TS Update-(May Day…May Day)

Last year, May Day in Tunisia was marked by beautiful weather and plenty of protests.  May 1st 2012 may very well be a replay of last year.  May Day also known as International Workers Day,  presents a good opportunity for the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) to make a statement.  Last year UGTT was able to get hundreds of people to protest against the Tunisian interim government, this year the list of grievances is longer and the scene less dramatic.

May Day For Expats

Most of the protest last year took place in downtown Tunis and a few towns located in the interior of the country.  This year we can expect the same since the only two authorized protests are scheduled to take place downtown.  Still it’s important to continue to practice smart situational awareness.  

It’s important to remember that situational awareness is a process which when used correctly, will empower you to avoid potential threats.  This process is all about having the right mindset and you don’t need any type of military training to become good at it.  By simply doing a little pre-planning before you go out and observing your surroundings; you will be at least 3 moves ahead of the bad guys.

Make it Positive

A positive thing to do on May Day is to participate in the Race Against Cancer taking place early that morning. The event is intended to help the children’s cancer ward of the Salah Azaiz Hospital continue.  To learn more about this cause or join volunteer effort, please contact Zainab Jabba, Race Against Cancer Event Coordinator, at zainabjabba@yahoo.com.

Feedback…

On days like May 1st it’s important that we share information so if you see something while you’re out and about…please let us know.  Feel free to comment or send us an email…

 

 

 

TS Update-(International Security Advisory)

Since several embassies have updated their travel advisories, we felt it would be a good time to share an “International Tunisia Security Advisory Summary” for the entire Expat Community.

US-Embassy Advisory Highlights (last update on 17 Apr 2012): 

  •   Travelers contemplating trips to the interior of the country should
    assess local conditions and routes when making travel plans, as conditions
    can change quickly.
  •   The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid
    all demonstrations, as even peaceful ones can quickly become unruly, and a
    foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse.
  •  While demonstrations have not been directed against foreigners, U.S.
    citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be
    vigilant regarding their personal security.

UK-Embassy Advisory Highlights (last update on 12 Apr 2012):

  • While most forms of protest pass without incident there is the possibility of injury if you are caught up in an event that does not pass peacefully.
  • Future demonstrations are likely and we recommend that British nationals avoid all forms of demonstration.
  • It is reported that incidents of mugging, pick pocketing, bag snatching and petty theft are on the increase and you are advised to ensure that bags are kept close to your person at all times.

CAN-Embassy Advisory Highlights (still valid as of 18 April 2012):

  • In recent months, a number of terrorist agents were captured in various regions, indicating that extremist elements are present and that the conflicts in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East continue to pose a general threat to the security of foreigners, foreign institutions and tourist facilities.
  • Reports of petty crime, including theft, pick-pocketing, purse-snatching and scams have increased since the recent unrest. Ensure personal belongings are secure at all times and carry photocopies of identification and travel documents.

We will continue to search for challenges as well as positive security developments…

 

 

 

TS Update-(Bourgiba Ave-Update)

Our last post focused on the April 9th protest on Avenue Bourgiba and the negative actions that took place that day. We pointed out that the  issue would remain a central point of dispute between “secularist” and the current government. 

It’s interesting to note that not only has the current government reversed the ban but the Interior Minister stated that from now on “cameras will monitor future protests”. Emphasizing cameras instead of tear gas and batons may result in more peaceful protests and less bad public relations for the new government. 

The reversal and recognition on the part of the government will definitely release some tension in the already stressful relationship between the Islamists led government and the secular opposition. 

Will it be enough?

Regarding the actions that took place on April 9th, a prominent columnist has eloquently pointed out that the suppression is “only a new sign of the fundamental cracks affecting the relationship between the Ennahda movement and the Tunisian public.”

It will be interesting to see how these “cracks” play out from here till the next round of elections. 

Two Extremes…

Contrary to what took place on April 9th, we have actually observed a very lay back attitude on the part of everyday Tunisian security forces.  On a number of different occasions, regarding a number of issues from burglaries to civil disputes, they have been very hesitant to get involved.

On the one hand the demonstrators who marched on Avenue Habib Bourguiba faced “harsh suppression by the security services…were beaten and a number suffered serious injuries”, while on the other hand we had to wait over 20 minutes for the local police to respond to a serious civil dispute.  Upon arrival they were very hesitant to even leave their patrol vehicle and instead of taking a proactive stance, they kept their distance and choose not to detain any of the participants.

While we welcome their new diplomacy and courtesy…the situation still remains very challenging.

As Expats we should remember that when it comes to our security & safety our best weapons are: situational awareness, pre-planning, and good old fashion common sense…and not local security forces.

 

 

 

 

TS Update-(Avenue Habib Bourguiba)

In the last year or so…we’ve witnessed a wide variety of protests.  From municipality workers to university students, the unemployed to police officers, secularist and Islamists…the range of demonstrations have been extensive & colorful.

On Monday, April 9th, a protest for the right to protest took place in downtown Tunis and unfortunately the event looked too similar to the revolution days.  In fact, Monday’s protest marks a new chapter in the already heated debate between so-called secularists & Islamists. According to one account:  “the clashes appeared to mark a new level of animosity between the government and the secular left.” 

This is rather unfortunate as things seemed to be going in a positive direction right in time for the summer tourism season.

To ban or not to ban?

When one looks at the big picture, it’s easy to see the dilemma the current government has regarding the decision of whether to ban protests on Avenue Habib Bourguiba.  On the one hand they have a troubled economy and a mountain of complaints coming from commercial vendors demanding that the cycle of protests be put to an end.  On the other hand there’s the issue of the symbolic significance of Avenue Habib Bourguiba and the right the Tunisian people have to peacefully demonstrate. 

The Ministry of Interior made the decision to ban protests and on Monday we saw first hand that a lot of people are not in favor of this law.   

After Action Summary

Monday’s protest made several things clear that should be noted: 

  1. Tunisian security forces will react in a strong manner to enforce this ban.
  2. We can safely assume that this issue will not go away and that it will remain a central point of dispute between “secularist” and the current government.  
  3. We are likely to see similar protests & reactions on Avenue Habib Borguiba in the near future or during the next significant date.

Expats on the Watch

During these beautiful Spring days, Expats have a lot to be excited for and naturally they are exploring & enjoying Tunisia more than ever, however Monday’s protest is a prime example of the usefulness of situational awareness.  I received a couple of phone calls from Expats that found themselves “caught in the madness”.

As Expats it is important to stay updated with the current security situation and we should continue to strengthen our channels of communication.

 

 

Keep the feedback coming…

 

 

TS Update-(Extension)

As reported by various sources, the Tunisian government has decided to extend the current state of emergency at least until the end of this month (April2012).  While the extension was expected, what seems interesting is that officials cited current social tensions as the main factor for extending it. 

Another way to see it is that whereas the Tunisian government feels that the security situation is improving, they are understandably concerned about the division among ultra conservative Islamists and “secularists”.  Basically, by extending the current state of emergency and publicly stating their concerns the government is taking a “expect the best…plan for the worst” approach.  

If one takes a step back and looks at the big picture, one can easily see that this approach makes sense.  

To extend or not to extend?

A few of the most recent incidents is enough to make this point:

  • Mosque Offensive:  Tunisia’s Religious Affairs Minster Nourredine al-Khademi on Saturday said the country will take stock of the hundreds of mosques now in the hands of Salafist extremists.
  • Unwanted Returns:  As a good report described it:  “The situation could become even more incandescent with the continuing confrontations between Islamic fundamentalists and secularists, which only by chance have not yet led to a drama.
  • Constitution Work in Progress:  The debate over the new constitution is just beginning and we are sure to see many positives as well as challenges ahead.

Impact on Expats

How does the extension impact Expats…?  The short answer is that nothing has really changed but…it is a good time to remember that there is a State of Emergency in place which means that “curfews or other temporary movement restrictions may be imposed or changed with little or no notice.”

 

We certainly hope that the beautiful weather continues to extend and look forward to discovering more optimistic information about the security situation in Tunisia.