Since 2011, Tunisia has frequently been held up as the generally peaceful exception in a region mired in post-revolutionary turmoil.
However, despite its relative stability, the legacy of the country’s long period of autocratic rule has continued to be felt in recent years. Indeed, many long term grievances came to the fore in the wake of the downfall of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, after widespread anger at his regime turned into large-scale protests and the beginning of the ‘Arab revolts’.
A complex series of protests, elections and negotiations followed in the wake of Ben Ali’s ousting, and in December 2014, Beji Caid Essebsi became Tunisia’s first freely elected President.
Although largely hailed as the success story of the Arab revolutions, social tensions continue to simmer, particularly around unemployment. One of the original grievances spurring on the 2011 revolution, there are now widespread calls for greater equality in political and economic development. In recent years, tensions have boiled over into violent protest, some spreading across the country, as in Kasserine in 2016 and in southern provinces in 2017.
Tunisia also has a foreign and ‘homegrown’ terror threat, with the highest number of ISIS foreign fighters coming from the country. A combination of ISIS involvement in neighbouring Libya and various social issues for young people has created a fragile security situation. ISIS claimed responsibility for major attacks, including at the beach resort of Sousse and the attempted seizure of the town of Ben Guerdane near the Libyan border.
Increased government and police emergency powers, introduced in response, have prompted condemnation from human rights groups.
Last updated: September 2017