History of modern Tunisia


History of modern Tunisia

The present day Republic of Tunisia, "al-Jumhuriyyah at-Tunisiyyah", has over ten million citizens, almost all of Arab-Berber descent. The Mediterranean Sea is to the north and east, Libya to the southeast, and Algeria to the west. [See map at end of article.] Tunis is the capital and the largest city (over 800,000); it is located near the ancient site of the city of Carthage. Throughout its recorded history the physical features and environment of the land of Tunisia have remained fairly constant, yet during ancient times more abundant forests grew in the north, [Cf., LaVerle Berry and Robert Rinehart, "The Society and Its Environment" at 71-143, 79, in Nelson (editor), "Tunisia. A Country Study" (Washington, D.C., 3rd ed. 1987).] and earlier in prehistory the Sahara to the south was not an arid desert. [Prior to 6000 years ago, evidently the vast Sahara region to the south was better watered, more a savanna which could support herds; yet then a desiccation process set in, leaving the parched desert it is today. Robert Rinehart, "Historical Setting" at 1-70, 4, in Nelson (editor), "Tunisia. A Country Study" (Washington, D.C., 3rd ed. 1987).] [Emile F. Gautier, "Le Sahara" (Paris: Payot, 2nd ed. 1928), expanded edition translated by Dorothy Ford Mayhew as "Sahara. The Great Desert" (Columbia Univ. 1935) at 56-61.]

Weather in the north is temperate, enjoying a Mediterranean climate, with mild rainy winters and hot dry summers, the terrain being wooded and fertile. The Medjerda river valley (Wadi Majardah, northeast of Tunis) is currently valuable farmland. Along the eastern coast the central plains enjoy a moderate climate, less rainfall but with heavy dew; these coastlands are currently used for orchards and grazing. Near the mountainous Algerian border rises "Jebel ech Chambi", the highest point at 1544 meters. In the near south, an east-west belt of salt lakes cuts across the country. Further south lies the Sahara desert, including sand dunes of the "Grand Erg Oriental". [Kenneth J. Perkins, "Tunisia. Crossroads of the Islamic and European Worlds" (Boulder, Colorado: Westview 1986) at 1-5.] [Jamil M. Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (Cambridge Univ. 1971) at 1-6.] [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ts.html "The World Factbook" on "Tunisia"] .]

Ottoman Caliphate, and the Beys

[
Ottoman Empire (1299-1918), here to 1683.] A long-term contest for the Mediterranean began in the sixteenth century, between Spaniard (who in 1492 completed the "reconquista") and Turk (who had captured Constantinople in 1453). Spain then occupied a series of ports in North Africa, e.g., Oran (1505), Tripoli (1510), Tunis (1534). Some Muslim rulers encouraged Turkish forces to enter the area in order to counter the Spanish presence. The Hafsids of Tunis, however, saw in the Muslim Turks a greater threat and arranged a Spanish alliance. [Cf., Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 51-54.] [Spain also had a tacit alliance with the Sa'dids of Morocco. Laroui, "A History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 250-251.]

The Ottoman Empire accepted many corsairs as their agents, who made Algiers their base, including Khair al-Din [Arabic name] and his brother Aruj (both known for red beards and called Barbarossa), [The brothers hailed from the Greek island of Lesbos (Medelli). Wm. Spencer, "Algiers in the Age of the Corsairs" (Oklahoma Univ. 1976) at 18.] and Uluj Ali. [Uluj Ali, also spelled Ochiali, was a renegade of Italian (Neapolitan, Calabrian) origin. Later from the Sultan he received the name "Kilij" [Turkish for "sword"] . J.P.D.B.Kinross, "The Ottoman Centuries. The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire" (New York: Wm. Morrow, Quill 1977) at 271.] In 1551 the corsair Dragut was installed in Tripoli; he entered Kairouan in 1558. [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 251.] Then in 1569 Uluj Ali, advancing from Algiers, seized Tunis. [Fernand Braudel in his ""La Méditerranée et le Monde Méditerranéen à l'Epoque de Philip II" (Librairie Armand Colin 1949, 2d ed. 1966), translated by Siân Reynolds as "The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II" (Wm. Collins/Harper & Row 1973, reprint 1976) at II: 1066-1068. Here Uluj Ali is called "Euldj 'Ali".] [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 173.] After the Christian naval victory at Lepanto in 1571, [The combined fleets of various Christian powers, including Spain as well as Venice and Genoa, under the leadership of Don Juan of Austria (half-brother of Philip II of Spain) met and defeated the Turkish fleet off the coast of western Greece. Algerian ships under Uluj Ali escaped. J.Beeching, "The Galleys at Lepanto" (New York: Scribner's 1982) at 184-187, 219, 233-234.] Don Juan of Austria retook Tunis for Spain in 1573. Uluj Ali returned in 1574 with a large fleet and army to capture Tunis with finality, and then sent the last Hafsid to Constantinople. [Rinehart, "Historical Setting" 1-70 at 22, in "Tunisia. A country study" (3rd ed. 1986).]

Janissary Deys

Following imposition in 1574 of permanent Ottoman imperial rule, government in Tunisia was put on a more stable footing after a long period of flux and chaos. The Porte in Constantinople appointed a Pasha as the civil and military authority in Tunisia, which was made a province of the empire. Turkish became the language of the state. The capital city of Tunis was originally garrisoned with 4,000 Janissaries, recruited primarily from Anatolia, commanded by an Agha. The Porte did not maintain the ranks of "Janissaries", rather the Pasha in Tunisia himself began to recruit such soldiery from many different regions. From 1574 to 1591 a council (the Diwan), composed of senior military ("buluk-bashis") and local notables, advised the provincial government.

The new energy of Turkish rule was welcome in Tunis, and by the ulama. Although the Ottomans preferred the Hanifi school of law, some Tunisian Maliki jurists were admitted into the administration. Yet the rule remained one of a foreign elite. In the countryside, efficient Turkish troops managed to control the tribes without compromising alliances, but their rule was unpopular. The rural economy was never brought under effective regulation by the central authority. For revenues the government continued to rely primarily on corsair raiding in the Mediterranean.

In 1591 Janissary junior officers ("deys") who were not of Turkish origin forced the Pasha to acknowledge the authority of one of their own men, called the Dey (elected by his fellow deys). Relatively independent of the Ottomans, the Dey exercized control in the cities. 'Uthman Dey (1598-1610) and Yusuf Dey (1610-1637) managed well enough to establish peace and order in place of chronic social turbulence.

In the tribal rural areas, control and collection of taxes were assigned to a chieftain, called the Bey [Turkish] . Twice a year, armed expeditions ("mahallas") patrolled the countryside, showing the arm of the central authority. As an auxiliary force, the Beys organized rural cavalry ("sipahis"), mostly Arab, recruited from what came to be called "government" ("makhzan") tribes. [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 55-57.] [Abun-Nasr, "A History of North Africa" (1971) at 177-178.]

Muradid Beys

Ramdan Bey had sponsored the Corsican Murad Curso since his youth. [His second name "Curso" indicates his Corsican origin. A Spanish intelligence report of 1568 estimated that there were 10,000 renegades in Algiers, of whom 6,000 were Corsicans. Fernand Braudel, "The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World" (1949, 1966, 1973) at I: 159-160.] After Ramdan's death in 1613, Murad then followed his benefactor into the office of the Bey, which he exercized effectively (1613-1631). Eventually he was also named Pasha, a ceremonial post; his position as Bey remained inferior to the Dey. His son Hamuda (r.1631-1666) inherited both titles, with the support of the local notables of Tunis. By virtue of his title as Pasha, the Bey came to enjoy the prestige of connection with the Sultan-Caliph in Constantinople. In 1640, at the death of the Dey, Hamuda Bey maneuvered to establish his control over appointments to that office.

Under Murad II Bey (r.1666-1675), son of Hamuda, the "Diwan" again functioned as a council of notables. Yet in 1673 the janissary deys, seeing their power ebbing, rose in revolt. During the consequent fighting, the urban forces of the janissary deys fought against the Muradid Beys with their largely rural forces under the tribal shaykhs, and with popular support from city notables. As the Beys secured victory, so did the rural Bedouins and the Tunisian notables, who also emerged triumphant. The Arabic language returned to local official use, although the Muradids continued to use Turkish in the central government, accentuating their elite status and Ottoman connection.

At Murad II Bey's death, internal discord with the Muradid family led to armed struggle. The Turkish rulers of Algeria later intervened on behalf of one side in a subsequent domestic conflict; the Algerian forces did not withdraw and proved unpopular. This unfortunate condition of civil discord and Algerian interference persisted. The last Muradid Bey was assassinated in 1702 by Ibrahim Sharif, who then ruled for several years with Algerian backing. [Laroui, "The History of the Maghrib" (1970, 1977) at 255-256.] [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 56-58, 60.] [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 178-180.]

A gradual economic shift occurred during the Muradid era, as corsair raiding decreased due to pressure from Europe, and commercial trading based on agricultural products (chiefly grains) increased due to an integration of the rural population into regional networks. Mediterranean trade, however, continued to be carried by European shipping concerns. The Beys, in order to derive the maximum advantage from the export trade, in addition to taxation instituted government monopolies which mediated between the local producers and foreign merchants. As a result, the rulers and their business partners (drawn from foreign-dominated elites connected to the Ottomans) took a disproportionate share of Tunisia's trading profits. [Government control of the economic wealth was evidently common in the region during the 16th century. Cf., Fernand Braudel, "The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World" (1949, 1966, 1973) at I: 449-451. From such systematic policy in practice would later emerge the Mercantilist economic theory.] This precluded the development of local interests, whether rural landowners or a wealthy merchant strata. A social divide persisted, with the important families in Tunisia identified as a "Turkish" ruling caste. [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 58-61.]

Husaynid Beys

The Husaynid Beys ruled from 1705 to 1881, and reigned until 1957. In theory, Tunisia continued as a vassal of the Ottoman empire (the Friday prayer was pronounced in the name of the Ottoman Sultan, money was coined in his honor, and an annual ambassador brought gifts to Istanbul) but the Ottomans never were able to depend on, or exact, obedience.

Husayn ibn Ali (1669-1740), a cavalry officer of Greek Cretan origin, came into power in 1705, remaining in control until 1735. He had won backing from the Tunisian ulama and notables, as well as from the tribes, for his opposition to Algerian influence which was removed. Yet in a succession dispute, his nephew Ali and his son Muhammad fought a divisive civil war, which ended in 1740 with Ali's uncertain victory. This result was reversed in 1756 after ten more years of fighting, but not without meddling by Algeria. [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 61-62.]

Early Husaynid policy required a careful balance among several divergent parties: the Ottomans, the Turkish speaking elite in Tunisia, and local Tunisians (both urban and rural, notables and clerics, landowners and the more remote tribes). Entanglement with the Ottoman Empire was avoided due to its potential ability to absorb the Bey's prerogatives; yet religious ties to the Ottoman Caliph were fostered, which increased the prestige of the Beys and helped in winning approval of the local ulama and deference from the notables. Janissaries were still recruited, but increasing reliance was placed on tribal forces. Turkish was spoken at the apex, but use of Arabic increased in government use. "Kouloughlis" (children of mixed Turkish and Tunisian parentage) and native Tunisians notables were given increased admittance into higher positions and deliberations. The Husaynid Beys, however, did not themselves intermarry with Tunisians; instead they often turned to the institution of mamluks for marriage partners. Mamluks also served in elite positions. [In Tunisian practice, non-Muslim slave youths were purchased in Ottoman markets, educated with royal scions in high government service and in the Muslim religion, converted, given high echelon posts, and often married to royal daughters. Mamluks would number about 100. Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 63.] The dynasty never ceased to identify as Ottoman, and thereby privileged. Nonetheless, the local ulama were courted, with funding for religious education and the clerics. Local jurists (Maliki) entered government service. Marabouts of the rural faithful were mollified. Tribal shaykhs were recognized and invited to conferences. Especially favored at the top were a handful of prominent families, Turkish speaking, who were given business and land opportunities, as well as important posts in the government, depending on their loyalty. [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1986) at 62-63, 66.]

The French Revolution and reactions to it caused disruptions in European economic activity which provided opportunities for Tunisia to profit handsomely. Hammouda Pasha (1781-1813) was Bey during this period of prosperity; he also turned back an Algerian invasion in 1807, and quelled a janissary revolt in 1811.

After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Britain and France secured the Bey's agreement to cease sponsoring or permitting corsair raids, which had resumed during the Napoleonic conflict. Then in the 1820s economic activity in Tunisia took a steep downturn. The Tunisian government was particularly affected due to its monopoly positions regarding many exports. Credit was obtained to weather the deficits, but eventually the debt would grow to unmanageable levels. Foreign business interests increasingly exercized control over domestic commerce. Foreign trade proved to be a Trojan Horse. [Lucette Valensi, "Le Magheb avang la prise d'Alger (Paris 1969), translated as "On the Eve of Colonialism: North Africa before the French conquest" (New York: Africana 1977); cited by Perkins (1986) at 67.] Under the French Protectorate (1881-1956) the Husaynid Beys continued in a largely ceremonial rôle. Following independence, a republic was declared in 1957; the Beylical office was terminated and the Husaynid dynasty came to an end.

Era of Reform

In the 19th century under the Husaynid Beyds, commerce with the Europeans increased, with permanent residences established by many foreign merchants. In 1819 the Bey agreed to quit corsair raids. In 1830 the Bey also agreed to enforce in Tunisia the capitulation treaties between the Ottomans and various European powers, under which European consuls would act as judges in legal cases involving their nationals. During 1830 the French royal army occupied neighboring Algeria.

Ahmad Bey (1837-1855) assumed the throne during this complex situation. Following the examples of the Ottoman Empire under sultan Mahmud II, and of Egypt under Muhammad Ali, he moved to intensify a program to update and upgrade the Tunisian armed forces. In pursuit of this policy, he instituted a military school and started industries to supply a more modern army and navy. In a major step, he initiated the recruitment and conscription of individual native Tunisians (instead of foreigners and by tribes) to serve in the army and navy, a step which would reduce the long division between the state and its citizens. Yet the resulting tax increases for these military improvements measures were not popular. [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1989) at 69-72.]

Although desiring Ottoman support, Ahmad Bey repeatedly refused to apply in Tunisia the Ottoman legal reforms concerning citizen rights, i.e., the Tanzimat of 1839. Instead, he instituted progressive laws of his own, showing native Tunisian authority in the modernizing project and hence the redundancy of importing any of the Ottoman reforms. The Slave trade was abolished in 1841, slavery in 1846. Yet these legal reforms had limited application to many Tunisians. Ahmad Bey continued the general Beylical policy, i.e., to decline or reject political attachment to the Ottoman state, but welcome religious ties to the Ottoman Caliphate. [Abun-Nasr, "A History of the Maghrib" (1971) at 259-275.] [Perkins, "Tunisia" (1989) at 72.]

As part of his maneuvering to maintain Tunisia's sovereignty, Ahmad Bey sent 4,000 Tunisian troops against the Russian Empire during the Crimean War (1854-1856). In doing so he allied Tunisia with Turkey, France, and Britain. [Robert Rinehart, "Historical Setting" 1-70, at 27, in "Tunisia. A country study" (3rd ed., 1987).] {IN PROGRESS}

Modernity and the French Republic

As the 19th century commenced, the country remained quasi-autonomous, although officially still an Ottoman province. Trade with Europe increased dramatically with western merchants arriving to establish businesses in the country. In 1861, Tunisia enacted the first constitution in the Arab world, but a move toward a modernizing republic was hampered by the poor economy and by political unrest. Loans made by foreigners to the government were becoming difficult to manage. In 1869, Tunisia declared itself bankrupt; an international financial commission, with representatives from France, the United Kingdom, and Italy, took control over the economy.

Initially, Italy was the country that demonstrated the most desire to have Tunisia as a colony having investment, citizens and geographic proximity as motivation. However this was rebuffed when Britain and France co-operated to prevent this during the years 1871 – 1878 ending in Britain supporting French influence in Tunisia in exchange for dominion over Cyprus. France still had the issue of Italian influence (related to the huge colony of Tunisian Italians emigrated to Tunisia) and thus decided to find an excuse for a pre-emptive strike. Using the pretext of a Tunisian incursion into Algeria, France invaded with an army of about 36,000 which quickly advanced to Tunis and forced the Bey to make terms in the form of the 1881 Treaty of Bardo (Al Qasr as Sa'id), which gave France control of Tunisian governance and making it a de-facto French protectorate.

In the spring of 1881, the French army occupied Tunisia, claiming that Tunisian troops had crossed the border to Algeria, France's primary colony in Northern Africa. Italy, also interested in Tunisia, protested, but did not risk a war with France. On May 12 of that year, Tunisia was officially made a French protectorate with the signature of the treaty of Bardo by Muhammad III as-Sadiq. [Cooley, "Baal, Christ, and Mohammed. Religion and Revolution in North Africa" (New York 1965) at 193-196; Richard M. Brace, "Morocco Algeria Tunisia" (Prentice-Hall 1964) at 36-37.]

The French progressively assumed more of the important administrative positions, and by 1884 they supervised all Tunisian government bureaus dealing with finance, post, education, telegraph, public works and agriculture. They decided to guarantee the Tunisian debt, and then abolished the international finance commission. French settlements in the country were actively encouraged; the number of French colonists grew from 34,000 in 1906 to 144,000 in 1945, occupying approximately one-fifth of the cultivated land. Roads, ports, railroads, and mines were developed. In rural areas the French administration strengthened the local officials ("qa'ids") and weakened the independent tribes. An additional judicial system was established for Europeans but available generally, set-up without interfering with the existing Sharia courts, available as always for the legal matters of Tunisians.

Many welcomed the progressive changes, but preferred to manage their own affairs. Kayr al-Din in the 1860s and 1870s had introduced modernizing reforms before the French occupation. Some of his companions later founded the weekly magazine "al-Hadira" in 1888. A more radical one "al-Zahra" ran from 1890 until suppressed in 1896; as was the "Sabil al-Rashad" of 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Tha'alibi, who was inspired by Muhammad 'Abduh of Cairo, among others. Bashir Sfar initiated the discussion group "Khalduniya" in 1896. 'Ali Bash Hamba founded the French language journal "Tunisien" to inform the French public of the Tunisian complaints, but only increased unrest. Tha'alibi founded the Arabic language "Tunisien" in 1909, to challenge Hamba from a Tunisian view point. In 1911 there were civil disturbances started within the universities. Hamba and Tha'alibi came together. A political party was begun, "al-Ittihad al-Islami" [The Evolutionist] , which had pro-Ottoman leanings. Issues concerning a Muslim cemetery, the Jallaz, sparked large demonstrations which ended with martial law and the killing of many Tunisians in late 1911. Further demonstrations in 1912 led to the closing of the nationalist newspapers and the exiling of nationalist leadership. [Laroui, "History of Maghrib" at 314-315, 353, 357-361.]

Organized nationalist sentiment among Tunisians, driven underground in 1912, resurfaced after the Great War. Encouragement came from many directions, e.g., the formation of the League of Nations in 1919. Nationalists established the Destour [Constitution] Party in 1920. Habib Bourguiba established and led its successor, the Neo-Destour Party, in 1934. French authorities later banned this new party, while the fascist organizations of the Tunisian Italians supported it (Mussolini obtained the liberation of Bourghiba from a Vichy jail in 1942).

During World War II, the French authorities in Tunisia supported the Vichy government which ruled France after its capitulation to Germany in 1940. After initial victories to the east the German General Erwin Rommel, [Rommel later joined the German military's plot to kill Hitler; Rommel's preference was to arrest him and try him for war crimes. Wm. L. Shirer, "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" (New York 1960) at 1030-1032.] lacking supplies and reinforcements, in 1942 lost the decisive battle of al-Alamein (near Alexandria in Egypt) to the British General Bernard Montgomery. After learning of Allied landings in the west (Operation Torch), the Axis army retreated westward to Tunisia and set up defensive positions. The British following on his heels eventually broke these lines, although Rommel did have some early success against the "green" American troops advancing from the west, until the arrival of General George Patton who beat Rommel in battle. The fighting ended in may 1943. General Eisenhower (who earned trust by talking straight if not always clearly) stated that "far from governing a conquered country, we were attempting only to force a gradual widening of the base of government, with the final objective of turning all internal affairs over to popular control." Tunisia became a staging area for operations in the invasion of Sicily later that year. [Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Crusade in Europe" (New York 1948) at 137; Wm. L. Shirer, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" at 912-913.]

After World War II, the struggle for national independence continued and intensified. The Neo-Destour Party reemerged under Habib Bourguiba. Yet with a lack of progress, violent resistance to French rule began in the mountains during 1954. The Tunisians coordinated with independence movements in Algeria and Morocco, although it was Tunisia that first became independent. Ultimately, the Neo-Destour Party managed to gain sovereignty for its people by maneuver and finesse. [Richard M. Brace, "Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia" (Prentice-Hall 1964) at 39-52, 95-97.]

Al-Jumhuriyah at-Tunisiyah

Independence from France was achieved on March 20, 1956. The State was established as a constitutional monarchy with the Bey of Tunis, Muhammad VIII al-Amin Bey, as the king of Tunisia.

The Era of Habib Bourguiba

In 1957, the Prime Minister Habib Bourguiba (Habib Abu Ruqaiba) abolished the monarchy and firmly established his Neo Destour (New Constitution) party. The regime sought to run a strictly structured regime with efficient and equitable state operations, but not democratic-style politics. Also terminated was the "dey", a quasi-monarchist institution dating back to Ottoman rule. Then Bourguiba commenced to dominate the country for the next 31 years, governing with thoughtful programs yielding stability and economic progress, repressing Islamic fundamentalism, and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. [Brace, "Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia" (1964) at 142.] The vision that Bourguiba offered was of a Tunisian republic. The political culture would be secular, populist, and imbued with a kind of French rationalist vision of the state that was buoyant, touched with élan, "Napoleonic" in spirit. Bourguiba then saw an idiosyncratic, eclectic future combining tradition and innovation, Islam with a liberal prosperity. [Habib Bourguiba has been compared to Ataturk (Mustafa Kemal) of Turkey, as a unique national modernizing leader. Yet, what may be called an inclination to arbitrary methods when making government decisions, and to a specie of personality cult, detracted from Bourguiba's insight and substantial achievements. Perkins, "A History of Modern Tunisia" (2004), e.g., at 130, 204-209.]

"Bourguibism" was also resolutely nonmilitarist, arguing that Tunisia could never be a credible military power and that the building of a large military establishment would only consume scarce investment resources and perhaps thrust Tunisia into the cycles of military intervention in politics that had plagued the rest of the Middle East. In the name of economic development, Bourguiba nationalized various religious land holdings and dismantled several religious institutions. [On the other hand, Bourguiba also negotiated with the Catholic Church; as a result Tunisia received scores of churches and land parcels to be used for libraries or museums, and the right to be consulted in the naming of future Church leaders. John K. Cooley, "Baal, Christ, and Mohammad. Religion and Revolution in North Africa" (Holt Rinehart Winston 1965) at 3-5, 297-298.]

Bourguiba's great asset was that "Tunisia possessed a mature nationalist organization, the Neo Destour Party, which on independence day held the nation's confidence in hand." It had made its case to the city workers in the modern economy and to country folk in the traditional economy; it had excellent leaders who commanded respect and who generally developed reasonable government programs. [Brace, "Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia (1964) at 141.]

One a serious rival to Habib Bourguiba was Salah Ben Yusuf. Exiled in Cairo during the early 1950s he had absorbed the pan-Arab nationalism associated with the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser. Yet as a result of his strong opposition to the Neo Destour leadership during their negotiations with France for autonomy prior to independence, Ben Youssef was removed from his position as secretary-general and expelled from the party. Nonetheless he rallied disaffected union members, students, and others, enough to put 20,000 "yusufists" into the street during the next congress of the Neo Destour party. Eventually he left Tunisia for Cairo. [Perkins, "A History of Modern Tunisia" (Cambridge Univ. 2004) at 117-118, 128-129.] [Ben Yusuf was assassinated in Egypt in 1961. Brace, "Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia" (1964) at 115-116, 142.] [After 1987, Ben Yusuf was gradually "rehabilitated" and his body returned to Tunisia for burial. Perkins, "A History of Modern Tunisia" (Cambridge Univ. 2004) at 199-201.]

Socialism was not initially a major part of the Neo Destour project, but the government had alays held and implemented redistributive policies. A large public works program was launched in 1961. [Brace, "Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia" (1964) at 146-147.] Nonetheless in 1964, Tunisia entered a short lived socialist era. The Neo Destour party became the Socialist Destour ("Parti Socialiste Dusturien" or PSD), and the new minister of planning, Ahmed Ben Salah, formulated a state-led plan for agricultural cooperatives and public-sector industrialization. The socialist experiment raised considerable opposition within Bourguiba's old coalition. Ahmed Ben Salah was eventually dismissed in 1970, and many socialized operations (e.g., the farm cooperatives) were returned to private ownership in the early 1970s.Moncef M. Khaddar, "Tunisia" at 848-850, 849, in Joel Krieger (ed.), "Oxford Companion to Politics of the World" (2001).] In 1978, a general strike was repressed by the government with its forces killing dozens; union leaders were jailed.

After independence, Tunsian economic policy had been primarily to promote light industry and tourism, and develop its phosphate deposits. The major sector remained agriculture with small farms prevailing, but these did not produce well. In the early 1960s the economy slowed down, but the socialist program did not prove to be the cure.

In the 1970s the economy of Tunisia expanded at a very agreeable rate. Oil was discovered, and tourism continued. City and countryside populations drew roughly equal in number. Yet agricultural problems and urban unemployment led to increased migration to Europe.

The Era of Ben Ali

In the 1980s the economy performed poorly. In 1983 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forced the government to raise the price of bread and semolina, causing severe hardship and protest riots. In this situation, the Islamic Tendency Movement (MTI) under Cheikh Rached el-Ghannouchi provided popular leadership. Civil disturbances, including those by the Islamists, were repressed by government security forces under General Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The government persisted in following its program; Ben Ali was named prime minister.

The 84-year-old President Bourguiba was overthrown and replaced by Ben Ali his Prime Minister on November 7, 1987. [John P. Entelis, "Tunisia" at 532-533 in "The Americana Annual 1988" (New York: Grolier). Ben Ali's background was said to be pro-Western, trained in military affairs by France and the U.S.A.; he had previously clamped down on both left and right opponents, especially Islamic fundamentalists. Ninety fundamentalist had been found guilty of bombing hotels earlier in 1987. Entelis (1987) at 532-533.] The new President changed very little in the Bourguibist political support system, except to rename the party the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD by its French acronym).

In 1988, Ben Ali tried a new tack with reference to the government and Islam, by attempting to reaffirm the country's Islamic identity; several Islamist activists were released from prison. He also forged a national pact with the Tunisian party Harakat al-Ittijah al-Islami (Islamic Tendency Movement), which had been founded in 1981; later it changed its name to an-Nahda (the Renaissance Party). But Ben Ali's innovative tack did not work out. Subsequently An-Nahda claims to have run strongly in the 1989 elections, which gave the appearance of being unfair; reports describe pro-government votes often at over 90%. Ben Ali subsequently banned Islamist political parties and jailed as many as 8,000 activists.

In 2004, Ben Ali was re-elected President for a five-year term, with a reported 94.5% of the vote. Also elected were 189 members of the "Majlis al-Nuwaab" or Chamber of Deputies, whose term is five years. In addition, there is a Chamber of Advisors composed of 126 members with six-year terms, of whom 85 are elected by government subdivisions (e.g., municipalities), by professional associations, and by trade unions (14 union members boycotted the process); the remaining 41 members are appointed by the President. The court system remains a combination of French Civil Law and Islamic Sharia Law. [ [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ts.html "The World Factbook" on "Tunisia"] ]

A widely supported human rights movement has emerged, which includes not only Islamists, but also trade unionists, lawyers, journalists. Tunisia's political institutions, however, sometimes appear to remain fixed in the authoritarian past. As of 2001, the government's response to calls for reform has been, in part, house arrests and prison. As of February 2006, the government continues its refusal to recognize Muslim opposition parties, and governs the country in a political climate considered rigid, from time to time using objectionable military and police measures to repress dissent.

In foreign affairs, Tunisia continued close ties to the West. The Arab League was headquartered in Tunis from 1979 to 1991. From the perspective of 2003, in recent years Tunisia has taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations.

Commerce and Society

The capital Tunis has a population close to 700,000, and the second city of Sfax approximately 250,000. Tunisia's population growth rate measured as births per female has fallen from seven (1960s) to two (2007). Life expectancy is female 75, male 72. The religion is Muslim (98%), with 1% Christian, and 1% Jewish and other.

Required education is eight years. The official language is Arabic, with French also spoken particularly in commercial dealings, and with less than 2% Berber. By definition literacy includes all over 15 years, and is overall 74%, male 83% and female 65%. In 2006, 7.3 million mobile phones were in use, and 1.3 million accessed the internet; there were 26 television stations and 29 radio stations. [ [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ts.html "The World Factbook" on "Tunisia"] ]

Over half the population is considered urban. In 2000 unemployment was about 15.6%, and in 2006 about 13.9%. Agricultural workers make up about 30% of the total employed. Over 300,000 Tunisians (about 3%) were reported to be residing in France during 1994. [Alfred Hermida, "Tunisia" at 544-545 in "The Americana Annual 1994" (New York: Grolier); Rose Ryan, "Tunisia" at 548 in "The Americana Annual 2000" (NY: Grolier).] Left out of the recent prosperity were many rural and urban poor, including small businesses facing the world market.

The monetary unit is the "dinar", at about 1.33 per dollar U.S.A. (recently a fairly constant rate), with inflation estimated at 4.5% for 2006. Tunisia's per capita annual income was approximately 8,900 dollars (U.S.A.) in 2006. [ [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ts.html "The World Factbook" on "Tunisia"] ]

Between 1988 and 1998 the economy more than doubled. The economic growth rate was 5% per year during the 1990s (the best in North Africa), but hit a 15-year low of 1.9% in 2002 (due to drought and a decline in tourism), but it regained a 5% rate for 2003-2005; it was said to be 4%-5% for 2006.

Tunisia's business economy is diverse. Its commercial products come primarily from light industry (food processing, textiles, footwear, agribusiness, mining commodities, construction materials) and from agriculture (olives, olive oil, grains (wheat and barley), tomatoes, citrus, sugar beets, dates, almonds, figs, vegetables, grapes, beef dairy), as well as livestock (sheep, goats) and fishing. Other production comes from petroleum and mining (phosphates, iron, oil, lead, zinc, salt). Tunisia is self-sufficient in oil, but not in natural gas. A very significant portion of the economy derives from the tourist industry. [Rose Ryan, "Tunisia" at 548 in "The Americana Annual 2000" (NY: Grolier); by 2000 four million tourists were visiting each year, generating 4.7% of Tunisia's Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P.).] Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P.) was composed of approximately 12.5% agriculture, 33.1% industry, and 54.4% services.

Tunisia's exports went to France 29%, Italy 20%, Germany 9%, Spain 6%, Libya 5%, U.S.A. 4%. Imports came from France 25%, Italy 22%, Germany 10%, Spain 5%. [ [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ts.html "The World Factbook" on "Tunisia"] ] An association agreement with the European Union is scheduled to move Tunisia toward full free trade with the EU by 2008.

The face of the countryside changes markedly as one moves from north to south. In the north and central coast, orchards and fields predominate; while in the central plains, pasturage. Overall, arable land is 17%-19%, with forest and woodland 4%, permanent crops 13%, irrigated lands at 2.4%; about 20% is used for pasture. There are limited fresh water resources. In the south the environment grows increasingly arid, until the borderlands eventually reach the sand dunes of the Grand Erg Oriental. Tunisia's roadways total about 20,000 km., two-thirds being paved, with most of the unpaved roads lying in the desert south. [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ts.html "The World Factbook" on "Tunisia"] .]

Reference notes

ee also

*
*
*Hafsid
*Barbary Coast
*List of Beys of Tunis
*Tunisian Italians
*French occupation of Tunisia
*Tunisian Campaign
*Tunisia
*History of Tunisia
*History of Africa

External links

* [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5439.htm Background Note: Tunisia]
* [http://www.historyofnations.net/africa/tunisia.html History of Tunisia]
* [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ts.html "The World Factbook" on "Tunisia"]


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