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The Tunisian People Deserve Better

(FILE) A woman carries a banner during a protest in Tunisia.

The threats to democracy in Tunisia are particularly painful in light of the leadership and sacrifice of the Tunisian people during the Arab Spring.

The Tunisian People Deserve Better
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The United States remains deeply concerned over recent events in Tunisia.

Tunisian President Kais Saied gave a speech in February denouncing immigration from sub-Saharan Africa. After his remarks, migrants were reportedly attacked by mobs, and hundreds of migrants were arrested.

In March the World Bank announced it would suspend its partnership framework with Tunisia. David Malpass, World Bank President said, “Public comments that stir up discrimination, attacks, and racist violence are completely unacceptable.”

Then State Department Spokesperson Ned Price agreed, saying President Saied’s remarks “are not in keeping with Tunisia’s long history of generosity and hosting and protecting refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, and we’re disturbed by reports of violence against these very migrants.”

President Saied made his comments as the economic situation in Tunisia remains dire. In addition, the space for civic society is increasingly shrinking with the rights of peaceful expression and association under threat.

In February at least nine people who have been critical of Tunisian President Saied were reportedly arrested and some detained, including political opponents, journalists, and business leaders.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, expressed concern over what his spokesperson called “the deepening crackdown against perceived political opponents and civil society in Tunisia, including through measures taken by the authorities to undermine the independence of the judiciary.”

It's been a year since President Saied dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council, an independent body that oversees the appointment of judges. That move came after a series of actions that consolidated his own power, including abruptly suspending parliament, dismissing the prime minister, and ruling by decree.

The threats to democracy that have emerged in Tunisia are particularly painful in light of the leadership, sacrifice, and achievement of the Tunisian people during and after the pro-democracy demonstrations of the Arab Spring which began in Tunisia in 2010.

Then Spokesperson Price said the United States is concerned “precisely because we, and the world, have seen over the course of years now the aspirations of the Tunisian people for greater levels of democracy, for an independent judiciary, and one that is able to protect the fundamental freedoms for all the people of Tunisia. These are not values that we support only in a place like Tunisia,” declared Spokesperson Price, “these are universal rights that we seek to defend and promote anywhere and everywhere around the world."