out 60% of Tunisia’s population are considered youth. They are the ones being most affected by the lack of jobs or advancement in career fields. They were also the sector that lead to the ousting of Ben Ali. After the revolution that they helped inspire, they are shying away from politics. Many prefer to say they would rather be involved in social or civil groups, rather than formal government. The author of the article makes an interesting point about how those young people who eschew traditional politics and become even disillusioned by the lack of big change they hoped to see are more susceptible to being radicalized, than those fighting the system from within. The author even points out the statistic that between 6,000-7,000 Tunisian’s are fighters for ISIS, making them one of the biggest suppliers of fighters for the cause. The Tunisian government is attempting to curb the trend of the youth disengaging by holding municipal elections at the end of 2017.

This article is distressing to me because these young people fought for change, and now is when the hard work to ensure the change they fought for is going to be enacted. Instead the majority of the youth that fought for this change is disengaging or deciding it is easier to protest and demonstrate, rather than work with the transitional government. To me this signals a weaker transitional government and one more likely to have a revolution again in the future when those who fought for this change are not happy with it. This also signals a further instability in the region, and with Libya next door, this country needs to be careful and cautious to make sure they do not end up in the same situation as its neighbor.

Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Economics of Tunisia Blog #6

The economy of Tunisia is changing, and it needs to. Tunisia is experiencing what a majority of the Arab countries who went through some sort of transition are. A where do we go from here kind of phase. They have their new government, for the most part, but the problems they revolted against, have yet to to be fixed.

This article by the Economist Magazine lays out basic data, plus future forecasts fairly well. It briefly goes over the fact that turning around the Tunisian economy will take time, and two major barriers the new government faces is that of Libya still in unrest which makes it hard for foreign companies to want to come in to do business in Tunisia, or bring their ships to port there. Coupled with that, is that as long as Libya stays in turmoil, it can lead to more young people who are not working to extremism. The Economist has kept up with the economy and releases articles regularly about the country. Overall while it sees some issues that will be very hard for the country to overcome, it has seen some progress as well. In May they stated that there has been some positive growth in the country, but they also remain a bit hesitant on if that will continue through the year. They do go on to discuss the fact that the Dinar took a hit in its value and now the country is dealing with trying to curb inflation. Relating back to my other blog post about Tourism, another blurb about the economy talks of how tourists are coming back, but everything to lure them back is so discounted, that it is not helping the overall picture of the economy that much. It will eventually, it will just take more people going to the Tunisia, and having the hotel rates, etc not as heavily discounted. The IMF has also agreed to allow borrowing from Tunisia, even though their economic growth has been slow and now what they had hoped for.

This is a basic Wikipedia article on the Economy of Tunisia. While it does speak of some of the information The Economist stated, it goes into a bit more background and detail of the Tunisian economy as a whole. Tunisia has largely depended on its oil and phosphate exports, as most of the Arab world has in the past, which is noted can make their economy very volatile as gas prices continue to stay low. The country also exports some agriculture products such as olives, tomatoes, citrus, almonds, dates and grains. As we have spoken of before, tourism is also a large sector of the economy. One of the reasons the economy struggles is that it is does not have a lot of variation to it, and the sectors that make the country money are all independently volatile industries. The terror attacks damaged the tourism sector, agriculture is weather and crop dependent, and as already stated oil and phosphates as we have seen are throwing a lot of Arab countries for a loop due to their instability these days. Tunisia does have a stock market, but it is small and has been state controlled. The Bourse De Tunis (also known as BVMT) is the stock market. Last numbers indicated that there are about 50 companies listed on the exchange. The government has tried to encourage companies to list themselves, however they have seen some resistance in going public.


Overall this small country on the continent of Africa is facing a time of modernization and change in its economy. Tunisia has long has a long history of a strong economy, but also needs to keep modernizing in order to bring down its unemployment. Back in 2007 is had an unemployment rate of 7.00%, the peak unemployment number was 15.6 in July 2016, as of January 2017 it was at 15.3% while not a drastic change it slowly going back down. But as the Economist magazine pointed out, the longer it stays this high, the more likely young people are to be radicalized.

Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Terror in Tunisia Blog #5

In my last blog I described a country of paradox and acceptance of people. In this blog I relate what is a retaliation against the countries progressive and accepting ways. You can’t blog about or learn about Tunisia in the modern day without learning about the horrors of the terrorist attacks that took place there in the not too distant past.

This article by the Economist addresses what is usually one way of radicalizing a generation. Lack of jobs, and money. These young people who are leaving the country to be trained as “Freedom Fighters” for ISIS and other terrorist organizations, were also some of those who took to the streets to demand change during the Jasmine Spring in Tunisia. Now as the country struggles to expand its democracy, and new ways of thinking while keeping with their old ways too, young people are being disillusioned and swayed by these terrorist organizations. In some ways Tunisia faces a peculiar issue that not many countries have dealt with. The new trend is that some of these young people are now coming home after fleeing to other warn torn countries. At first the government seemed lax if not apprehensive about them returning. However, recently they have taken to arresting them upon their return. As the government has stated, a lot of the reasons these young people left have not been fixed, so their current worry is that these returnees will carry out terrorists attacks in their own towns and cities. Part of the problem is that many of the young people being radicalized on in these border cities of Libya, and the government has not been able to totally contain Libya’s violence or rhetoric and keep it away from it’s own citizens. Many fear that while Libya remains in shambles there will be increased attacks and young people leaving to fight what they believe are holy wars in other countries.

These are two articles that represent what I have read in many other places. That while there have been many attacks against the people of Tunisia, the larger more deadly attacks seem to be aimed at tourists. As I stated in my last blog Britain still has a travel ban in place against Tunisia. In many ways terrorists get more air time, and in some perverse ways credibility amongst the disillusioned when they kill what they consider the enemy, rather than the Tunisian people. In another article I read one of the victims of the the Soussee attacks, mentions that the only reason she was not killed was because she was speaking Arabic to the terrorist begging him not to kill her, she stated he was clearly after tourist and non-Arab peoples.


While I have been completely delighted to learn more about the country of Tunisia as whole, it saddens me to see the problems they are facing in this day and age. Unfortunately, even this amazing little country is not immune to the horrors the rest of the Arab world is grappling with. As they push for democracy while still respecting the past, they have a lot of work to do. They also need to make sure their young people don’t get radicalized by the bad situations around them. Hopefully they can navigate these tricky waters and still come back together as a united country that has had such a rich and vibrant history.

Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Tourism in Tunisia Blog #4

To talk about Tunisia, and not to talk about the role tourism plays in its economy would be remiss of me. It seems nearly every article I read about Tunisia talks about it’s natural beauty, and how it has also remained steadfast in its faith. On every level Tunisia seems to be a paradox of the Arab world, and as such it is completely fascinating. Not to mention that tourism can make upwards of 13% of the countries GDP, depending on the year (it went down dramatically after the terrorist attacks, but it is coming back up slowly.)

This article from the NY Times explains how the terrorist attacks affected the tourism of the country.

In short due to two deadly attacks which mostly seemed to be aimed at tourists, the country has had a hard time bringing them back in on vacation. There is still a travel ban imposed on British citizens after one of the deadly attacks killed 30 British citizens on holiday (in that attack a total of 38 people were killed.) One man interviewed in the article goes as far to say that as long as Libya is in flux, tourism in Tunisia will be as well. On the flip side, there is some upswing in tourists starting to come back. Easter Europeans, especially Russians seem to be making their way to Tunisia in greater numbers. At the peak of having tourists come in to the country, this article says 6.9 million people visited the country. The more recent numbers say only around 4.5 million people have visited in a given year.

While tourism may have a long way to come in rebounding back to its former glory, the fact that Tunisia has such a varied and beautiful country, steeped in history and tradition means tourists will always come.

Take for example these two very different cities within Tunisia.

Considered to be the oldest city in Tunisia. It is a port city on the Mediterranean said to be the most French city in the country. It was founded in 1100 BC, and it was the last city to gain its independence from the French. It is described as having both access to the sea, and an abundant flora and fauna mixture. This city still boasts a strong military presence, as well as year round tourism.


In contrast to the quaint European style city described above there is  the city of Kairouan, Tunisia.

This city is steeped in its Arab past and rich Muslim culture. It was an original Byzantine garrison before the Arab’s took it over and established Kairouan in year 670. One of the mosques listed by the UNESCO site is known as the Mosque of Three Gates, another simply as the Great Mosque. It is to this day hailed as the 4th most holy city in the Muslim world and is host to many a pilgrimage.


These two cities represent all that I have learned about Tunisia. A city that embraces its culture, and its past while also respecting its religion and it’s people. It is a country of many paradoxes, but one that seems to be a beautiful representation of the Arab and Muslim worlds.



Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Women’s Rights in Tunisia #3

Women’s Rights in Tunisia:

This is an interesting article on both the history of women’s rights in Tunisia and how the government is working to advance women further in the post Jasmine Spring era. As the article states Tunisia has a great reputation in the Middle East and African in its treatment for women. However, as one female lawmaker said in the article, just because they are held in high regards to their treatment of women in Tunisia, does not mean they don’t have work to do in how they are regarded world wide.

To further show just how the government regards women in Tunisia, here is a PDF from the world bank giving a breakdown in regards to education, careers, etc.

Both of these articles show that women in urban areas are well educated, and can and do obtain how powered and influential careers. Tunisia began to have a strong track record in its treatment of women back in 1956, well before a lot of “modern” nations had even conceived of the idea of women’s advancement in society. According to the World Bank PDF women make up 34% of judges, 41% of medical professionals and 31% of Lawyers, other statistics show women have a strong influence in many sectors of Tunisian society as well. Both of these articles show that Tunisia has a strong record in their regard of women.

In contrast to the two articles above, this article shows that Tunisia still has some work to do. The article reiterates what is stated in the other two above, but in this take on women’s issues it shows the dichotomy of rural life vs urban life. While these laws to advance women in society exist and have for over six decades now, it is still hard to let go of old gender biased cultural views. This is especially true in rural areas. This article states that women in rural areas are subject to old ways of thinking in regards to men being superior, women being considered less or property.

This article goes on to explain better that while women may have worked hard and earned educations, careers, and have good families, in the instance of avoiding harassment the country has a long way to go. Over half the population has reported some sort of harassment. Women are still subject to sexual violence, both by strangers and spouses. They also report a high incidence of domestic violence. These articles show that while the government has put in place a lot of good protections to ensure the advancement of women in society, that they still have some work to do in regards to protecting their women’s safety.



Women are obviously highly regarded by the government of Tunisia. They make up a significant portion of those in high powered careers, and in the education system. There are impressive statistics that show women have the ability to obtain a high powered career. In many ways the women in the United States should be jealous and demanding of the treatments that Tunisia affords its female population. I think we in America are conditioned to expect that women in the Middle East and Africa are treated poorly and subject to harsh laws that restrict them in every way. I also believe that we have been conditioned to believe that Islam is overly restrictive and biased against women. Tunisia is a government showing us that in both cases we have been taught wrong. While the same treatment is not given to women across Africa and the Middle East, we can see how all countries are not the same. In contrast, we can also see that while the women may be highly regarded by their government, it does not mean that men across the world are not entrenched in old ideas of misogyny. Women in the US share the same threat of violence as their counterparts in Tunisia. Women in both countries also fear reporting violence due to embarrassment and the idea that they will not be believed, also that if they are believed that justice will not be served. I think this just goes to show that whether we like it or not, the whole world has a long way to go in the advancement of women, however, we can also see that Tunisia should be looked at as an example to the world in how the government should be protecting and advancing its women.

Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

Education in Tunisia #2


Higher Education in Tunisia:

This is a brief article from the Borgen Project that explains some simple statistics about the current state of education in Tunisia. From reading this brief article it is obvious that Tunisia has an education system that they should be commended on. The government has made it obvious that they want a literate society, as the article will tell you that between the young people between the ages of 15-24, they have a literacy rate of over 96%, that is for men and women. This is an education system that values not only men learning, but women as well. They are 93rd in the world in literacy rates, and 69th in the world in access to basic education. These numbers are on also on the upswing, as the Tunisian government puts more money into the education system of the country.

This article is a bit of a contrast piece on the state of education in Tunisia. It shows that while the government does heavily invest in the education of its youth and young adults, that there are growing pains in how the education system is seen by all. Students in year two classes (high school equivalent in the US) are complaining about class size and homework loads being given to them. The article further quotes teachers as raising concerns over the amount of tests and examinations being given to students. They are concerned that they students are not concentrating hard enough on their early class sessions when they know they have yet another exam coming up in the afternoon sessions. The contrast is the Tunisian government feels that some of the changes imposed on the students are necessary to keep up with the world in making sure its students are ready to take advanced courses at home universities and abroad. In this article the students have put themselves on strike and are requesting that the government and education minister consult with them as to their concerns instead of just rolling out all the school reforms at once, the students do concede that some of the reforms need to happen, but the are also asking that it be done at a slower pace and not all at once in order to give them time to adjust to the changes.



To me the education system in Tunisia is one to sort of be envied by Americans. It is based off the French system, since France has so heavily influenced a lot of Tunisia with their former occupation of the country. The fact that the Tunisian government spends 15% of its budget on education is mind blowing to me. Also the literacy rates and mandated education for men and women is mandatory from ages of 6-16, its an amazing statistic. The article where students are protesting the way the education system is run, is a serious issue, but also funny to me in a sad way. The students are protesting overcrowding of classrooms, one student complained that there were 28 students in one class, for a normal American high school, this is a norm, not an exception. While many will tell you that we have a problem with overcrowding also, and most people acknowledge this, it is not something that will have students out in the street protesting over. Also the number of exams that students in Tunisia take, while a lot, are also not that different from a typical American school systems exam schedule. In fact, I would hate to see their reaction if they had to take all of the standardized exams that American students have to take. While I am in no way diminishing the issues, in fact I believe they do need to be addressed, to me this article just shows the stark contrast in how students in Tunisia believe they should be treated and how American students just know they will be treated. I find it very commendable that the government understands that the youth are the future of the country and are working hard to provide a good education for them.


Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment

A Brief History of Tunisia, Blog #1

This is an article posted by the, it is a fairly brief overview of the history of country. Mostly from a political stand point. This article is helpful from that standpoint, as it gives the reader more ideas of what to look into, an example of this is as you read through the article, you notice that there seems to be a varied history of settlers in the area. This can lead to further research and looking into who settled there and how it impacts the culture in current day economics, politics, and religion. It should also be noted that this piece was published in 2015, the world had been watching uprisings all over the middle east for several years at this point and most of non Arab countries did not fully understand the histories of these nations or what was going on. By publishing this quick over view the BBC is obviously trying to rapidly bring the worlds populace up to date on a complicated manner.

Some of the highlights of the article are they point out the founding of Tunisia is by the Phoenicians around 1100 B.C., and they founded the city of Carthage. Then by the 1600’s Carthage has become part of the expanding Ottoman Empire, although it is mostly an autonomous nation in this empire. Around 1881, France comes to occupy Tunisia, and it becomes a protectorate of France by 1883. It won’t be until 1956 that Tunisia is declared independent. The difference for Tunisia vs other protectorates or territories, this is done through nonviolent means. Through the modern history of the country, it has had some issues with terrorism and a conflicted relationship with Israel it has mostly remained a peaceful nation. It wouldn’t be until the Arab Spring came about in other parts of the Middle East that Tunisia would have their own “Jasmine Spring,” trying to bring about political reform in their own country. There has been some ongoing conflict since then, with one major attack reported around the world in Tunis March 2015, where 21 people were killed, there was another major attack in June 2015 that killed 38 people. Since then the country has been trying to repair its image world wide and bring back tourists and tourist money to the country.

This article is a more in depth encyclopedic look at the history of Tunisia, published by Britannica. While they do speak of the political aspects of the country, this article goes more into the history of the country, it’s geography, and how it’s varied past places it apart from the rest of the Middle East. It is a mostly agrarian society, with 2/3 of the country can be farmed and that 1/5 of it’s people are in some sort of agricultural profession. This article also speaks to the fact that while the country is farm-able, it is not sufficient enough to support it’s people. This leads to trade deals, mostly with the EU and in particular with France (which speaks to the two countries deep historic ties to one another). Due to their climate some of the major exports of the country are figs, olives, grapes, tomatoes, etc. They have few natural resources that can bring in a lot of money to the economy. Tunisia does have petroleum, but not in the quantity to mirror some of the other neighboring countries or other Arab nations. In their society manufacturing and other industrial industries are starting to become more advanced and diverse in order to propel the country forward. An interesting note of the country of Tunisia is its advancement of women. Women are not forced to be veiled, they do receive an education, and while men have a higher rate of literacy than women, that gap is shrinking.  The country does mandate education for men and women from 6-16 years of age. There is also opportunity for university after 16 years of age. In terms of health care, the government takes care of its people, and due to this Tunisia has a higher quality of life and longevity of life vs neighboring African nations, and some Middle Eastern nations.



I will admit I was completely ignorant of Tunisia before the Jasmine Spring. Even after I learned of the existence of the country, I wrongly assumed it was much the same as a lot of the more restrictive Arab Nations and some African nations, especially in its treatment of women. It is obvious to me that the country has taken lessons from it’s own history of having different occupiers to incorporate a way to treat all of its citizens in a manner of respect that is different from some of the other countries it is often lumped in with. The more reading I do, the more progressive this nation seems to be. It is still a developing nation with a lot of room for growth, but it is trying to modernize while still respecting its own history, traditions, and people.




Posted in Uncategorised | Leave a comment