A popular revolution needed to occur in order for the world to pay attention to a small Mediterranean country. On January 14, 2011, the “Arab Spring” began and then spread from Tunisia. Four years later, on March 18, 2015, a terrorist attack in downtown Tunis, the capital, placed the country at the centre of attention. A second deadly terrorist attack on a tourist beach shocked the world once again on June 26.. During those four years, Tunisia experienced two democratic elections, the introduction of a new constitution, the rise of the Islamic Ennahda Movement, the reaction of new secular movements. The country is walking a fine line between the temptation to adopt a French-style institutional model and the search for a distinctively Tunisian way of upholding the country’s Arab and Muslim identity. The author describes the main stages of Tunisian history, shedding light on the changes, the contradictions, and the social, cultural and political resources of a republic struggling to overcome its past and build a future. Tunisia represents a rare element of hope in a Near East that doesn’t offer the world many reasons for optimism.
Stefano M. Torelli is a research fellow at the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) in Milan and teaches Middle East History and Institutions at the IULM University of Languages and Communication in the same city.