Ten years ago, Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi stood in the middle of traffic, shouted “How do you expect me to make a living?” and set himself on fire, catalyzing popular protests in Tunisia and across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and creating a lens through which advocates, scholars, and policymakers understand the region until today. Protesters took to the streets to demand freedom, economic justice, and accountability; political activists put forth proposals for reform and institutional change; civil society convened to bring about action; and journalists documented the events as they unfolded. Ten years later, we see a region that tells a complicated narrative: one of agency, openings, and resilience; yet also, one of repression, civil war, and mass atrocity.
The story of organizing in the MENA region did not begin and will not end with the “Arab Spring.” And so, in a commitment to share and learn from the lived experiences of those presenting alternate visions to decades of status quo, TIMEP is pleased to put forth “Ten Years On: Organizing in the MENA Region,” a project that will provide a platform for those who have organized, are organizing, and will organize in the region. Through “Ten Years On,” and in collaboration with its fellows, partners, and network, TIMEP will host interactive, audiovisual, and written content that unpacks how organizing has evolved; how governments and non-state actors have responded; and where we find ourselves today. In doing so, “Ten Years On,” will look into three spaces in which these contestations have unfolded: on the ground, in cyberspace, and in exile.
This fact sheet, put together by TIMEP’s Legal Unit, tracks and unpacks some of the key laws in question, including those on civil society, freedom of information, and counter-terrorism.
The new draft law on the “protection of security forces” would impose disproportionate criminal penalties for various acts that jeopardize security, exempt security forces from criminal liability when they use lethal force, and reinforce impunity that could pave the way for no accountability for security forces.
Sidi Bouzid was the birthplace of an uprising that created the needed epistemological rupture for Tunisia’s civil society to shift from a disguised opposition to one of blunt advocacy and contribution to the political process. It’s no wonder that the sole Nobel prize in the country’s history was awarded in 2015 to four non-governmental organizations, the National Dialogue Quartet, in acknowledgment of their “contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.
Amidst an unprecedented economic collapse and the widespread acknowledgment that the status quo characterized by a non-transparent public sector has been irredeemably broken, can Lebanon’s newly nascent open data movement push for creating a culture of transparency and data sharing across the country?
While Tunisia has provided a home for individuals and organizations, it is currently, for the most part, a transitional hub rather than a permanent one—political, diplomatic and economic obstacles in Tunisia have made it difficult for it to play a bigger role.