Category Archives: Tunisia

Here’s to Tunisia’s new constitution, let’s hope it matters

Tunisia has a new constitution, and it’s relatively liberal. It’s a much-needed sign of progress in a region that hasn’t seen much of it lately, and we’re all naturally very excited.

Some of us are perhaps more excited than others. Here’s Mustafa Akyol in The New York Times:

In 2011, protests led to the ouster of Tunisia’s longtime dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The spirit of revolution soon spread to other Arab countries, albeit with less-impressive results. Libya suffered from bloody internal turmoil; Egypt reverted to brutal military rule; Syria continues to be ravaged by civil war. In Tunisia, however, the nascent democratic process has not been derailed. The country’s new Constitution — the most liberal and democratic charter the Muslim Middle East has ever seen — remains the Arab Spring’s crowning achievement to date.

Ratified on Jan. 26, the Constitution is a strikingly “We the people” document in a region where “Me the state” has long been the norm. It protects civil liberties, establishes a separation of powers, and guarantees women parity in political bodies. Though it declares Islam the country’s official religion and refers generally to Tunisia’s identity as an Islamic state, the Constitution protects religious freedom for all.

Civil liberties, separation of powers, gender equality, and religious freedom for all… Now, I understand how the author badly wants to swim in this wonderful liberal-democracy-for-all-soup. After all, I can only imagine how disappointing it must be to have expected this to occur in Turkey and instead getting penguins, porn lobbies, and pepper spray.

Also, I’m not completely convinced by describing Tunisia’s constitutions as “the most liberal and democratic charter the Muslim Middle East has ever seen”. I’d like to see a real comparison between Turkey’s 1960 constitution and this one… Continue reading