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  • Author: Hatem Chakroun
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The interaction between Tunisian human rights organizations and movements struggling for economic and social rights present the former with hard questions and important challenges. Human rights actors need to scrutinize their role and tactics to decide whether they would remain in the fast eroding mediation level (between the movements and the state) or they could explore other avenues that can address the complex issues of representation and brokerage between human rights defenders and the bearers of these very rights who are busy developing new ways of defending themselves.
  • Topic: Human Rights, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Tunisia
  • Author: Hatem Chakroun
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: This paper seeks to describe and analyse in a contextual way how the relationship between human rights organizations and the State in Tunisia has evolved since independence. The establishment and consolidation of national State institutions after independence was the main obsession of the ruling political network in Tunisia. This dictated its antagonistic position and measures against pluralism and inclusion of various political groups, all of which had been once unified in the anticolonial struggle. After independence, this common objective disappeared and differences materialized regarding which political system and policies to adopt in order to building a modern nation-state in Tunisia. The consolidated regime of President Habib Bourguiba succeeded in imposing an authoritarian single-party political system, whose “legitimacy” rested on the anticolonial struggle, that controlled the state, to which all had to show loyalty. The autocratic political system continued after 1987 with the reign of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who presented a retooled authoritarian political vision. The human rights community represented by the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights came under pressure as the State attempted to coerce it into adopting a tailored vision of human rights compatible with the logic of a dictatorship. Ben Ali regime had also set up a façade of commitment to human rights as expressed in various laws, about which he boasted on all occasions and political events with total disregard for systematic violations by repressive state bodies. After the fall of Ben Ali following a popular uprising that rejected repression and authoritarianism and expressed a popular longing for freedom and dignity, a new vision began to form of the relationship between the State and the human rights community in Tunisia. The starting point was very positive with long time human rights activists playing a central role in the process of establishing a vision for the new republic based on respect for the principles of human rights. However, the political contention among various political factions and higher state echelons, fuelled by varying ideologies and interests, has affected this relationship, which oscillated between harmony and dissonance.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Social Movement, Protests, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Mohamed Sahbi Khalfaoui
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: How can we understand the relation of political Islam in Tunisia with the human rights system in its indivisibility and universality? Since the establishment of the Tunisian Islamic Movement in the early seventies, it has worked extensively to articulate public positions addressing issues of human rights and freedoms. This relationship sprang from a dual position which juxtaposed full hostility to personal freedoms such as sexual rights and a relatively positive interaction with public freedoms. Then came the deliberations and process of ratification of the 2014 Constitution which was special in its emphasis on equality between women and men, freedom of belief, and criminalization of accusation of blasphemy. The repression of Islamists in Tunisia in the 1980s and 1990s was the most important factor that defined their position, views, and engagement with human rights principles. After the fall of former Tunisian President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in 2011, the return of the Islamist Ennahda (Renaissance) Movement to public activity was one of the most important features of the new political phase in the country. The Tunisian society was split between supporters and opponents of such a development. With the return of Ennahda and the emergence of other Islamist groups, especially the Salafis, the debate resumed over the position of Islamists towards human rights. While they attempted to include Islamic law (Sharia) as the main source of legislation in the constitution, Islamists continued to declare their belief in human rights principles. Some analysts were optimistic concerning a transformation in the Islamist ideology, while others insisted that Islamists were duplicitous, waiting until they are empowered enough to impose their project, which is inherently hostile to human rights. This paper is an attempt to review the Islamists’ positions on human rights and how they changed over time.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Islam, Constitution, Islamism
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Tunisia, Mediterranean, Tunis
  • Author: Hafedh Chekir
  • Publication Date: 12-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: ARI's project on the Future of Human Rights Action in North Africa continues to explore the governance challenges and moves in this paper to Tunisia where prominent feminist, academic and human rights defender Hafidha Chekir explores the legal environment of civil society organizations in Tunisia and how this affected their own internal governance.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Governance
  • Political Geography: Tunisia
  • Author: Belhassen Ennouri
  • Publication Date: 10-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The field of democratization studies is interested by the transformation of political systems from authoritarian regimes to another type of political system that cannot be pre-determined. This study has emerged in the context the so-called third wave of democratization that began with the Spanish and Portuguese experiences in the 1970s, and then spread to Latin America in the 1980s, sweeping Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Indeed, the success of the Spanish experience in democratization has rendered the case a useful model for studying other cases. The study of the democratic transition – itself an experimental process – has moved from investigating historical experiences to developing a theoretical framework that involves a procedural and practical approach to understanding the instability and volatility of the phenomenon. The study of the democratic transition has been criticized, despite important contributions on the part of researchers. To this point, the notion of a “theory of transition” is at the heart of critical scientific debate.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Tunisia
  • Author: Asma Nouira
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: This is the third and last survey paper on the evolution and challenges of Human Rights Action in North Africa. It is focused on the evolution and challenges of the human rights movement in Tunisia. The first organized group was the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights in 1977 (Ligue Tunisienne de la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, LTDH). The LTDH remained the only organization active in the field of human rights throughout the first decade of the history of the Tunisian human rights movement. Since its inception, the LTDH has acted as a refuge for political activists of various ideological and political backgrounds, sometimes resulting in conflating political and rights’ activism, despite attempts by the founders to separate the two fields
  • Topic: Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Tunisia