The world is Bardo

by Manel Mselmi and Rebecca Weicht, YPFP Brussels

On Sunday 28 March 2015, 20,000 people joined a march against the terrorist attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis. European, African and Arab leaders gathered to support Tunisia in its struggle against extremism. It was a symbolic march that demonstrated the willingness and determination of thousands of Tunisians to defeat terrorism.

Tunisian officials commemorated the death of the victims of the attack on the Bardo Museum ten days earlier. This anti-terror march also comes in the wake of the four year anniversary of the Arab Spring which started in Tunisia on 14 January 2011, when young Tunisians and their neighbours launched a call for freedom, justice and democracy.

Attack on the Bardo National Museum

After signing an Association Agreement as a privileged partner with the EU on 17 March 2015, Tunisia began to boost its economic sector with the help of its neighbours (3.7% GDP growth in 2015 compared to a -0,5% decline in 2011) and Tunisian officials were optimistic about the overall situation in the country.The attack on the Bardo Museum on 18 March, however, reminds us that the terrorist threat is still alive and it threatens one of Tunisia’s most important economic sectors, tourism.

Even though the country has experienced the Arab revolution and transitioned to democracy, terrorism remains a high hurdle towards permanent freedom and political stability. Attacking one of the most famous museums of Tunisia, a symbol of the country’s diverse cultural and historical heritage, is both an attack on Tunisia’s identity, and tourism, a key economic driver. Moreover, the attack took place just one day before the 59th anniversary of Tunisia’s independence. Instead of celebrating Tunisia’s democratic transition, new government, and economic growth since the Arab Spring, the country was in shock.

Tunisia‘s post-presidential elections and security challenges

Tunisia established a compromise government between the Islamist Ennahda party and secular moderates on 23 January 2015, four years after the Jasmine Revolution, as the Arab Spring was known in the country. Tunisia demonstrated that democracy and freedom are feasible in the Arab world. For the time being, the country faces many challenges, such as the refugee crisis with Libya, continued terrorist threats, irregular maritime migration and the Islamic State which has a base in the Chaambi Mountains near the Algerian borders. This challenge was further highlighted by the tragic events at Bardo.

YPFP Brussels meets Tunisian Ambassador to the EU, H.E. Tahar Cherif

On 21 January 2015, just after the Tunisian presidential elections, YPFP Brussels organised an event with the Tunisian Ambassador to the EU, H.E. Tahar Chérif, as part of its Ambassador Series. The event marked the four year anniversary of the Arab Spring.

The event was covered by the European magazine ‘Euromag’, a local magazine catering to the EU’s francophone-speaking community and local Belgian radio station ‘Arabel FM’ which interviewed YPFP Brussels’ staff on the organisation’s activities in Brussels.The Tunisian Embassy published an article in a local Tunisian magazine (Kapitalis) focusing on YPFP Brussels’ role in giving its members access to the debates and key events in international politics.

This event connected YPFP Brussels members directly with the officials leading global democratic changes, but also served as an opportunity to understand major challenges that Tunisia still faces at a national and international level. The world is Bardo, and YPFP Brussels is ready to engage.