Tunisia


Tunisia
Tunisian, adj., n.
/tooh nee"zheuh, -sheuh, -nizh"euh, -nish"euh, tyooh-/, n.
a republic in N Africa, on the Mediterranean: a French protectorate until 1956. 9,183,097; 48,330 sq. mi. (125,175 sq. km). Cap.: Tunis.

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Tunisia

Introduction Tunisia
Background: Following independence from France in 1956, President Habib BOURGUIBA established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In recent years, Tunisia has taken a moderate, non- aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to diffuse rising pressure for a more open political society. Geography Tunisia -
Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya
Geographic coordinates: 34 00 N, 9 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 163,610 sq km water: 8,250 sq km land: 155,360 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than Georgia
Land boundaries: total: 1,424 km border countries: Algeria 965 km, Libya 459 km
Coastline: 1,148 km
Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 NM territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south
Terrain: mountains in north; hot, dry central plain; semiarid south merges into the Sahara
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Shatt al Gharsah -17 m highest point: Jebel ech Chambi 1,544 m
Natural resources: petroleum, phosphates, iron ore, lead, zinc, salt
Land use: arable land: 18.67% permanent crops: 12.87% other: 68.46% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 3,800 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: NA Environment - current issues: toxic and hazardous waste disposal is ineffective and poses health risks; water pollution from raw sewage; limited natural fresh water resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note: strategic location in central Mediterranean; Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration People Tunisia
Population: 9,815,644 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 27.8% (male 1,412,625; female 1,320,729) 15-64 years: 65.9% (male 3,234,770; female 3,233,149) 65 years and over: 6.3% (male 303,093; female 311,278) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.12% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 16.83 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 5 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.63 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.97 male(s)/ female total population: 1.02 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 27.97 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.16 years female: 75.89 years (2002 est.) male: 72.56 years
Total fertility rate: 1.94 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.04% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Tunisian(s) adjective: Tunisian
Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%
Religions: Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%
Languages: Arabic (official and one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 66.7% male: 78.6% female: 54.6% (1995 est.) Government Tunisia
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Tunisia conventional short form: Tunisia local short form: Tunis local long form: Al Jumhuriyah at Tunisiyah
Government type: republic
Capital: Tunis Administrative divisions: 23 governorates; Ariana (Aryanah), Beja (Bajah), Ben Arous (Bin 'Arus), Bizerte (Banzart), El Kef (Al Kaf), Gabes (Qabis), Gafsa (Qafsah), Jendouba (Jundubah), Kairouan (Al Qayrawan), Kasserine (Al Qasrayn), Kebili (Qibili), Mahdia (Al Mahdiyah), Medenine (Madanin), Monastir (Al Munastir), Nabeul (Nabul), Sfax (Safaqis), Sidi Bou Zid (Sidi Bu Zayd), Siliana (Silyanah), Sousse (Susah), Tataouine (Tatawin), Tozeur (Tawzar), Tunis, Zaghouan (Zaghwan)
Independence: 20 March 1956 (from France)
National holiday: Independence Day, 20 March (1956)
Constitution: 1 June 1959; amended 12 July 1988
Legal system: based on French civil law system and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session
Suffrage: 20 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI (since 7 November 1987) head of government: Prime Minister Mohamed GHANNOUCHI (since 17 November 1999) cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 24 October 1999 (next to be held NA 2004); prime minister appointed by the president election results: President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI reelected for a third term without opposition; percent of vote - Zine El Abidine BEN ALI nearly 100%
Legislative branch: unicameral Chamber of Deputies or Majlis al-Nuwaab (182 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) elections: last held 24 October 1999 (next to be held NA 2004) election results: percent of vote by party - RCD 92%; seats by party - RCD 148, MDS 13, UDU 7, PUP 7, Al- Tajdid 5, PSL 2; note - reforms enabled opposition parties to win up to 20% of seats, increasing the number of seats they hold from 19 in the last election to 34 now
Judicial branch: Court of Cassation or Cour de Cassation Political parties and leaders: Al-Tajdid Movement [Adel CHAOUCH]; Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique) or RCD [President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI (official ruling party)]; Liberal Social Party or PSL [Mounir BEJI]; Movement of Democratic Socialists or MDS [Khamis CHAMMARI]; Popular Unity Party or PUP [Mohamed Belhaj AMOR]; Unionist Democratic Union or UDU [Abderrahmane TLILI] Political pressure groups and the Islamic fundamentalist party, Al
leaders: Nahda (Renaissance), is outlawed International organization ABEDA, ACCT, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF,
participation: AMU, BSEC (observer), CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MIPONUH, MONUC, NAM, OAS (observer), OAU, OIC, OPCW, OSCE (partner), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMEE, UNMIK, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Hatem ATALLAH FAX: [1] (202) 862-1858 telephone: [1] (202) 862-1850 chancery: 1515 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Rust M.
US: DEMING embassy: 144 Avenue de la Liberte, 1002 Tunis-Belvedere mailing address: use embassy street address telephone: [216] (1) 782-566 FAX: [216] (1) 789-719
Flag description: red with a white disk in the center bearing a red crescent nearly encircling a red five-pointed star; the crescent and star are traditional symbols of Islam Economy Tunisia -
Economy - overview: Tunisia has a diverse economy, with important agricultural, mining, energy, tourism, and manufacturing sectors. Governmental control of economic affairs while still heavy has gradually lessened over the past decade with increasing privatization, simplification of the tax structure, and a prudent approach to debt. Real growth averaged 5.4% in the past five years, and inflation is slowing. Growth in tourism and increased trade have been key elements in this steady growth, although tourism revenues have slowed since 11 September 2001 and may take a year or more to fully recover. Tunisia's association agreement with the European Union entered into force on 1 March 1998, the first such accord between the EU and a Mediterranean country. Under the agreement Tunisia will gradually remove barriers to trade with the EU over the next decade. Broader privatization, further liberalization of the investment code to increase foreign investment, and improvements in government efficiency are among the challenges for the future.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $64.5 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4.8% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $6,600 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 13% industry: 33% services: 54% (2000 est.) Population below poverty line: 6% (2000 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 2.3%
percentage share: highest 10%: 31.8% (1995) Distribution of family income - Gini 41.7 (1995)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.7% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 2.69 million (2001 est.) note: shortage of skilled labor Labor force - by occupation: services 55%, industry 23%, agriculture 22% (1995 est.)
Unemployment rate: 15.6% (2000 est.)
Budget: revenues: $5.7 billion expenditures: $6.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $1.5 billion (2001 est.)
Industries: petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate and iron ore), tourism, textiles, footwear, agribusiness, beverages Industrial production growth rate: 5.2% (2001 est.) Electricity - production: 10.3 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 99.03% hydro: 0.97% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 9.562 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 19 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 2 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: olives, olive oil, grain, dairy products, tomatoes, citrus fruit, beef, sugar beets, dates, almonds
Exports: $6.6 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: textiles, mechanical goods, phosphates and chemicals, agricultural products, hydrocarbons
Exports - partners: France 28%, Italy 21%, Germany 14%, Belgium 6%, Libya (2000)
Imports: $8.9 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: machinery and equipment, hydrocarbons, chemicals, food
Imports - partners: France 30%, Italy 21%, Germany 11%, Spain 4%, Belgium (2000)
Debt - external: $11.5 billion (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $933.2 million (1995); note - ODA, $90 million (1998 est.)
Currency: Tunisian dinar (TND)
Currency code: TND
Exchange rates: Tunisian dinars per US dollar - 1.44 (January 2002), 1.3753 (2001), 1.3707 (2000), 1.1862 (1999), 1.1387 (1998), 1.1059 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Tunisia Telephones - main lines in use: 654,000 (1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: 50,000 (1998)
Telephone system: general assessment: above the African average and continuing to be upgraded; key centers are Sfax, Sousse, Bizerte, and Tunis; Internet access available domestic: trunk facilities consist of open-wire lines, coaxial cable, and microwave radio relay international: 5 submarine cables; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 Arabsat; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Algeria and Libya; participant in Medarabtel; two international gateway digital switches Radio broadcast stations: AM 7, FM 20, shortwave 2 (1998)
Radios: 2.06 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 26 (plus 76 repeaters) (1995)
Televisions: 920,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .tn Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 280,000 (2001) Transportation Tunisia
Railways: total: 2,168 km standard gauge: 471 km 1.435-m gauge dual gauge: 10 km 1.000-m and 1.435- m gauges (three rails) (2001) narrow gauge: 1,687 km 1.000-m gauge
Highways: total: 23,100 km paved: 18,226 km unpaved: 4,874 km (1996)
Waterways: none
Pipelines: crude oil 797 km; petroleum products 86 km; natural gas 742 km
Ports and harbors: Bizerte, Gabes, La Goulette, Sfax, Sousse, Tunis, Zarzis
Merchant marine: total: 16 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 150,710 GRT/162,616 DWT ships by type: bulk 2, cargo 4, chemical tanker 4, liquefied gas 1, petroleum tanker 1, short-sea passenger 3, specialized tanker 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 30 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 14 over 3,047 m: 3 2,438 to 3,047 m: 6 1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 16 1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 914 to 1,523 m: 7 under 914 m: 7 (2001) Military Tunisia
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, paramilitary forces, National Guard Military manpower - military age: 20 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 2,806,881 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 1,597,565 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching military males: 105,146 (2002 est.)
age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $356 million (FY99)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1.5% (FY99)
GDP: Transnational Issues Tunisia Disputes - international: none

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officially Republic of Tunisia

Country, North Africa.

Area: 63,378 sq mi (164,150 sq km). Population (2002 est.):9,764,000. Capital: Tunis. The population is of Arab and Berber ancestry. Languages: Arabic (official), French. Religion: Islam (official). Currency: Tunisian dinar. Tunisia comprises a coastal region, mountains, an extensive plateau, a marshy area with shallow salt lakes, and a tract of the Sahara. The Medjerda is its longest (286 mi [460 km]) and only perennial river. Tunisia contains some of the largest phosphate and natural gas reserves in Africa, as well as substantial oil reserves. Major economic activities are services, agriculture, light industries, and the production and export of petroleum and phosphates. Tourism, focusing on Tunisia's beaches and Roman ruins, is also important. Tunisia is a republic with one legislative house; its chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. From the 12th century BC the Phoenicians had a series of trading posts on the North African coast. By the 6th century BC the Carthaginian kingdom encompassed most of present-day Tunisia. The Romans ruled from 146 BC. It was part of the Byzantine Empire until the Muslim Arab invasions in the mid-7th century AD. The area was fought over, won, and lost by many, including the Abbāsid dynasty, the Almohad dynasty, Spain, and the Ottoman Empire, which conquered it in 1574 and held it until the late 19th century. For a time it maintained autonomy as the French, British, and Italians contended for the region. In 1881 it became a French protectorate. During World War II (1939-45) U.S. and British forces captured it (1943), putting an end to a brief German occupation. In 1956 France granted it full independence; Habib Bourguiba assumed power and remained in power until he was forced from office in 1987.

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▪ 2009

Area:
163,610 sq km (63,170 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 10,325,000
Capital:
Tunis
Chief of state:
President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi

      Tunisia's electoral law was altered in July 2008 to allow party leaders of at least two years' standing to run for president without having to make a formal request. The legislation also permitted presidential candidates to run for office whose parties did not have representation in the parliament; previously a candidate's party had to have a parliamentary presence. The change threatened to disqualify Nejib Chebbi, who in 2006 had stepped down as leader of the opposition Progressive Democratic Assembly (RDP)—which at the time had no parliamentary seats—in order to stand as an individual candidate.

      Pres. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, meanwhile, announced at the congress of the dominant Democratic Constitutional Assembly (RCD) that he would be the RCD presidential candidate in October 2009. The party congress had approved his five-year program and called for him to stand. On the 20th anniversary of his accession to power in November 2007, President Ben Ali had recounted his accomplishments, reporting that 99% of children aged six were in school, the average income had risen, and life expectancy had increased to exceed 74 years.

      Economic growth in 2008 was expected to be 3.7%, with a budget deficit of 3.8% of GDP, because of the global economic downturn. The European Union provided 82% of Tunisia's imports and absorbed 74% of its exports. Increased imported energy and food costs took year-on-year inflation to 4.5% in October. The value of energy imports doubled in the first half of the year, and Tunisia was expected to import more than 600,000 tons of soft wheat. As a result, the trade deficit rose by 7.2% to $4.25 billion. Increased domestic prices caused riots in Redayef in June and in nearby Gafsa, where unemployment reached 30% in June.

      Security continued to be a concern, although less acute than elsewhere in North Africa. Of the 30 individuals arrested on charges of having threatened attacks on foreign embassies after clashes with security forces in December 2006 and January 2007, 2 were sentenced to death, but one sentence was commuted upon appeal in February 2008; the other 28 received lengthy prison sentences. Fourteen members of the Soldiers of Assad Ibn al-Fourat had been killed in the clashes with police.

      In late February 2008, two Austrian tourists traveling in southern Tunisia were kidnapped by an Islamic militant group as a protest against Western support of Israel. They were taken to Mali, where their captors first demanded the release of prisoners held in Tunisia and Algeria but later demanded a ransom. The tourists eventually were freed in November.

George Joffé

▪ 2008

Area:
163,610 sq km (63,170 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 10,226,000
Capital:
Tunis
Chief of state:
President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi

      The Tunisian cereal harvest in 2007 reached two million tons, and despite both budget and current-account deficits, GDP was expected to reach 6%. The country was still coping with corruption, however, and was ranked 61st out of 179 countries in Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index.

      The regime continued its repressive policies and targeted persons whom the government suspected of having sympathies for political Islam as well as others, particularly journalists and human rights organizations that sought to create awareness of human rights abuses. Often the journalists, such as Sihem Bensedrine and Omar Mestiri (publisher of Kalima, an online newspaper), were connected with cyberjournalism. The government continued to campaign against those who persistently opposed it, notably Radia Nasraoui, a lawyer whose journalist husband had been imprisoned on questionable charges. There were more than 100 people in detention since their 1991–92 trials, 4 of whom went on a hunger strike in 2007 to protest their confinement. At the end of July, however, 22 of those prisoners were released, most of them Renaissance Party members or sympathizers. They included Daniel Zarrouk and Mohammed Abbou, a lawyer who had been sentenced in April 2005 to three and a half years' imprisonment. Meanwhile, Abdullah al-Hajji Ben Amor and Lotfi Lagha, whom the U.S. had released in mid-June from the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp, were both immediately arrested upon their arrival in Tunis and faced trial on terrorist offenses. Hajji Ben Amor had been convicted in absentia in 1995 of having membership in a Tunisian terrorist organization abroad—the Tunisian Islamic Front—solely on the basis of a statement made by another person who was also accused.

      In January 2007 about two dozen Islamic extremists who had apparently intended to attack U.S. consular facilities in Tunis were intercepted by security forces in Grombalia, south of the capital. At least 12 people were killed, and 15 others were arrested. In late September, 30 persons were charged with belonging to a terrorist organization and were said to be planning a military coup in Tunisia.

George Joffé

▪ 2007

Area:
163,610 sq km (63,170 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 10,141,000
Capital:
Tunis
Chief of state:
President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi

      During 2006 the Tunisian government seemed unwilling to alter its repressive policies. The November 2005 brutal attack on a French journalist who was beaten, stabbed, and robbed while Tunisian authorities did nothing to intercede underscored the country's abysmal human rights record. On Feb. 25, 2006, however, shortly before the 50th anniversary of Tunisian independence, the president pardoned 1,600 persons; 359 of them were discharged on conditional parole, but the remainder were released outright. Of those released, 81 were political prisoners, and more than 70 were opposition al-Nahda (“Renaissance”) party members, including the editor of Al-Fajr.

      Reporters Without Borders, whose director had been banned (in 2005) from Tunisia, in May published a devastating annual report, highlighting the hunger strike of Mohammed Abbou, a lawyer and activist who had been imprisoned in March 2005 for comparing the behaviour of the Tunisian regime to previous American misbehaviour toward inmates in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Moncef Marzouki, a veteran human rights activist, returned to Tunisia at the end of October after having spent five years in exile in France. Before returning, however, he gave two excoriating interviews to Qatar-based al-Jazeera television, which led Tunis to break off diplomatic relations with Doha.

      During the year the government stepped up attacks on female human rights activists. Neila Charchour Hachicha, a blogger and the founder of the Parti Libéral Méditerranéen (PLM), and her family were victimized, and the PLM Web site was blocked for several months. Activist and writer Naziha Regiba (Um Ziad) was physically attacked. Nevertheless, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made it clear during a visit in February that the U.S. regarded Tunisia as an essential ally in the struggle against transnational terrorism, and Rosalyn Higgins, the president of the International Court of Justice, praised Tunisia's human rights record.

      Some 7,000 people demonstrated in Tunis to protest the Israeli bombing on July 30 of Qana, Lebanon, and to show support for Hezbollah during the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. The government also condemned the Israeli action. In December several people died after police and armed dissident groups clashed near Hammam-Lif.

      Tunisia's external debt stood at $18.64 billion, about 62.1% of GDP. The IMF expected that figure to fall to 49.5% of GDP by 2011, given that GDP growth in 2006 was estimated to have reached 5.3%.

George Joffé

▪ 2006

Area:
163,610 sq km (63,170 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 10,038,000
Capital:
Tunis
Chief of state:
President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi

 In March 2005 Tunisia announced that as host in Tunis to more than 170 countries participating in November in the World Summit on the Information Society, it had invited Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to attend. The news, however caused demonstrations that month in major towns. In the process of preventing a demonstration in central Tunis, police, using brutal tactics, injured celebrated human rights lawyer Radia Nasraoui. Demonstrating students arrested in Safaqis (Sfax) in late February were said to have been tortured in custody.

      The previous week Nasraoui had attended a demonstration in which hundreds of lawyers gathered in Tunis before the Palais de Justice to protest the arrest of human rights activist Mohamed Abbou, who had been accused of disseminating false information in articles he published on the Sharon visit and on torture in Tunisia in 2004. Abbou, who had previously been imprisoned for two years on charges of attacking a lawyer, was sentenced in April to a three-and-a-half-year term for his comments on a Web site comparing conditions in Tunisian prisons to those at the U.S.'s Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

      In other government crackdowns, the Association of the Tunisian Magistrates (AMT) was banned in August after its members called for greater independence; the Trade Union of Tunisian Journalists (SJT) was prevented from holding its first congress in September; and the Federation of the Leagues of Human Rights (FIDH) was prevented from holding its sixth annual congress that same month. In mid-September Hussein Sumaida, an Iraqi-Tunisian asylum seeker returned from Canada, was arrested by state security.

      A cabinet reshuffle in mid-August brought new faces into government as Tunisia's old guard was quietly shunted aside. Hedi Mhenni was named the new secretary-general of the ruling Democratic Constitutional Assembly (RCD). Despite the collapse of the Tunisian textile-export trade as a result of the end on January 1 of the MultiFibre Agreement, which set quotas for the international trade in textiles, and anxieties over the EU's Barcelona Process and European Neighbourhood Policy, the Tunisian economy remained buoyant in 2005.

      An aircraft belonging to Tuninter, a subsidiary of Tunis Air, plunged into the sea near Sicily in August while on a flight from Bari to Jarbah (Djerba). Though 23 of the 39 passengers and crew survived, several were injured seriously. In July Tunisia's second privately owned radio station began to broadcast in Susah (Sousse).

George Joffé

▪ 2005

Area:
163,610 sq km (63,170 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 9,975,000
Capital:
Tunis
Chief of state:
President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi

      On Oct. 24, 2004, Tunisia held its simultaneous quinquennial presidential and legislative elections. A special constitutional amendment had been passed that allowed candidates to stand for reelection more than three times consecutively so that incumbent Pres. Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali could take part in the presidential election. As expected, he won a massive majority, capturing 94.49% of the vote, which reflected a turnout of 91.52% of Tunisia's 4.88 million voters.

      Running against President Ben Ali were Popular Union Party (PUP) leader Mohammed Bouchiha; Mohammed Ali Halouani, the leader of Ettajdid, Tunisia's communist party; and Mohammed Mounir Beji, head of the centrist Liberal Social Party (PSL). Another candidate, lawyer Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, was disqualified when he failed to gain the endorsement of 30 members of the parliamentary assembly—undoubtedly because he had declared that the elections would not be democratic. The other three opposition candidates were prevented from handing out election material and officially withdrew from the race, but two of the three agreed in withdrawing to endorse the president.

      In the legislative elections the ruling Democratic Constitutional Assembly (RCD)—effectively Tunisia's single political party—won all 152 constituency seats outright. In the special national list—reserved to compensate opposition parties that could not confront the RCD—the Democratic Socialist Movement (MDS) gained 14 seats, followed by the PUP with 11; the Unionist Democratic Union (UDU), 7; Ettajdid, 3; and the Liberal Social Party (PSL), 2. Independents failed to gain any representation.

      International disquiet about the nature of the electoral process in Tunisia reflected the wider disquiet over the state of human rights in the country. Both U.S. Pres. George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell brought the matter to Ben Ali's personal attention during his visit to the United States in February. Human rights organizations estimated that Tunisia still had about 500 political prisoners.

      The Tunisian economy continued to show strong growth, with GDP expected to grow by 5.6% in 2004 and by 6% in 2006. Unemployment, however, remained high at 14%, and anxieties were expressed about the slow rate of microeconomic reform in the country, despite government promises that it would be sped up. The privatization program remained stagnant during the year but was expected to accelerate in the future. Although Tunisia had not yet negotiated a free-trade-area agreement with the U.S., Washington established its regional Middle East Partnership Initiative office for North Africa in Tunis.

George Joffé

▪ 2004

Area:
163,610 sq km (63,170 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 9,764,000
Capital:
Tunis
Chief of state:
President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi

      The Tunisian government continued to improve its economic performance in 2003, earning plaudits from the IMF, which also warned, however, that there was still considerable progress to be made before the Tunisian economy would have completely liberalized its structures. Like Morocco, Tunisia was seeking a free-trade agreement with the United States, over French objections and despite the dominance of the European Union in its foreign trade. The drought underlined the country's continued dependence on the agricultural sector, and the abundant rainfall in September was hailed as a harbinger of a better year in 2004.

      Tourism appeared to have recovered from the shock of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and avoided a further recession as a result of the war against Iraq in March and April. In July the sector showed a 7% growth over the levels of the previous year. In recognition of the importance of tourism, no doubt, TunisAir, the national airline, and Morocco's Royal Air Maroc signed a cooperation agreement in midyear to code-share, which thus expanded each airline's potential for attracting tourists to the region.

      Tunisia also continued to attract foreign investment during the year because of prudent economic management. Late in 2002 France's Société Générale Group purchased a majority holding in the Tunisian company Union Internationale des Banques. A further vote of confidence was provided by the American-based investors service Moody's, which raised Tunisia's investment rating from Baa3 to Baa2.

      Domestic politics continued in a repressive atmosphere. The decree banning the wearing of the hijab (veil), first passed in 1981, was renewed in June 2003. Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali planned to stand for a further presidential term in 2004, and the political institutions he controlled were being rallied to call for him to stand again. At the same time, opponents and dissidents faced continued repression. In late summer the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch highlighted the plight of Abdullah Zouari, who had completed an 11-year sentence in 2002 but who was continuously harassed after his release and was now being held in Harboub prison. Amnesty International claimed that there were 1,000 prisoners of conscience in Tunisia. Radia Nasraoui, a well-known human-rights lawyer, began a hunger strike on October 15 because of continued harassment of her family.

George Joffé

▪ 2003

Area:
164,150 sq km (63,378 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 9,764,000
Capital:
Tunis
Chief of state:
President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi

      In Tunisia the year 2002 was dominated by the explosion of a bomb placed outside the El-Ghriba synagogue in Jarbah (Djerba) on April 11. A group of tourists was visiting the synagogue when an oil tanker parked next to the building exploded, killing 19 people, including 14 Germans from a tourist party. The incident was believed to be the first successful al-Qaeda assault since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. The perpetrator, Nizar Nawar, a local man who had been trained in Afghanistan, died in the explosion. In November several arrests were made in connection with the bombing.

      Pres. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's government continued its harsh treatment of internal dissidents after the bombing. Amnesty International visited Tunisia in late September and subsequently called for the immediate liberation of prisoners of conscience and the review of all trials of political prisoners, which it estimated numbered 1,000. Political prisoners also staged a collective hunger strike in August to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 1992 Bab Saadoun and Bouchoucha military trials, which resulted in the imprisonment of 265 persons on charges of threatening state security.

      At the end of January, 34 people were sentenced—31 of them in absentia—to long terms of imprisonment for their involvement with a terrorist organization based abroad. The trials took place before a military tribunal, which thus prevented the accused individuals from appealing the ruling.

      In early February journalist Hama Hammami was imprisoned on charges of subversion for his work with the Tunisian Communist Workers' Party. He and two of his associates had been in hiding for four years. Hammami's wife, the noted attorney and human rights advocate Radhia Nasraoui, went on a hunger strike following her husband's imprisonment in an attempt to draw attention to his plight and to other human rights abuses in Tunisia. Hammami was released conditionally from jail in early September owing to health problems.

      Despite a significant decline in tourism, the Tunisian economy continued to grow at a rate of approximately 5% annually, earning praise from the IMF. Controversy continued to rage over the president's plan to seek a fourth term in 2004, a move prohibited by Tunisia's constitution.

George Joffé

▪ 2002

Area:
164,150 sq km (63,378 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 9,828,000
Capital:
Tunis
Chief of state:
President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi

      Tunisia's human rights record was again the subject of international concern during 2001. In January veteran activist Moncef Marzouki, spokesman for the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia (CNLT), was imprisoned for one year. He had already been banned from foreign travel and had lost his professorship at the University of Sousse. His defense team walked out in protest over trial procedure—as did lawyers at proceedings in February against the Tunisian League for Human Rights after its leadership was suspended. Saida, the sister of Taoufik Ben Brik, and Sihem Ben Sédrine, CNLT spokesperson and editor of the on-line magazine Kalima, were arrested in June after allegedly having criticized the government during an appearance on the London-based Arab television station Al Mustaquilla; international pressure, however, ensured their speedy release.

      In an open letter to Pres. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunis judge Mokhtar Yahyaoui protested the harassment and official intimidation he had experienced. After international protest he was reinstated to the bench on August 2, but concerns over governmental judicial interference continued throughout the year. The president, in response to pressure from abroad, agreed to an early release from an eight-year sentence for veteran protester Nejib Hosni. President Ben Ali also promised to improve human rights observance, and a slightly more liberal press law was introduced in August. Human Rights Watch, however, continued to condemn the government for its human rights record; Tunisia had more than 1,000 political prisoners, and for the fourth year running, it was listed as one of the 10 countries most hostile to a free press.

      Though the constitution limited the president to three terms in office, it seemed likely that it would be amended and that Ben Ali would run again in 2004, especially when the central committee of the governing Democratic Constitutional Rally called on him in September to run again. The cabinet was changed twice, in January and October, apparently to bring in younger talent, although veterans controlled the foreign affairs, defense, and interior portfolios. Foreign Minister Habib Ben Yahia visited London shortly after the September terrorist attacks in the U.S. to argue once again of the danger of Tunisian Islamist dissidents abroad and to call for the extradition of the an-Nahda (“Renaissance Party”) leadership there.

      Tunisia's economic progress continued unabated. Gross domestic product grew an estimated 6% in 2001 despite an ongoing drought. Tourism rose in 2000 by 3.5%, and direct foreign investment was up by 144% to $768 million. Unemployment, however, remained stubbornly high at 15.6%. The privatization program forged ahead; 35 of 41 firms completed privatization, with an average 5% improvement in their turnover.

George Joffé

▪ 2001

Area:
164,150 sq km (63,378 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 9,593,000
Capital:
Tunis
Chief of state:
President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi

      On April 6, 2000, Tunisia's founding father, Habib Bourguiba, died at the age of 96 in his hometown of Al-Munastir, where he had been kept under house arrest ever since he was removed from power by Pres. Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in a bloodless and legal coup in November 1987. Bourguiba's funeral, two days later, in the mausoleum he had built for himself, was attended by only four heads of state—from France, Yemen, Palestine, and Algeria—as well as by the Tunisian head of state, who was offended by the chanting of the crowds for their former leader, in implicit criticism of his regime. (See Obituaries (Bourguiba, Habib Ben Ali ).)

      In fact, criticism of the Tunisian government's human rights record mounted despite increasingly indignant government denials. In April and May attention was focused on a hunger strike in Paris by Tunisian journalist Taoufik Ben Brik, staged because the Tunisian government had tried to revoke his passport and forbid him to travel abroad. He had been accused of publishing false information about the country when he reviewed a critical study of the Ben Ali regime and publicized the government's banning of a well-known publisher, Sihem Ben Sedrine. The government rejected claims by Amnesty International in September that there were 1,000 political prisoners in Tunisia. Nonetheless, the government retaliated against Moncef Marzouki, the spokesperson of the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia, by forcing him out of his university post after he called on Europe and the U.S. to push Tunisia to grant greater respect for human rights.

      Municipal elections held at the end of May demonstrated the political dominance of the ruling party, the Democratic Constitutional Rally. That party fielded 4,150 candidates in Tunisia's 257 electoral districts, while opposition parties fielded candidates in fewer than 100 districts.

      Despite poor rainfall, the economic situation continued to improve, and tourist revenues rose by 8% in the first half of the year. On March 1 Tunisia's free-trade-area agreement with the European Union came into force, and during the year Tunisia sought to improve its trading relationships with neighbouring nations and to revive the North Africa economic integration organization, the Arab Maghrib Union.

George Joffé

▪ 2000

Area:
164,150 sq km (63,378 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 9,514,000
Capital:
Tunis
Chief of state:
President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Hamed Karoui and, from November 17, Mohamed Ghannouchi

      At the end of October 1999, Pres. Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was elected to a third term (the maximum the constitution allowed) with 99% of the vote, despite the fact that two other candidates opposed him for the first time. It was also announced that a proposed new constitutional amendment would allow the president to call for a referendum on any matter, a move that opponents claimed was a precursor to creating a constitutional exception that would allow him to campaign for reelection in the future.

      Legislative elections on October 24 demonstrated once again the dominance of Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique, the president's own party, although a recently introduced constitutional amendment reserved 20% of the parliamentary seats for opposition parties, whatever their popular support. The reality of Tunisian political life, however, was underlined by the repeated complaints of harassment by opposition politicians and human rights activists. Although Tunisia had no clandestine opposition dedicated to the overthrow of constitutional government, officials there often behaved as if it did. The result was that violence and frustration expressed themselves in other ways. The association football (soccer) season in 1999 was marked by a series of violent incidents among fans, and, in the worst of these, at Bajah in June, 3 men died and 10 were seriously injured.

      In April the finance and environment ministers, both close associates of the president, were replaced. This decision apparently was brought about by the popular discontent voiced over increases in indirect taxation to compensate for tax revenue losses that resulted from Tunisia's free-trade agreement with the European Union. Late in the year there were signs that the government might be easing its repressive domestic attitudes. In November it was reported that 600 political prisoners had been released to mark President Ben Ali's 12th anniversary in power. A gathering by hundreds of students and trade unionists was allowed to proceed in mid-December.

      In March President Ben Ali visited Morocco for the first time and addressed the Moroccan legislature. During his visit he discussed the possibility of reviving North Africa's defunct regional unity organization, the Union Maghreb Arabe (UMA), and a meeting of officials from the five countries involved took place in Algiers in May. The matter became important because of a separate U.S. proposal during 1999 of a regional initiative to stimulate economic development through the private sector with American support. The U.S. proposal excluded Libya, a member of the UMA.

George Joffé

▪ 1999

      Area: 164,150 sq km (63,378 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 9,380,000

      Capital: Tunis

      Chief of state: President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali

      Head of government: Prime Minister Hamed Karoui

      On March 1, 1998, Tunisia's new association agreement with the European Union, ushering in a new industrial free-trade area between the two partners, came into effect. The 1998 budget, submitted in January, had included proposals to increase value-added-tax rates to compensate for customs revenue losses as a result of the agreement. By July, 713 of the 2,000 companies targeted by the agreement for structural-adjustment aid up to the year 2001 had applied for such aid, and 282 had been approved, receiving D 744.6 million of the estimated D 2.2 billion in modernization costs for the private sector (D 1 = $0.92). European aid was agreed upon in May in return for a Tunisian promise to speed up the nation's privatization program. As a result, 50 state-owned companies were to be privatized in the next two years.

      In July the International Monetary Fund indicated its satisfaction with Tunisia's economic progress, projecting future growth of gross domestic product at 6% per year, although it warned that further attention would have to be given to reducing unemployment and ensuring that the current account remained under control. In October details of the proposed 1999 budget became public; a 6% increase in expenditure was expected, despite worries over Tunisia's competitiveness in foreign markets as a result of the Asian crisis.

      Tunisia also sought to increase its economic links with neighbouring nations, having already established free-trade-area agreements with Egypt (signed in August), Morocco, and Libya. In June a visit by Turkey's Pres. Suleyman Demirel resulted in expanded trade ties. Pres. Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali visited Libya in September in an effort to strengthen energy links. Tunisian and Italian olive-oil producers planned to set up joint marketing facilities, even though tension between the two countries continued because of illegal immigration from Tunisia.

      Despite accusations of corruption against members of his family and six other major families in April, President Ben Ali reasserted his control of the political arena in August when he was reelected chairman of the Rassemblement Constitutionelle Démocratique and thus became the movement's presidential candidate for a third term in 1999.

      Tunisia's human rights record was again criticized in February when veteran human rights activist Khemais Ksila was sentenced to five years in prison for "offending public order and spreading antigovernment propaganda." At the European Parliament in October, the American group Human Rights Watch renewed the criticism despite Tunisian objections.

GEORGE JOFFÉ

▪ 1998

      Area: 164,150 sq km (63,378 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 9,245,000

      Capital: Tunis

      Chief of state: President Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali

      Head of government: Prime Minister Hamed Karoui

      At the start of 1997, Pres. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali strengthened his control over the government by reshuffling his Cabinet, moving his confidant, Abdallah Kallel, to the justice portfolio. The most important diplomatic event for Tunisia was President Ben Ali's visit to France in October. It had proved difficult to arrange because of a series of contentious issues between the two nations, ranging from the mysterious implication of the president's brother in a drug-smuggling ring in 1995 to the ongoing anxieties in Europe about Tunisia's human rights record. During the visit the Tunisian leader was frequently reminded of French concerns—both official and unofficial—in regard to human rights. Despite these issues, however, the visit was successful in reinforcing economic relations between the two countries and capped a series of ministerial exchanges that had begun with the French defense minister's visit to Tunis in March.

      European anxieties over Tunisia's human rights behaviour had led to the release of the veteran politician Mohamed Mouada from house arrest in September. Mouada, a former leader of the opposition party Mouvement des Démocrates Socialistes, had originally been sentenced in early 1996 to 11 years in prison for contacts with a foreign power (Libya) but had been released into house arrest in December 1996. Despite this hopeful development, however, reports of arrests and imprisonment for political reasons continued to emerge throughout the year, causing considerable tensions in Tunisia's diplomatic relationships. Other measures included controls on academic freedom and threats of treason charges against any Tunisian deemed to have misrepresented Tunisia abroad.

      At the same time, Tunisia's regional role increased in stature. In March the Tunisian government was able to persuade Libya and Mauritania to reactivate their memberships in the Union Maghreb Arabe—the regional organization that also included Algeria and Morocco but that had been virtually moribund since the start of the 1990s. Relations with Libya also continued to improve and proposals were made to link the two countries' electricity grids by the year 2000 at a cost of $130 million and the ratification of the Gulf of Gabes offshore joint-venture agreement, which would involve a $30 million investment over the next five years and would contribute to the recovery of Tunisia's position as a net oil exporter. Foreign investors, such as British Gas, also reported encouraging exploration results in the oil and gas sector during the year.

      In June the International Monetary Fund called for economic reform to be accelerated, with particular reference to the privatization of government-owned assets, a new round of which—designed to raise $1.4 billion—had begun in March. The IMF also pointed to the unemployment level of 15% as too high.

GEORGE JOFFÉ

▪ 1997

      A republic of North Africa, Tunisia lies on the Mediterranean Sea. Area: 164,150 sq km (63,378 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 9,057,000. Cap.: Tunis. Monetary unit: Tunisian dinar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 0.98 dinar to U.S. $1 (1.54 dinars = £ 1 sterling). President in 1996, Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali; prime minister, Hamed Karoui.

      The regime of Pres. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali seemed to have succeeded in creating a state of relative economic prosperity in Tunisia and in April 1996 was reported to be the leading nation in the Middle East and North Africa in terms of social indicators. This success was not transferred to the political scene, however. In February the former leader of the Democratic Socialist Movement (MDS), Mohamed Mouada, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for maintaining secret contacts with a foreign power (Libya). Earlier he had been sentenced to a year in prison for currency offenses.

      Mouada's trial was roundly condemned by international observers, especially as there had never been any secret about his Libyan contacts. Informed opinion pointed to an open letter he had written to President Ben Ali in October 1995, just before his arrest. In the letter Mouada condemned the political situation in Tunisia in terms of both individual and political rights. The Tunisian authorities were, however, not bothered by criticism, either from Mouada or from foreign observers, and in July condemned another MDS member and parliamentary deputy, Khemis Chamari, to five years in prison for similar offenses.

      During the year the Ben Ali regime seemed to be losing its populist grasp of the Tunisian scene and was coming to rely increasingly on a group of advisers around the president. In June, as part of a government reshuffle, the president appointed his close colleague, Abdallah Kallel, defense minister, and he also increasingly relied on associates drawn from Tunisia's business community and from the army. Ben Ali's family also became involved in political life, and in midyear his brother, Dourid, was found dead in mysterious circumstances in Tunis. He had previously been subject to an international arrest warrant issued in France for his alleged role in a drugs scandal in France in 1995.

      In foreign affairs, in the wake of the election in Israel of the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Tunisia quietly slowed down its normalization process with Israel. Tunisia continued its rapprochement with the Gulf States, which had become tense after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and Kuwaiti investment in Tunisia was revived during 1996. (GEORGE JOFFÉ)

      This article updates Tunisia, history of (Tunisia).

▪ 1996

      A republic of North Africa, Tunisia lies on the Mediterranean Sea. Area: 164,150 sq km (63,378 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 8,896,000. Cap.: Tunis. Monetary unit: Tunisian dinar, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 0.95 dinar to U.S. $1 (1.49 dinars = £ 1 sterling). President in 1995, Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali; prime minister, Hamed Karoui.

      Tunisia's foreign relations during 1995 were dominated by the negotiations for and the implications of the new Association Agreement signed with the European Union (EU), the first of a new generation of such agreements designed to create a multilateral industrial and financial free-trade area in the Mediterranean basin. The agreement, which was signed on July 17, provided for a 12-year transition period before Tunisia would be fully integrated into the European Economic Area in regard to industrial goods and for future negotiations to bring agricultural products and services into the agreement.

      Although Tunisian officials were enthusiastic about the potential of the new agreement to transform the Tunisian economy, there were acute anxieties over the medium-term consequences. An EU report suggested that without substantial transitional help, as many as 4,000 Tunisian companies either would be forced into bankruptcy or would face severe difficulties. The Tunisian government was seeking 2.2 billion dinars over the next five years to cover such costs and was looking toward Europe for up to 80% of these funds.

      On the domestic front, the Tunisian government continued to feel threatened by dissident and opposition movements. Although the influence of the exiled Nahda movement was diminishing, the authorities continued to perceive it to be a real threat and complained repeatedly to the British government over the status of the movement's leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, as a political refugee in London. The French government uncovered a new clandestine group, the Tunisian Islamic Front, during arrests of Algerian Islamist supporters in Paris in June. The movement, allegedly operating from London, was accused of collusion with the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), Algeria's feared Islamist terrorist movement; the GIA attacked Tunisian border patrols in February, killing at least six Tunisian soldiers, in a move designed to warn Tunisia against supporting the Algerian government in its campaign against the Islamists.

      The Tunisian government's intolerance of opposition was demonstrated again in October with the arrest of Mohamed Mouada, the leader of the Democratic Socialist Movement, Tunisia's most respected opposition party, on the grounds that he had been in contact with a foreign power (Libya) but in reality because he had complained about repression in an open letter to Pres. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. His objections arose from the conduct of the municipal elections in May, in which his party failed to obtain control of municipalities where it had expected to do well and saw, as a result, government manipulation of the vote. In reality, the Ben Ali regime had little to fear from the opposition, as its economic record continued to be good. (GEORGE JOFFÉ)

      This updates the article Tunisia, history of (Tunisia).

▪ 1995

      A republic of North Africa, Tunisia lies on the Mediterranean Sea. Area: 164,150 sq km (63,378 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 8,757,000. Cap.: Tunis. Monetary unit: Tunisian dinar, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 0.98 dinar to U.S. $1 (1.56 dinars = £ 1 sterling). President in 1994, Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali; prime minister, Hamed Karoui.

      During 1994 the Tunisian government had to deal with repeated attacks on its human rights record, beginning with a critical Amnesty International report in January. Most of the accusations focused on the issue of the government's attitude toward the major Islamic movement, the outlawed Nahda party, which, according to government sources, was implicated in violent opposition to the authorities. Tunisia reacted furiously to a British government decision to grant political asylum to Nahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi. It warned that Britain, together with the United States and Germany, did not understand the true nature of the Islamist threat to North Africa.

      Needless to say, Nahda was not allowed to participate in the presidential and legislative elections that were held in March. All but 19 of the 163 seats in the Chamber of Deputies were won by the ruling Constitutional Democratic Assembly, with the opposition parties gaining only about 2.3% of the vote. The other 19 seats, reserved for the opposition as a result of a new electoral law, were distributed between four parties. In the wake of the elections, the president warned that now that there was an opposition presence in the legislature, unauthorized attempts to create new opposition groupings would not be permitted.

      The presidential elections were marred by government irritation at attempts to contest them. Moncef Marzouki, a veteran human rights campaigner who resigned his post as head of the Tunisian human rights organization just before the election, warned that he intended to challenge the incumbent, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in the election. However, Marzouki was not able to obtain the support of 30 parliamentary deputies or mayors, so his application as a candidate lapsed. Ben Ali, therefore, ran unopposed and obtained some 99.9% of the votes cast; about 95.5% of the electorate participated in the election.

      The political tensions that had marked the election period bubbled to the surface immediately afterward. Marzouki was arrested for allegedly defamatory remarks he made to a Spanish newspaper after the election and released only some months later. Nearly three weeks after the elections, Hamma Hammami, the leader of the banned Communist Workers' Party, was sentenced to 9 1/2 years in prison for trying to form an illegal opposition party.

      In foreign affairs Tunisia continued to press for a regional approach. It handed over the presidency of the Maghreb Arab Union to Algeria in April, four months later than scheduled because of the unstable political situation there. One old foreign policy issue was resolved during the year when the Palestine Liberation Organization officially moved its headquarters from Tunis to the Gaza Strip on July 11. (GEORGE JOFFÉ)

      This updates the article Tunisia, history of (Tunisia).

▪ 1994

      A republic of North Africa, Tunisia lies on the Mediterranean Sea. Area: 164,150 sq km (63,378 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 8,530,000. Cap.: Tunis. Monetary unit: Tunisian dinar, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 1.01 dinars to U.S. $1 (1.53 dinars = £ 1 sterling). President in 1993, Gen. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali; prime minister, Hamed Karoui.

       Tunisian political life throughout 1993 continued to be bedeviled by the problem of political representation. At the end of the preceding year, on December 6, Pres. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali had called a meeting of leaders in the Constitutional Democratic Assembly (RCD), which was effectively Tunisia's single political party and controlled all seats in the Chamber of Deputies, in order to try to create a basis for multiparty democracy. The meeting discussed reforms of the RCD to be presented for approval at the movement's second congress in July 1993. That congress, held July 29-31, heard calls for the five legal opposition parties to be allowed to participate in the National Assembly and for the adoption of a new electoral law. The legislative elections were scheduled for March 1994, and in November President Ben Ali said that the legal opposition would be allowed to sit in the parliament. Presidential elections would also take place in March 1994, and at the RCD's July congress Ben Ali was nominated again as the RCD's candidate.

      Tunisia's opposition to Islamists was echoed in foreign affairs when in late June, just before an Organization of African Unity conference in Cairo, President Ben Ali met with his Egyptian and Algerian counterparts to organize resistance to the regional spread of Islamist movements. The meeting condemned the role of The Sudan in the spread of those movements. In an ironic counterpart to that meeting, the British government granted the major Tunisian Islamist leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, political asylum in midyear, despite Tunisian protests.

      Tunisia also tried to repair its links with the Persian Gulf states, damaged in 1990-91 over the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Foreign Minister Habib Ben Yahia made the first formal visit by a senior Tunisian minister to Kuwait since the 1990-91 crisis in the hope of reviving Kuwaiti investment interest in Tunisia. In a final legacy of the Gulf war, Tunisia continued to hold aircraft on behalf of Iraq. As a result of the agreement between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel in September, the Tunisian government held discussions with PLO officials over the future status of the organization in Tunisia, where it had been based since being expelled from Lebanon in 1982-83.

      The Tunisian economy continued to improve throughout the year. The growth rate of the gross domestic product, which reached 8.4% in 1992, was expected to be maintained, despite low levels of foreign investment and continuing current account deficits. (GEORGE JOFFÉ)

      This updates the article Tunisia, history of (Tunisia).

* * *

Introduction
Tunisia, flag of  country of North Africa. Tunisia's accessible Mediterranean Sea coastline and strategic location have attracted conquerors and visitors throughout the ages, and its ready access to the Sahara has brought its people into contact with the inhabitants of the African interior.

 According to Greek legend, Dido, a princess of Tyre, was the first outsider to settle among the native tribes of what is now Tunisia when she founded the city of Carthage in the 9th century BC. Although the story is certainly apocryphal, Carthage nonetheless grew into one of the great cities and preeminent powers of antiquity, and its colonies and entrepôts were scattered throughout the western Mediterranean region. Carthage fought a series of wars with its rival, Rome (Roman Republic and Empire). Rome prevailed in the mid-2nd century BC, razed Carthage, and ruled the region for the following 500 years. In the 7th century Arab conquerors converted the native Berber (Amazigh) population of North Africa to Islam.

      Tunisia's culture is highly diverse, in part because of long periods of Ottoman (Ottoman Empire) and then French rule but also because populations of Jews and Christians have lived among a Muslim majority for centuries. Similarly, the capital, Tunis, blends ancient Arab souks and mosques and modern-style office buildings into one of the most handsome and lively cities in the region. Other cities include Sfax (Ṣafāqis), Sousse (Sūsah), and Gabès (Qābis) on the fertile coast and Kairouan (Al-Qayrawān) and El-Kef (Kef, El-) (Al-Kāf) in the arid interior.

      Tunisia's people are renowned for their conviviality and easygoing approach to daily life, qualities that Albert Memmi captured in his 1955 autobiographical novel Pillar of Salt:

…we shared the ground floor of a shapeless old building, a sort of two-room apartment. The kitchen, half of it roofed over and the rest an open courtyard, was a long vertical passage toward the light. But before reaching this square of pure blue sky, it received, from a multitude of windows, all the smoke, the smells, and the gossip of our neighbours. At night, each locked himself in his room, but in the morning, life was always communal….

      This warmth, joined with the country's renowned hospitality and cuisine, has contributed greatly to Tunisia's growing popularity as a destination for tourists from throughout Europe and the Americas.

Land
  Tunisia is bounded by Algeria to the west and southwest, by Libya to the southeast, and by the Mediterranean Sea to the east and north.

Relief
      Tunisia is characterized by moderate relief. The Tunisian Dorsale, or High Tell, a southwest-northeast–trending mountain range that is an extension of the Saharan Atlas (Atlas Saharien) of Algeria, tapers off in the direction of the Sharīk (Sharīk Peninsula) (Cape Bon) Peninsula in the northeast, south of the Gulf of Tunis. The highest mountain, Mount Chambi (Shaʿnabī, Mount Ash-) (Al-Shaʿnabī), located near the centre of the Algerian border, rises to 5,066 feet (1,544 metres), while Mount Zaghwān (Zaghouan), about 30 miles (50 km) southwest of Tunis, reaches 4,249 feet (1,295 metres). Between the limestone peaks of the central Tunisian Dorsale and the mountains of the Northern Tell—which include the sandstone ridges of the Kroumirie Mountains in the northwest that reach elevations of 3,000 feet (900 metres)—and the Mogods, a mountain range running along the deeply indented coastline to the north, lies the Majardah (Majardah, Wadi) (Medjerda) River valley, formed by a series of ancient lake basins covered with alluvium. This valley was once the granary of ancient Rome and has remained to this day the richest grain-producing region of Tunisia.

      To the south of the Tunisian Dorsale lies a hilly region known as the Haute Steppe (High Steppes) in the west and the Basse Steppe (Low Steppes) in the east. These have elevations ranging from about 600 to 1,500 feet (180 to 460 metres) and are crossed by secondary ranges trending north-south. Farther south there is a series of chott (or shaṭṭ; salty lake) depressions. Large plains border the eastern coasts; south of Sousse lies Al-Sāḥil (Sāḥil, Al-) (Sahel) and south of Gabès is Al-Jifārah (Jifārah, al-) (Gefara) Plain. The extreme south is largely sandy desert, much of it part of the Great Eastern Erg of the Sahara.

Drainage
      The major drainage feature of the north is the Majardah River, the country's only perennially flowing stream, which cuts the Majardah valley before emptying into the Gulf of Tunis, near the site of ancient Carthage. Farther south, streams are intermittent and largely localized in the form of wadis, which are subject to seasonal flooding and terminate inland in chotts. In the country's most southerly regions, within the Sahara, even these seasonal streams are rare. As in other countries of this arid region, access to water is a major concern. During the 1990s the government sponsored the construction of a number of dams to control flooding, preserve runoff, and recharge the water table.

Soils
      Tunisia's most fertile soils are found in the well-watered intermontane valleys in the north, where rich sandy clay soils formed from alluvium or soils high in lime content cover the valley bottoms and plains. Aside from these and from the plains of the Haute Steppe region, where some clay soils of medium fertility may be found, soils in the rest of the country tend to be rocky or sandy. In the dry south, moreover, they are often also saline because of excessive evaporation. The humid coastal plain in the east, running between the Gulf of Hammamet and the Gulf of Gabes, where Tunisia's thriving olive plantations are found, is the most agriculturally productive of these coarse-textured soil areas.

Climate
      Tunisia is situated in the warm temperate zone between latitudes 37° and 30° N. In the north the climate is Mediterranean, characterized by mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers with no marked intervening seasons. This changes southward to semiarid conditions on the steppes and to desert in the far south. Saharan influences give rise to the sirocco, a seasonal hot, blasting wind from the south that can have a serious drying effect on vegetation.

      Temperatures are moderated by the sea, being less extreme at Sousse on the coast, for example, than at Kairouan (Al-Qayrawān) inland. Temperatures at Sousse average 44 °F (7 °C) in January and 89 °F (32 °C) in August. Comparable temperatures at Kairouan are 40 °F (4 °C) in January and 99 °F (37 °C) in August.

      The amount of precipitation, all falling as rain, varies considerably from north to south. A mean annual rainfall of about 60 inches (1,520 mm) occurs in the Kroumirie Mountains in northwestern Tunisia, making it the wettest region in North Africa, as compared with less than 4 inches (100 mm) at Tozeur (Tawzar) in the southwest. Generally, from mid-autumn to mid-spring, when three-fourths of the annual total occurs, northern Tunisia receives more than 16 inches of rainfall, and the steppe region receives from 4 to 16 inches (100 to 400 mm). Amounts are also highly irregular from one year to another, and irregularity increases southward toward the desert. Harvests vary as a result, being poor in dry years.

Plant and animal life
      The vegetation and animal life of the country are affected by these erratic climatic conditions. From north to south, the cork oak forest of the Kroumirie Mountains, with its fern undergrowth sheltering wild boars, gives way to scrub and steppes covered with esparto grass and populated with small game and to the desert, where hunting is forbidden so as to preserve the remaining gazelles. Scorpions are found in all regions; among dangerous snakes are the horned viper and the cobra. Desert locusts sometimes damage crops in the southern part of the country. Ichkeul National Park, in the northernmost part of the country, was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980. It is important as a winter sanctuary for such birds as the greylag goose, coot, and wigeon.

People

Ethnic groups
      The population of Tunisia is essentially Arab Berber. However, throughout the centuries Tunisia has received various waves of immigration that have included Phoenicians, sub-Saharan Africans, Jews, Romans, Vandals, and Arabs; Muslim (Islāmic world) refugees from Sicily settled in Al-Sāḥil after their homeland was captured by the Normans in 1091. The most notable immigration was that of the Spanish Moors (Moor) (Muslims), which began after the fall of Sevilla (Seville), Spain, as a result of the Reconquista in 1248 and which turned into a veritable exodus in the early 17th century. As a result, some 200,000 Spanish Muslims settled in the area of Tunis, in the Majardah valley, and on the Sharīk Peninsula in the north, bringing with them their urban culture and more advanced agricultural and irrigation techniques. Finally, from the 16th to the 19th century, the Ottomans brought their own blend of Asian and European traditions. This great ethnic diversity is still seen in the variety of Tunisian family names.

Languages
      Arabic is the official language, and most natives speak a dialect of Tunisian Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic is taught in schools. The cultural Arabization of the country was largely completed by the end of the 12th century, and currently only a tiny fraction of the population—most of them in the south—still speak one of the Berber languages (Amazigh languages). French (French language), introduced during the protectorate (1881–1956), came into wider use only after independence, because of the spread of education. It continues to play an important role in the press, education, and government. To a lesser extent, English and Italian also serve as lingua francas.

Religion
 Virtually the entire population is Muslim, and Islam (Islām), in its Mālikī Sunni (Sunnite) form, is the state religion. Christian and Jewish minorities have declined substantially in number since independence; non-Muslims numbered more than 300,000 in 1956 but have since been reduced to only about 50,000. Official openness to religious diversity permits both communities to practice their faiths.

Settlement patterns
      Tunisia is divided into four natural and demographic regions: the north, which is relatively fertile and well watered; the semiarid central region; Al-Sāḥil in the east-central coastal region, which is preeminently olive-growing country; and the desert south, where, except in the oases, all vegetation disappears. In the central and southern regions, there are still people who have preserved a certain cohesion through following a seminomadic way of life. In the north and east, on the other hand, particularly along the coasts, the population is quite mixed and more dense, the life of the cultivator is more complex, the villages are more crowded, and the cities are larger. City populations have expanded at the expense of the countryside and by the late 20th century had incorporated more than three-fifths of the country's people; nearly one-tenth of Tunisia's population lives in Tunis alone. Growth has also been significant in the cities of Bizerte, Gabès, Sfax, and Sousse.

Demographic trends
      The population of Tunisia doubled during the last three decades of the 20th century. The country's natural growth rate is less rapid, however, than those of the other North African countries, a feat accomplished through family planning to lower the birth rate—Tunisia has one of the lowest birth rates on the African continent—and by raising the social, economic, and legal status of women. Emigration has also helped depress the overall growth rate, with hundreds of thousands of Tunisians being employed abroad, notably in France and in the countries of the Middle East. Tunisia's relatively favourable demographic situation is reflected in its high life expectancy (among the highest in Africa), higher living standards, declining infant mortality rate, marriage at older age, and progressive aging of the population. Average life expectancy is about 75 years.

Economy
      Tunisia has a well-diversified economy, although it remains dominated by only a few large sectors. The economy depends heavily on mineral exports, especially petroleum and phosphates, a growing manufacturing sector that has received much investment, and agricultural products. Tourism is also a significant source of revenue and foreign exchange, as are remittances from migrant workers living abroad. While foreign debt has been brought under control, the country continues to suffer from a regional imbalance between the north and Al-Sāḥil region, which are more fertile and more economically developed, and the arid central and southern regions, which have fewer natural advantages.

      After a brief experiment with socialism in the 1960s, Tunisia shifted its economic doctrine toward a mixed planned and market economy. However, the economy fell into crisis in the early 1980s, the result of an overreliance on oil revenues, foreign aid, and labour remittances. In the mid-1980s a comprehensive program was introduced to liberalize the economy, which helped restore Tunisia's international credit standing, stabilize public finances, reduce budget deficits and inflation, improve trade balances, and increase foreign and domestic investments. Public-sector reforms, deregulation, and privatization have also been implemented. The program has not been without its social costs, however, as unemployment and poverty levels rose. Nonetheless, the country's per capita gross national product has continued to grow steadily.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
 Some two-thirds of Tunisia is suitable for farming, and more than one-fifth of the working population is employed in agriculture, yet agricultural production is still insufficient to meet the needs of Tunisia's growing population and contributes only about one-eighth of gross domestic product (GDP). Cereals, in particular, must be imported, as must meat and dairy products; sheep, goats, and cattle are raised but not in numbers sufficient to supply domestic demand. The low crop yields are in part caused by the division of the property into small, inefficient plots and also by the predominance of outdated farming methods. Climatic variations—periodic droughts and sporadic rainfall—often jeopardize harvests. Much of the country's most recent agricultural investment since the late 20th century has focused on irrigation schemes, well and dam construction, and programs to prevent soil erosion and desertification. Reforms have also freed up agricultural prices by removing artificial price supports. Tunisia nonetheless exports a fair amount of agricultural produce. The principal commodities are citrus fruits, olive oil, grapes, tomatoes, melons, figs, and dates.

      The lumber sector is essentially confined to exploiting oak and cork from the Kroumirie Mountains of the north, while the esparto grass of the plains is used to manufacture quality paper. The expanding fishing industry, centred on the eastern port city of Sfax, also contributes to the country's exports. Primary catches include sardines, mackerels, and cuttlefish.

Resources and power
      Tunisia's natural resources are relatively meagre. Until the discovery of petroleum, the principal mineral resource was phosphate; of this, one-third is exported, and the remainder is used by domestic chemical industries. Fertilizer is also an important export. Other major mineral resources are zinc, lead, barite, and iron.

       petroleum was discovered in the extreme south in 1964 at Al-Burmah (El-Borma) field. Although Tunisia's deposits are much smaller than those of its larger neighbours, they are significant to the economy. As production fell in the 1980s, the government began developing several of the country's smaller oil fields. Nearly a dozen deposits were being exploited by the early 1990s, the largest fields being Al-Burmah and Al-Dūlāb in southern Tunisia near the Algerian border, Sīdī al-Yatāʾim (Sidi el-Itayem) north of Sfax, the Ashtart field in the Gulf of Gabes (Gabes, Gulf of), and the Tazarka (Tāzirkah) field in the Gulf of Hammamet.

      In the early 1990s Tunisia's petroleum reserves were estimated to be sufficient to maintain the country's low rate of extraction for several decades but insufficient to prevent Tunisia—because of increased domestic consumption and inadequate refinement facilities—from becoming a net importer of petroleum products. Since then, natural gas production has been significantly increased, and foreign investment has been encouraged in the sector. Major British investments in Al-Miskar field in the mid-1990s contributed to Tunisia's achieving self-sufficiency in natural gas production. Like petroleum and despite new discoveries, the quantities of natural gas are small as compared with Libyan and Algerian production. In addition, Tunisia receives royalties on the gas that is pumped through a pipeline running through Tunisia, connecting the Algerian gas fields to Sicily.

      Most electricity is generated by thermal means, including newer plants fired by natural gas and fuel oil. Some solar power is also being utilized.

Manufacturing
      Manufacturing contributes roughly one-sixth of GDP and employs an equal proportion of the population. The development of manufacturing in Tunisia has historically encountered two major difficulties: raw material and power supplies are inadequate, and the domestic market is limited. Since independence was achieved in 1956, some notable and sometimes costly projects, such as the Menzel Bourguiba (Manzil Bū Ruqaybah) iron-smelting complex located near Bizerte, have been successfully established. In general, however, the manufacturing base has remained relatively small and overly concentrated on making clothes, textiles, leather goods, and food products. Tunisia's industry became increasingly export-oriented during the 1970s, but it remained uncompetitive and overprotected and did not generate sufficient income. It also continued to be largely concentrated in wealthier coastal areas, despite government incentives to relocate to the country's western and southern parts.

      As a result of reforms, Tunisian manufacturing has become much more diversified, with new investments in the production and export of mechanical and electromechanical equipment, petroleum products, and chemicals. The textile sector still remains disproportionately large, however, and more than one-third of all manufacturing operations are located in Tunis alone. On the other hand, investment codes introduced in the late 1980s have attracted strong foreign interest, which has enhanced technology transfer, modernized the service and financial sectors, and aided export development.

      Privatization has been a slower process. After an initial flurry of sales in the early 1990s, the pace slackened, and privatization seemed restricted to small, profitable enterprises such as textile factories. There have been renewed efforts to expand the private sector by transferring ownership of large, strategic companies, and activity has increased, particularly involving foreign interests.

Finance
      The Banque Central de Tunisie is the country's central bank and issues the dinar, the national currency. The government also partly operates several development banks, the largest of which is the Société Tunisienne de Banque, and there are numerous commercial banks. The dinar has been made partially convertible against the European Union (EU) euro and several other currencies. The Tunisian stock exchange, Bourse de Tunis, was founded in 1969 and has become a central pillar of economic policy, as it has facilitated privatization and encouraged both domestic savings and foreign investment.

Trade
      Trade accounts for some one-fourth of GDP, and Tunisia relies heavily on its trade with Europe, with the EU accounting for the bulk of both exports and imports. France is the most important trading partner, followed by Italy and Germany. Tunisia often shows an annual trade deficit. In the late 1990s the country signed an agreement with the EU, under the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Program, that set in motion the creation of a free-trade area between Tunisia and the EU. Tunisia has been a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade since 1990; it also is a participant in the World Trade Organization and is a signatory of the Arab League's Arab Free Trade Area. In addition, Tunisia is a member of the Arab Maghrib Union, which aims at economic integration among its member states.

      Tunisia's most significant exports are textiles and leather products, electrical machinery, and crude and refined petroleum. Its major imports are consumer products, raw materials, machinery and electrical equipment, and food products.

Services
      Services, including retail trade, public administration, defense, and tourism, account for a significant portion of GDP—although Tunisia's military spending, as a percentage of gross national product, is well below the world average—and for more than one-fourth of employment. Tourism has become one of Tunisia's leading sources of foreign exchange and has spawned a vibrant and growing handicraft industry in its wake. Although tourism was adversely affected by regional instabilities at the beginning of the 21st century, the number of tourists—especially from other Arab countries—has again been rising.

Labour and taxation
      Unemployment in Tunisia has often been high, despite concerted efforts by the government to reduce the rate. Workers are allowed by law to organize, and there are a number of unions. The three large professional organizations are: the General Union of Tunisian Workers, the principal trade union; the Tunisian Union of Industry, Commerce and Handicrafts, the main employers' organization; and the National Union of Tunisian Farmers, the principal agricultural union. These are the main participants in national wage negotiations, although numerous other organizations also represent the country's economic interests.

      Most government revenues are acquired through taxation, and Tunisia levies both direct and indirect taxes. Direct taxes take the form of an income tax assessed at a marginal rate and a flat-rate corporate tax. Indirect taxes include a variable-rate value-added tax (certain luxury items, for instance, are taxed at a higher rate) and professional training, social security, and registration taxes.

Transportation and telecommunications
      The network of roads and railways is sufficiently dense so that all cities of any importance are linked with the interior. Nearly four-fifths of roads are paved. Tunisia is connected by both road and rail to Algeria but only by road to Libya, since the railway ends at Gabès. Work is under way to modernize and extend the railway network. The principal port is Tunis–La Goulette (Ḥalq al-Wādī); other major ports include Sfax, Bizerte, Sousse, and, in the south, Gabès. An oil pipeline runs from Edjeleh, Algeria, to the port of La Skhira (Al-Ṣukhayrah) on the Gulf of Gabes.

      Despite the construction of an airport at Gafsa, regional airports at Monastir (Al-Munastīr), Jerba (Jarbah), Sfax, and Tozeur handle domestic or charter flights, and international air traffic is directed mainly through Tunis-Carthage International Airport.

      Tunisia's telecommunication services are controlled by Tunisie Télécom (founded in 1996), a state-owned entity that is responsible for maintaining and developing the country's communications infrastructure. Tunisia signed the World Trade Organization Basic Telecommunications Services Agreement of 1997, which opened the country's market, and its telecommunications infrastructure has expanded markedly since that time. Internet access is growing rapidly, and cellular telephones far outnumber standard phone lines. Local communications are largely conducted over microwave radio links, while international transmission makes use of satellite networks and fibre-optic cables.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      The Tunisian constitution, promulgated in 1959 and subsequently amended, defines Tunisia as a republic whose religion is Islam and whose official language is Arabic. In 2005 a bicameral legislature (the National Assembly) was established, with an elected Chamber of Deputies as its lower house and, as its upper house, a new Chamber of Councillors, whose members are elected or appointed. In 1997 an amendment was ratified stating that no single party would be allowed to hold more than four-fifths of the total number of seats. Executive power is in the hands of the president of the republic, who is head of state, and the prime minister, who is head of government. The president, who must be a Muslim, is elected to a five-year term by universal suffrage at the same time as the deputies; in 2002 the three-term limit on the presidency was removed. Reforms have enabled candidates to challenge the presidency in elections since the late 1990s.

      The country is administered by the Council of Ministers (or cabinet), headed by the prime minister. The cabinet ministers are responsible to the president rather than to the Chamber of Deputies, which, however, possesses the power to censure the cabinet. If such censuring occurs, the president may dismiss the Chamber of Deputies and hold new elections. If censured again by the new Chamber, the government must resign.

      A prominent feature of social policy has been the effort to improve the status and lives of women. Compared to their counterparts in other Arab countries, women in Tunisia have enjoyed greater equality before the law. The progressive Code of Personal Status, which was introduced in 1956, has been amended to affirm and enhance women's political, social, and economic roles. The National Union of Tunisian Women, established in the same year, remains an important organization promoting women's advancement.

Local government
      The country is divided into 24 administrative areas called wilāyāt (provinces; singular wilāyah), each of which is headed by a wālī (governor). Each province is designated by the name of its chief town and is in turn subdivided into numerous units called muʿtamadiyyāt (delegations), whose number varies according to province size. Delegations are administered by a muʿtamad and are in turn divided into more than 2,000 districts called minṭaqah turābiyyahs. Tunisia is further divided into scores of municipalities and rural councils.

Justice
      Tunisia's legal system is based on a combination of French civil law and a liberal interpretation of Islamic law ( Sharīʿah). The Council of State comprises two judicial bodies: an administrative body that deals with legal disputes between individuals and state or public institutions and a public audit office. The court system consists of magistrate courts at the local level, courts of the first instance, courts of appeal, and a high court in Tunis. Judicial power is exercised by judges whose independence is constitutionally guaranteed.

Political process
      The constitution guarantees “freedom of opinion, expression, press, publication, assembly, and association” (“under the conditions defined by law”). Political parties based on ethnicity, religion, region, or language are forbidden by law. New political parties were introduced in 1981; permission for a multiparty system was granted in 1988; and the first multiparty elections were held in 1989. Reported turnout for elections typically is high, with nearly all of the registered voters participating, and incumbent candidates frequently are reelected by exceptionally high margins. The dominant party is the Democratic Constitutional Rally (known by its French acronym RCD).

      Because of the ban on parties based on religion, ethnicity, region, or language, the major opposition group, the Islamist party Al-Nahḍah (“The Renaissance”), has not been granted legal status, and many of its members have been detained, jailed, or exiled. The legal opposition parties are small and often focus around an individual or a small group of personalities; they have neither the financial nor the organizational structure to mobilize serious opposition in elections. By 2005, opposition parties had been unable to win a contested seat in the National Assembly. In addition to political parties, there is a large number of politically active national organizations, most of which are affiliated with the RCD.

Security
      Tunisia maintains a relatively small active-duty military, consisting mostly of conscripts whose term of service is one year. The army is the largest branch (with the highest number of conscripts), but the country also has a small navy and air force. The former consists mainly of small patrol vessels. The air force has relatively few high-performance aircraft. A national police force—whose jurisdiction is largely restricted to the cities—and a largely rural national guard report to the Ministry of the Interior and are responsible for national security.

Health and welfare
      The living standards of the population in general are modest but rising. According to the government, only a small fraction of the population lives below the poverty line. Although austere budgets and the general removal of subsidies have reduced social welfare provisions overall, a number of programs have been initiated to ensure the protection of the poor and socially vulnerable. The best known of these is the National Solidarity Fund, established in 1992, which channels private, public, and institutional donations to development projects around the country. Additional funds support numerous other social welfare programs. The country's national health system provides nearly all of its population with access to medical care. Despite rising public expenditure on health, many Tunisians have been turning to private health care as demand outstrips supply. A good network of hospitals and clinics has contributed to a relatively low death rate and, in particular, to one of the lowest infant mortality rates on the African continent.

Housing
 Traditional urban housing in Tunisia—found in the old city centres, or medinas—consisted of tightly arranged structures grouped within town walls and interlaced by a network of narrow walkways and passages. Building exteriors generally were whitewashed, with little decoration, while interiors were ornate and comfortable. Each neighbourhood (Arabic: ḥārah) was restricted to a particular ethnic or religious group, and it was only with the beginning of the protectorate that these city centres began to give way to European-style city plans. Following independence, the government began to encourage the restoration of the medinas, and architects have more recently sought to mitigate Western influence in favour of traditional architectural patterns.

      The government has promoted housing growth in both urban and rural areas, thereby attempting to stem the flow of migrants to the country's cities. This project has been fairly successful, facilitated by the establishment of essential services in the countryside, including irrigation projects designed to provide rural employment. According to the Tunisian government, most families own their own homes.

      Unique to the region are the underground dwellings found in the rural southeastern part of the country. These structures were designed for habitation in a harsh, arid environment and generally consist of a sunken central courtyard surrounded by individual family dwellings, storage areas, and workrooms, all of which are built into the earth. (Scenes from the motion picture Star Wars were filmed at such a dwelling located in the village of Matmata [Maṭmāṭah].)

Education
      Education is free to all school-age children, and schooling is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. Virtually all of the country's children are enrolled in primary education, and nearly one-sixth of its young people go on to attend one of the country's universities or institutes of higher learning. More than three-fourths of the population is literate; the rate among men is somewhat higher than that among women, but the gap is narrowing.

 Growth in the number of schools, students, and teachers has created a serious financial strain, as education has constituted one of the largest shares of the annual national budget. Students have had no alternative other than turning to private funding to supplement state education allowances, and they increasingly have been denied the choice of subject area or school. Given the difficulties of finding enough job opportunities for qualified people, more emphasis has been placed on technical, vocational, teacher, and agricultural training. The University of Tunis (founded 1960) is the country's major institution of higher education. Several more universities have opened since the 1980s, and there are also religious schools.

Cultural life
      Tunisians are an independent-minded people who take pride in the rich admixture of native and foreign influences that make up their national character. Their Arab-Muslim country was deeply imbued with French culture during the 75 years of the protectorate, which ended in 1956.

Daily life and social customs
      In general, though Tunisians consider themselves to be more liberal and tolerant than their neighbours—most urban women, for example, dress in Western clothes and do not veil themselves, and (though it is considered inappropriate by some Tunisian Muslims) locally made wines and spirits are consumed—they still maintain a strong Islamic identity. Thus, Tunisians absorb new cultural influences from abroad while insisting on upholding their own values, but they are also vigilant about the impact of Western influence on their way of life. Those concerns led to a revival of some forms of social and religious conservatism in the 1990s, notably affecting women in the public sphere. Street cafés have increasingly become the preserve of men, especially in rural areas where relations between the sexes are still governed by conservative social norms.

      Even Westernized Tunisians adhere to certain traditional values; foremost among these is the role of the family as the centre of social life. Meals are an important time for families to gather. Tunisian cuisine consists of a medley of European cuisine—largely French and Italian—and traditional dishes. As in the rest of the Maghrib, couscous, a semolina-based pasta, is a staple of virtually every meal and is customarily served with a rich stew. Other native basics are lamb, peppers, onions, chickpeas (often served in cakes as a dessert), and olive oil. Various types of seafood can be found near the coast. Unlike other cuisines of the Maghrib, Tunisian food is replete with hot spices, and harissa, a fiery red sauce, is served with most dishes.

      Tunisians observe the standard Islamic holidays as well as several secular and national holidays, such as Independence Day (March 20) and Women's Day (August 13).

The arts
      Dotted with the ruins of ancient civilizations, Tunisia is an important location for the study of world archaeology and architecture. Among the most significant of its numerous historic sites are Al-Zaytūnah Mosque in Tunis, which dates to the 8th century AD, the slightly older Great Mosque of ʿUqbah ibn Nāfiʿ in Kairouan, and the remains of the ancient city of Carthage.

      Although Tunisians generally use French or English in the scientific disciplines, they remain genuinely attached to Arabic (Arabic literature) in the literary sphere—in poetry, the novel, and the short story. Historical figures of philosophy and literature, such as the 11th-century litterateurs Ibrāhīm al-Ḥuṣrī, Ḥasan ibn Rashīq, and Muḥammad ibn Sharaf al-Qayrawānī and the 14th-century polymath Ibn Khaldūn, are still revered. Modern Tunisian literature grew from a cultural renaissance in the early 20th century. Social essayist Tahar Haddad, satirist Ali Douagi, poet Aboul Kacem Chabbi, and others have paved the way for a new realist trend in Tunisian literature by combining modern European styles with contemporary Tunisian themes. Increasingly, Tunisian writers, including women, are gaining international prominence.

      Tunisian cinema has been gradually making its way to an international audience—among the luminaries of the Tunisian cinema are the directors Moufida Tlatli (Ṣamt al-Quṣūr [1994; The Silence of the Palaces]) and Férid Boughedir (Un été à La Goulette [1995; A Summer in La Goulette])—and Tunisia has been the location for major motion picture productions, including Star Wars (1977) and The English Patient (1996).

Cultural institutions
      Contemporary Tunisian painting can also lay claim to a certain tradition, with the École de Tunis being foremost among artistic institutions. Tunisian artists such as Hamadi Ben Saad and Hassen Soufy enjoy a genuine local celebrity and have also exhibited abroad. Music- and theatre-based cultural festivals—notably the Carthage International Festival, the Testour Maalouf Festival of traditional Andalusian malouf (maʾlūf) music, the Sousse International Cultural Festival, and the International Jazz Festival of Tabarka—have become a feature of Tunisian life. Since Tunisians have generally been concerned about the influence of tourism on their social and cultural lives, the country's premier music conservatory, the Rashīdiyya Institute (1934), devotes attention mainly to national traditions while emphasizing classical European heritage. Tunisians are especially proud of El-Azifet, an exclusively female ensemble inspired by traditional malouf and mouachah (muwashshaḥ) music and traditional musicians such as Anouar Brahem.

 The National Archives (1874) and the National Library (1885), both located in Tunis, contain large collections of documents, including books and manuscripts, the latter in Arabic and Ottoman Turkish. There are also a number of museums located throughout the country, the most notable of which is probably the Bardo National Museum (1888). This institution, located in the former palace of the Ottoman bey in the medina, or old quarter, of Tunis, houses collections of fine works dating from the Carthaginian, Roman, and Islamic periods. Among its holdings is the largest—and possibly the finest—collection of Roman mosaics in the world. The Carthage Museum (1964), a repository of numerous antiquities from the ancient and medieval periods, is located near the site of the ancient city and in close proximity to several important excavations. Several of these culturally significant locations in Tunisia have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites (World Heritage site), including Carthage and the medina of Tunis in 1979 and the historic city of Kairouan and the medina of Sousse in 1988.

Sports and recreation
      Football (football (soccer)) (soccer) is the most popular modern sport. Tunisia has fielded teams for the African Cup of Nations and World Cup competitions. Football is also a family sport and has been important in creating a demand for satellite television. Athletics has also become popular in the country, and Tunisian runners have achieved international renown at middle- and long-distance events. Tourism has provided resources for the development of other sports, including golf, hiking, and windsurfing. Scuba diving has benefited from a vigorous conservation program designed to protect the undersea flora and fauna. Tunisian women have not been excluded from participating in sports—as women often have in other Arab countries—and they have been encouraged to begin competing at an early age. The traditional sport of wild boar hunting is practiced mostly in the dunes, hills, and mountains of the Tabarka region.

Media and publishing
      While there is no official censorship of the media, self-censorship has become a feature of daily life, as various types of government coercion have restricted the ability of journalists and political personalities to speak freely. Nonetheless, the high rate of literacy and the sizable middle class have helped to sustain an avid readership for the large number of periodicals (notably business and economics) that are published, and the number of citizens with access to satellite television and the Internet has grown considerably since the late 1990s.

      The state-run company Etablissement de la Radiodiffusion Télévision Tunisienne (ERTT) is the sole domestic provider of broadcast material, both television and radio. The majority of the country's daily newspapers are in French, and French-language television and radio programs are broadcast daily along with those in Arabic and Italian.

Mohamed Talbi John Innes Clarke Emma Murphy

History
      The following discussion offers a brief summary of Tunisia's early history but mainly focuses on Tunisia since about 1800. For a more detailed treatment of earlier periods and of the country in its regional context, see North Africa.

 Tunisia was called Ifrīqiyyah in the early centuries of the Islamic period. That name, in turn, comes from the Roman word for Africa and the name also given by the Romans to their first African colony following the Punic Wars against the Carthaginians in 264–146 BC. Following the decline of Rome, the region was ruled briefly by the Vandals (Vandal) and then the Byzantine Empire before being conquered by the Arabs in AD 647. Although the Arabs initially unified North Africa, by 1230 a separate Tunisian dynasty had been established by the Ḥafṣids (Ḥafṣid dynasty). Muslim Andalusians migrated to the area after having been forced out of Spain during the Reconquista, particularly following the defeat of the Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1492. By 1574, Tunisia was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, whose control of the region, always tenuous, had all but dissolved by the 19th century.

      Tunisia is the smallest of the Maghrib states and consequently the most cohesive. By the beginning of the 19th century, virtually all of its inhabitants spoke Arabic. Berber (Amazigh languages), the earlier language of the Maghrib, survived in Tunisia in only a few pockets, mainly in the extreme south. The vast majority of the population was Muslim, with a small Jewish minority. A single major city, Tunis, dominated the countryside both politically and culturally. Tunis itself was located near the site of the ancient city-state of Carthage. More easily controlled from within than any other Maghrib country, Tunisia was also more open to the influence of people and ideas from abroad. Roman Africa, for example, was the most intensively Christianized portion of North Africa, and Ifrīqiyyah was later more quickly and more thoroughly Islamicized.

      A small state with limited resources, Tunisia nonetheless managed to retain considerable autonomy within the framework of the larger empires that frequently ruled it from afar. This status was achieved, for example, under the ʿAbbāsids in the 9th century and later under the Ottomans. Tunisia's geographic and historical legacy helped prepare it for the shocks it received in the 19th century as a land caught between an expanding Europe and a declining Ottoman Empire. Yet, Tunisia proved to be as vulnerable economically as it was militarily.

The growth of European influence
      In 1830, at the time of the French invasion of Algiers, Tunisia was officially a province of the Ottoman Empire but in reality was an autonomous state. Because the principal military threat had long come from neighbouring Algeria, the reigning bey of Tunisia, Ḥusayn, cautiously went along with assurances from the French that they had no intention of colonizing Tunisia. Ḥusayn Bey even accepted the idea that Tunisian princes would rule the cities of Constantine and Oran. The scheme, however, had no chance of success and was soon abandoned.

      Tunisia's security was directly threatened in 1835, when the Ottoman Empire deposed the ruling dynasty in Libya and reestablished direct Ottoman rule. Thereafter, the vulnerable beylik of Tunis found itself surrounded by two larger powers—France and the Ottoman Empire—both of which had designs on Tunisia. From that time until the establishment of the French protectorate in 1881, Tunisian rulers had to placate the larger powers while working to strengthen the state from within.

       Aḥmad Bey, who ruled from 1837 to 1855, was an avowed modernizer and reformer. With the help of Western advisers (mainly French), he created a modern army and navy and related industries. Conscription was also introduced, to the great dismay of the peasantry. More acceptable were Aḥmad's steps to integrate Arabic-speaking native Tunisians fully into the government, which had long been dominated by Mamlūks (military slaves) and Turks. Aḥmad abolished slavery and took other modernizing steps intended to bring Tunisia more in line with Europe, but he also exposed his country to Europe's infinitely greater economic and political power. His reforms negatively affected the already stagnant economy, which led to greater debt, higher taxes, and increased unrest in the countryside.

      The next bey, Muḥammad (1855–59), tried to ignore Europe, but this was no longer possible. Continued civil disturbances and corruption prompted the British and French to force the bey to issue the Fundamental Pact (ʿAhd al-Amān; September 1857), a civil rights charter modeled on the Ottoman rescript of 1839.

      The final collapse of the Tunisian beylik came during the reign of Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq (1859–82). Though sympathetic to the need for reforms, Muḥammad was too weak either to control his own government or to keep the European powers at bay. He did, in 1861, proclaim the first constitution (dustūr; also destour) in the Arabic-speaking world, but this step toward representative government was cut short by runaway debt, a problem exacerbated by the government's practice of securing loans from European bankers at exorbitant rates.

      When the principal minister, Muṣṭafā Khaznadār (who had served from the earliest days of Aḥmad Bey's reign), attempted to squeeze more taxes out of the hard-pressed peasants, the countryside rose in a revolt (1864). This uprising almost overthrew the regime, but the government ultimately suppressed it through a combination of guile and brutality.

      Though Tunisia went bankrupt in 1869 and an international financial commission—with British, French, and Italian representatives—was imposed on the country, there was one last attempt to reform Tunisia from within and thus avoid complete European domination. It was made during the reformist ministry of Khayr al-Dīn (1873–77), one of the most effective statesmen of the 19th-century Muslim world. However, enemies from within and European intrigues from without conspired to force him from office. The final blow to Tunisia's sovereignty came at the Congress of Berlin (Berlin, Congress of) in 1878, when Britain acquiesced to France's control of Tunisia.

      On the pretext that Tunisians had encroached on Algerian territory, France invaded Tunisia in 1881 and imposed the Treaty of Bardo (Bardo, Treaty of), which sanctioned French military occupation of Tunisia, transferred to France the bey's authority over finance and foreign relations, and provided for the appointment of a French resident minister as intermediary in all matters of common interest. This provoked an uprising in southern Tunisia during which France attacked and captured Sousse in July 1881, took Kairouan in October, and seized Gafsa and Gabès in November. After the death of Muḥammad al-Ṣādiq, his successor, ʿAlī, was forced to introduce administrative, judicial, and financial reforms that the French government considered useful. This agreement, known as the Convention of Al-Marsa, was signed in 1883 and solidified French control over Tunisia.

The protectorate (1881–1956)
      Tunisia became a protectorate of France by treaty rather than by outright conquest, as was the case in Algeria. Officially, the bey remained an absolute monarch: Tunisian ministers were still appointed, the government structure was preserved, and Tunisians continued to be subjects of the bey. The French did not confiscate land, convert mosques into churches, or change the official language. Nevertheless, supreme authority was passed to the French resident general.

      Under French guidance, Tunisia's finances were soon stabilized and modern communications established. Though France never overtly seized land or displaced the population, both of which had occurred in Algeria, the most fertile portions of northern Tunisia, comprising the Majardah valley and the Sharīk Peninsula, were passed on to other European countries. Valuable phosphate mines began operating near Gafsa in the south, and vegetables were cultivated and exported from the Majardah valley after French and Italian colonists had become established there.

      By the 1890s a small French-educated group—the members of which came to be called “ Young Tunisians”—began pushing for both modernizing reforms based on a European model and greater participation by Tunisians in their own government. The group's conduct during the protectorate, however, was cautious and reserved. Their major weapon became the newspaper Le Tunisien, a French-language publication founded in 1907. With the printing of an Arabic edition in 1909, the Young Tunisians simultaneously educated their compatriots and persuaded the more liberal French to help move Tunisia toward modernity.

      Even this moderate protonationalism was subject to repressive measures by the French in 1911–12. Little nationalist activity took place during World War I (1914–18), but the first attempt at mass political organization came during the interwar period, when the Destour (Constitution) Party was created (the party was named for the short-lived Tunisian constitution of 1861). In 1920 the Destour Party presented the bey and the French government with a document that demanded that a constitutional form of government be established in which Tunisians would possess the same rights as Europeans. The immediate result was the arrest of ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Thaʿālibī, the Destour leader. Two years later the aged bey, Muḥammad al-Nāṣir, requested that the program of the Destour be adopted or he would abdicate. In response, the resident general, Lucien Saint, surrounded the bey's palace with troops, and the demand was withdrawn. Saint thus introduced restrictive measures, together with minor reforms, that pacified Tunisian sentiment and weakened the nationalist movement for several years.

      In 1934 a young Tunisian lawyer, Habib Bourguiba (Bourguiba, Habib), and his colleagues broke with the Destour Party to form a new organization, the Neo-Destour (Democratic Constitutional Rally), which aimed at spreading propaganda and gaining mass support. Under Bourguiba's vigorous leadership, the new party soon supplanted the existing Destour Party and its leaders. Attempts by the French to suppress the new movement only fueled the fire. The Neo-Destour began to gain more power and influence after the arrival of the Popular Front government in France in 1936. When the Popular Front government collapsed, repression was renewed in Tunisia and was met with civil disobedience. In 1938 serious disturbances led to the arrest of Bourguiba and other leaders of the party, which was then officially dissolved.

      At the outbreak of war in 1939, Neo-Destour leaders, though still untried, were deported to France. However, they were released by the Nazis in 1942 following the German occupation of Vichy France, and, since Hitler regarded Tunisia as a sphere of Italian influence, he handed them over to the fascist government in Rome. There the leaders were treated with deference, the fascists hoping to gain support for the Axis. Bourguiba steadily refused to cooperate. In March 1943 he made a noncommittal broadcast, and the Neo-Destour leaders were finally allowed to proceed to Tunis, where the reigning bey, Muḥammad al-Munṣif (Moncef), formed a ministry of individuals who were sympathetic to Destour.

      The assumption of power by the Free French after the Nazi retreat produced complete disillusionment for the Neo-Destour cause. The bey was deposed, while Bourguiba, accused of collaboration with the Nazis, escaped imprisonment by fleeing in disguise to Egypt in 1945. Still, a vigorous campaign of propaganda for Tunisian independence continued, and, in view of the emancipation of the eastern Arab states and later of neighbouring Libya, the French felt compelled to make concessions. In 1951 the French permitted a government with nationalist sympathies to take office—of which the secretary-general of the Neo-Destour, Salah Ben Youssef, became a member—and Bourguiba was allowed to return to Tunisia. When the newly formed government wished to establish a Tunisian parliament, however, further repressions ensued; Bourguiba was exiled, and most of the ministers were put under arrest. This resulted, for the first time, in outbreaks of terrorism. Nationalist guerrillas began to operate in the mountains, virtually paralyzing the country.

      In July 1954 the French premier, Pierre Mendès-France (Mendès-France, Pierre), promised to grant complete autonomy to Tunisia, subject to a negotiated agreement. Bourguiba returned to Tunisia and was able to supervise the negotiations without directly participating. In June 1955 an agreement was finally signed by the Tunisian delegates—though it imposed strict limits in the fields of foreign policy, education, defense, and finance—and a mainly Neo-Destour ministry was formed. Salah Ben Youssef denounced the document, saying it was too restrictive, and refused to attend a specially summoned congress that unanimously supported Bourguiba. In response, he organized a brief armed resistance in the south that was quickly repressed. Ben Youssef fled the country to escape imprisonment; he was assassinated in 1961.

Independence
      The French granted full independence to Tunisia in an accord that was reached on March 20, 1956, and Bourguiba was chosen prime minister. The rule of the beys was subsequently abolished, and on July 25, 1957, a republic was declared, with Bourguiba as president.

Domestic development
      After independence was granted, the Neo-Destour Party (from 1964 to 1988 the Destourian Socialist Party; from 1988 the Democratic Constitutional Rally [known by its French acronym RCD]) ensured that Tunisia moved quickly with reforms, most notably in the areas of education, the liberation of women, and legal reforms. Economic development was slower, but the government paid considerable attention to the more impoverished parts of the country. In 1961 Ahmad Ben Salah took charge of planning and finance. His ambitious efforts at forced-pace modernization, especially in agriculture, were foiled, however, by rural and conservative opposition. Expelled from the party and imprisoned in 1969, Ben Salah escaped in 1973 to live in exile. His fall brought a move in the government toward more conservative alignment.

      In 1975 the Chamber of Deputies unanimously bestowed the presidency for life on the sick and aging Habib Bourguiba, who centralized power under his progressive but increasingly personalized rule. Hedi Amira Nouira, noted for his financial and administrative skills, became prime minister in November 1970, but his government failed to resolve the economic crisis or address growing demands for reform from liberals in his own party. A decade later, the ailing Nouira was replaced by Muhammad Mzali, who made efforts to restore dissidents to the party and by 1981 had granted amnesty to many who had been jailed for earlier disturbances. In addition, he persuaded Bourguiba to accept a multiparty system (although only one opposition party was actually legalized).

      The outcome of the elections in November 1981 was disappointing to those who sought political liberalization. The National Front, an alliance of the Destourian Socialist Party and the trade union movement, swept all 136 parliamentary seats, a result received with cynicism and dismay by the opposition. Meanwhile, an Islamist opposition was developing around the Islamic Tendency Movement (Mouvement de la Tendance Islamique [MTI]). By 1984 Bourguiba had perceived an Islamist hand behind riots and demonstrations protesting rising prices. In response, he sent in the army and initiated a fierce campaign against the MTI. Bourguiba's long rule, widely popular in its early years except among traditionalist groups, had provoked an increasing but passive opposition among Tunisians. Bourguiba, long in declining health, became unable to mask his autocratic tendencies. National elections in 1986 were boycotted by the major opposition parties, and the National Front once again carried the vote. In November 1987, amid widespread unrest and growing Islamist support, Bourguiba was declared mentally unfit to rule and was removed from office. He was succeeded by General Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali (Ben Ali, Zine al-Abidine), whom he had appointed as prime minister a month earlier.

      President Ben Ali promised political liberalization and a transition to democracy. His early reforms attempted to restore a national consensus; one of these, the National Pact signed in 1989, drew together the ruling party, the legal opposition, the Islamists, and all the national organizations. Many political parties were legalized, with the exception of the MTI (renamed Al-Nahḍah [“The Renaissance”] in 1988), but the 1989 national elections still failed to introduce a multiparty competition. The president gained 99 percent of the vote, and the RCD won all 141 seats in the legislature. Local elections in 1990, boycotted by opposition parties, were also swept by the ruling party. Following early local electoral victories by Algerian Islamists in 1990 and Islamist opposition to the First Persian Gulf War (Persian Gulf War) (1990–91), the government began to crack down on Islamist political activity.

      Although the government initially eased press controls and released political prisoners, the opposition soon became disillusioned with the new regime. Subsequently, the government turned against secular opposition, and it has since been criticized for its abuse of human rights and its reliance on military and security forces. Piecemeal electoral reforms have failed to produce any genuine form of power sharing or transfer of power away from the president's party. Similarly, the media and national organizations and associations have lost much of what little autonomy they wrested from the state, and Ben Ali's regime has increasingly been subject to accusations of authoritarianism. The government, for its part, has claimed that democratization must be a gradual process that cannot be allowed to destabilize or inhibit the processes of economic liberalization and social consolidation. The implementation of bicameral legislature in 2005 was given as a step toward political liberalization.

      Foreign relations under Habib Bourguiba were dominated by his personal conviction that Tunisia's future lay with the West and, in particular, with France and the United States. There were, nonetheless, some early crises, including a French bombing raid on the Tunisian village of Sakiet Sidi Youssef (Sāqiyat Sīdī Yūsuf) in 1958, during which France claimed the right to pursue Algerian rebels across the border; the Bizerte incident of 1961, concerning the continued military use of that port and airfield facility by France; and the suspension of all French aid in 1964–66 after Tunisia abruptly nationalized foreign-owned landholdings. These difficulties aside, Tunisia's relations with France have been improving, as have relations with the United States, despite some tensions with the latter over its involvement in the First Persian Gulf War and its policies toward the developing world. Alignment with the West was never allowed to interfere with positive trade policies with developing countries and what was then the Soviet bloc. Rather than balance East against West, Bourguiba maximized Tunisia's advantages by maintaining good relations with both and thereby reduced the country's dependency on either one. Bourguiba's pragmatism also extended to the Arab world. Rejecting ideological constraints, he argued for the Arab recognition of Israel and Arab unity based on mutually advantageous cooperation rather than political integration.

      Under Ben Ali, Tunisia has followed much the same path. The need for regional security and the desire to advance economic interests, especially trade and foreign investment, has guided foreign policy. With the uncertain future and stability of the Arab Maghrib Union, Tunisia has increasingly concentrated efforts on developing bilateral economic agreements with other Arab states, on promoting the Arab League's Arab Free Trade Area, and in advancing regional economics. An agreement with the European Union, which came into effect in 1998, has also tied Tunisia's economy and security to the Mediterranean community. Attempts to diversify trading links have led to closer ties with the East and Southeast Asia, and strong ties with the United States remain a linchpin in Tunisia's ability to present itself as a stable, reliable, and moderate state. Tunisia has been keen on supporting international organizations, in particular the United Nations, which it has viewed as the protector of smaller states and the defender of international law.

Nevill Barbour L. Carl Brown Emma Murphy

Additional Reading

Geography
General texts are Harold D. Nelson (ed.), Tunisia: A Country Study, 3rd ed. (1988); Russell A. Stone and John Simmons (eds.), Change in Tunisia: Studies in the Social Sciences (1976); and Emma C. Murphy, Economic and Political Change in Tunisia: From Bourguiba to Ben Ali (1999). On geography, useful works include Wilfrid Knapp, Tunisia (1970); Ahmed Kassab and Hafedh Séthom, Géographie de la Tunisie: le pays et les hommes (1980); Mohamed Fakhfakh (ed.), Atlas de Tunisie (1979); and Horst Mensching, Tunesien: eine geographische Landeskunde, 3rd rev. ed. (1979). Other specialized volumes include James Allman, Social Mobility, Education, and Development in Tunisia (1979); Ghazi Duwaji, Economic Development in Tunisia (1967); and I. William Zartman (ed.), Tunisia: The Political Economy of Reform (1991). On the Islamist challenge in Tunisia, good articles include I. William Zartman, “The Challenge of Democratic Alternatives in the Maghrib,” in John Ruedy (ed.), Islamism and Secularism in North Africa (1994, reissued 1996). A useful article on political change and reform is L. Anderson, “Political Pacts, Liberalism, and Democracy: The Tunisian National Pact of 1988,” Government and Opposition, 26:244–260 (Spring 1991). Discussions on economic developments are provided by Abdeljabar Bsaies, “Programme d'ajustement structurel et croissance en Tunisie,” Revue tunisienne d'economie, 5:21–84 (1994); and Béchir Chourou, “The Free-Trade Agreement Between Tunisia and the European Union,” The Journal of North African Studies, 3(1):25–56 (Spring 1998).

History
Kenneth J. Perkins, Tunisia: Crossroads of the Islamic and European Worlds (1986), summarizes history, socioeconomics, and politics from pre-Islamic times to the mid-1980s. L. Carl Brown, The Tunisia of Ahmad Bey, 1837–1855 (1974), studies in detail the beginnings of Westernization. Mezri Bdira, Relations internationales et sous-développement: la Tunisie, 1857–1864 (1978), clarifies the policies of Tunisian leadership during this period. Arnold H. Green, The Tunisian Ulama, 1873–1915 (1978), shows well how the religious institutions fitted into society in this period of transformation. Lucette Valensi, Tunisian Peasants in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (1985; originally published in French, 1977), is a thorough study firmly based on material in Tunisian national archives. Dwight L. Ling, Tunisia: From Protectorate to Republic (1967), provides an overview. Charles A. Micaud, Tunisia: The Politics of Modernization (1964), reviews ideological change during the protectorate and the Neo-Destour Party. Clement Henry Moore, Tunisia Since Independence: The Dynamics of One-Party Government (1965, reprinted 1982), is a thorough political study of Tunisia under Habib Bourguiba. Other political studies include Lisa Anderson, The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830–1980 (1986); and Norma Salem, Habib Bourguiba, Islam, and the Creation of Tunisia (1984). A very accessible biography of Bourguiba is Derek Hopwood, Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia: The Tragedy of Longevity (1992). Works on politics include Eva Bellin, “Civil Society in Formation: Tunisia,” in Augustus Richard Norton (ed.), Civil Society in the Middle East, vol. 1, pp. 120–147 (1995); I. William Zartman (ed.), Tunisia: The Political Economy of Reform (1991); and Dirk Vandewalle, “Ben Ali's New Era: Pluralism and Economic Privatization in Tunisia,” in Henri J. Barkey (ed.), The Politics of Economic Reform in the Middle East (1992). Information on the rise and challenge of Islamists in Tunisia can be found in Franƈois Burgat and William Dowell, The Islamic Movement in North Africa, 2nd ed. (1997, originally published in French); and Susan E. Waltz, Human Rights and Reform: Changing the Face of North African Politics (1995).Emma Murphy

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Universalium. 2010.

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