Tunisia. The year was marked by repeated reports of a lack of respect for human rights. One of the country’s most government-critical journalists, Tawfiq Ben Brik, carried out a six-week hunger strike in April and May in protest of the government having deprived him of his passport and imprisoned his brother, who had been convicted of violence against the police. Ben Brik interrupted the hunger strike after he had received the passport and the brother had been released. The ruling party RCD (Rassemblement Constitutionnel Démocratique, Constitutional Democratic Assembly) took home over 92% of the vote in the local elections in May. Following a court decision in November, all local offices of the human rights organization LTDH (Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme, Tunisian Human Rights Association) were closed.
Tunisia, like many other Arab countries, broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in October because of the violence in the Palestinian territories.
Habib Bourguiba, President of Tunisia 1956–87, died April 6, 96 years old. Tens of thousands of Tunisians followed the funeral train.
- ABBREVIATIONFINDER: Offers three letter and two letter abbreviations for the country of Tunisia. Also covers country profile such as geography, society and economy.
Tunisia’s foreign policy
The North African country of Tunisia has, since independence in 1956, pursued a Western-oriented foreign policy, but has remained alliance-free. A key line in foreign policy is the need, as a small state, to balance between larger neighboring countries. Another important factor has been the geographical location near Europe. Tunisia has therefore advocated bilateral relations and participated in multilateral, regional cooperation in Africa and the Middle East, as well as with Europe.
Tunisia joined the Arab League in 1958, but has been accused several times of failing the Arab cause. When Egypt was isolated after signing the peace treaty with Israel in 1979, the League’s headquarters were moved from Cairo to Tunis, and after the PLO’s evacuation from Beirut in 1982, its headquarters were also moved to Tunisia. This brought Tunisia more into international politics, and closer to the United States. PLO headquarters were bombed by Israeli aircraft in 1985. In 1988, PLO leader Khalid Wazir was killed in an Israeli operation in Tunisia. Tunisia wanted the Oslo agreement welcome, also because they meant that the Palestinian leadership moved from the country. President Bourguiba initiated early unofficial contact with the Israeli leadership and allowed unrestricted Jewish emigration from Tunisia. At the same time, Tunisia as an Arab state joined Egypt and Syria during the October war in 1973, contributing a smaller number of troops. Later, Tunisia was one of the first Arab countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, in 1996. Relations with Israel were weakened again as a result of the Palestinian intifada.
Tunisia is part of the Maghreb region and has contributed to increased regional cooperation despite conflicts with neighboring countries Libya and Algeria, as well as with Morocco. A brief military confrontation, the border dispute between the “Sand War”, took place between Tunisia and Algeria in 1963. For a long period from the mid-1970s, relations with both Algeria and Morocco were characterized by the relationship with the liberation movement Polisario in Western Sahara., where Tunisia has mainly taken its – and thus Algerian’s – party. In 1974, it was announced that Tunisia and Libya had joined forces in a union, but it was never realized. There has been a difficult relationship between the two countries on several occasions, including after Libya expelled some 30,000 Tunisian guest workers in 1985. In 1995, a clash between Tunisian soldiers and the Algerian Groupe Islamique army (GIA) occurred on the border. With the rise of militant Islamism also in Tunisia, clashes between Tunisian jihadists and government forces at the border in 2013. Tunisia decided the same year to establish buffer zones at the border with Algeria and Libya.
In 1989, a Union Agreement (Maghreb Union) was signed between Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. In the same year Tunisia and Algeria signed a 20-year friendship agreement.
In 1991, Tunisia condemned the Allied campaign against Iraq and pledged relations with the Iraqi regime, which contributed to a weakening relationship with the United States – which has traditionally been close and later rebuilt. The same was true of relations with Tunisia’s allies in Europe, especially France, then Italy and Spain. Relations with Italy have been hampered by extensive illegal immigration from Tunisia.
The relationship with France, as before the colonial power, has been particularly close. After Tunisia’s independence, the relationship was strained at first, partly because Tunisia forced France to leave its military bases in the country ahead of time, and partly because of the nationalization of French property. Later, the cooperation has been strengthened, among other things, by common fears of the spread of Islamic radicalism – both in North Africa and in France.
In 1995, Tunisia became the first country to sign the new cooperation agreement between the countries on both sides of the Mediterranean, under the auspices of the EU.
According to COUNTRYAAH, the population of Tunisia in 2000 was 9,708,239, ranking number 80 in the world. The population growth rate was 1.250% yearly, and the population density was 62.4894 people per km2.