Fridays are always interesting. Just last week “police used tear gas to disperse a demonstration of ultra conservative Islamists protesting against the government in the capital.” Call me overly cautious but I don’t think it was a smart security move on the part of the Tunisian president to label the salafists as an “insignificant minority” because they now have something to prove. That being said there are (2) other scheduled events and (1) developing story which may make February 24th a very interesting Friday.
Tunisia is hosting a “friends of Syria” conference on Friday. Arab, European and US diplomats are set to take part in the meeting.
Possible Fuel strike on Saturday, February 25th.
The Wild Card (Developing Story)
Afghanistan—”Police say more than 2,000 angry Afghans are protesting the improper disposal of Qurans and other Islamic religious materials at an American air base north of Kabul.” This developing story may not have any repercussions here in Tunis, but historically these incidents have had wide-spread impacts.
The weather forecast for Friday calls for clear skies and sunny with a high of 18 degree Celsius. Friday may well be another lovely day in this beautiful Mediterranean country. Let’s hope for the best and be ready for any challenges.
We will continue to monitor these and other developments to provide you with practical & relevant security analysis.
On a cold and raining morning I decided to drive along La Marsa highway (GP9) in order to post an update on some of the recent changes. The highway is an important road artery for people living in the Carthage & La Marsa suburbs. Unfortunately, it is also famous for speeding and unsafe driving.
Before I get into my La Marsa highway findings, I would like to point out that driving continues to be the number 1 safety/security issue in Tunisia. In fact, road accidents remain the leading cause of death and injury in Tunisia. One of the ways that the transportation ministry is trying to improve this situation is through the use of radars and cameras. While driving along La Marsa highway, it is evident that they are taking this pretty seriously.
In the stretch from the Lac area to La Marsa stadium, a driver can come across 3 radar detectors. Although the speed limit often changes from radar to radar, it is always best to drive below the speed limit. Interestingly enough there is a call center which you can contact to find out whether or not your car has been captured breaking the speed limit by a radar. The toll-free number is 81100700 or simply click here to check it online. I personally called the number and talked with a very helpful lady that spoke good English.
The main update that I was personally happy to see is the new connecting overpass that allows you to go over La Marsa Highway into the Lac area. Before the overpass, that particular intersection was complete madness and many referred to it as the “kamikaze turn”. Now, with both bridges fully functional one can easily go from the Laouina area into the Lac without having to deal with so many road safety issues.
In addition to the new connections, there are new signage and lighting all throughout La Marsa highway. There are also a few other projects currently under construction that will make it even better.
Off Road Notes…
As reported by various sources, the Tunisian association of gas stations, have stated that there maybe a general strike on February 25th, potentially paralyzing fueling stations all around the country.
As always the key to dealing with any of these proposed strikes is not to panic. There are always unintended negative consequences when people start rushing to the fueling stations.
Something I found pretty interesting when studying Tunisian motorways is that Route 1 in the Trans-African Highway network system “passes through Tunisia, linking it to Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Egypt, and West African nations via Mauritania.” From a strategic point of view, this makes you realize how important Tunisia is and how connected we are to our challenged region.
Hopefully like La Marsa highway, the situation will continue to get better.
The eye of a storm is a region of what appears to be a calm center of raging weather. Although the eye is “by far the calmest part of the storm”, it is also the most hazardous area. As the storm of revolution that started in Tunisia continues to be felt around the world, one can easily make the case that the eye still remains here.
There is a healthy conversation taking place among Tunisians concerning the role of the salafists and the place of religion within their new democratic society. A Tunisian colleague of mine told me how shocked he was to see hundreds of bearded men and fully veiled women lined up near the El Menzah stadium waiting to see the “controversial” Muslim Egyptian scholar Wajdi Ghoneim.
As the country that started the Spring Revolution, it is no surprise, that Tunisia is at the center of this important debate concerning religion and democracy.
Other Stories on the Radar
2 other stories clearly indicate that Tunisia remains the center of the storm:
“In a statement minister Ali Laarayedh said 12 Tunisian suspected members of the group had been arrested after clashes with security forces in the central town of Bir Ali Ben Khalifa, near Sfax, on February 1.“- Source: African News online.
At the Tunisian Security Update we try to avoid posting information just for the sake of posting it. We want our information to remain practical & relevant for our target readers who are mainly Expats residing in the Bon Lieu area (Carthage, La Marsa, etc.). The challenge for us is not obtaining information, but filtering through the vast amounts of data that comes across our way and selecting the right information that connects with our community.
Today, instead of having to go out and look for something, two stories came directly to my desk. Interestingly enough both incidents involved the salafists (small yet vocal minority) that we’ve been hearing so much about.
The first incident was reported by someone who resides in Carthage. Being very security minded and using his good situational awareness skills, he was able to observe strange signs posted along Ave. Farhat Hached in Salambo Carthage. The signs which had the word ‘haram’ written on them in Arabic, were posted on top of garbage bins next to empty bottles of wine. ‘Haram’ (حَرَام ḥarām), which usually means “forbidden” is a word that has definite religious connotations.
From a security perspective the incident although seemingly trivial in nature raises a lot of questions. It is also another piece to add to the wave of conservatism that is definitely gaining momentum throughout the country.
U.S. Embassy Protest
Thursday turned out to be a pretty exciting morning for the security team as we were informed that a relativity small yet vocal protest would take place in front of the American embassy. Sure enough we made our way over to the Lac area and were able to observe the protest. We managed to talk to a few people in order to find out more about the nature of the protest and received several answers. One protester stated that they were against any ‘American intervention into Tunisian affairs’.
In the end the protest concluded peacefully and without any incident but once again the small yet vocal minority made their point.
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