TS Update-(Salafists Alcohol Protests)

As someone who follows the fast paced security world, I must admit that during the past few days I’ve been on information overload. It’s challenging to stay updated whenever there is a rapidly increasing rate of new information on any particular subject.  In our case, the ever changing Tunisian security landscape, particularly the actions of Salafits; makes it very difficult to stay current with so much new information. 

Information Management

As Expats we need to be savvy analysts especially when it comes to security & safety information.  An effective analyst checks sources, collaborates with others, and uses  common sense. It seems like every other day there is something reported on Salafists and the security threat that they represent.  The latest ‘alcohol protests’ that took place over the weekend in Jendouba are particularly troubling for Expats and the entire Tunisian tourism industry.  The majority of Tunisians are also upset about this trend and as one article put it:  “Tunisia sits on the edge as Salafits stage new rampage“. 

Expat Situational Awareness

On Saturday I was at an event at the Palace Hotel in Gammarth and I had the opportunity to speak with a civilian dressed police officer on duty.  My impression was that Saturday is a very challenging night for security forces throughout the Carthage, La Marsa, and Gammarth area and while things are generally calm, it is best to do some good pre-planning. 

Interesting to note that according to the latest numbers, Salafists remain a very insignificant (yet vocal) minority with just over 10,000 followers.  In a country of 10 million, they represent a fringe and isolated group. From a risk perspective we could say that the chances of you having an encounter with a Salafits is less than .10% which translates into highly unlikely. 

Still their ability to make noise and disrupt the peace is not being taken lightly by observers.  As one reporter accurately wrote regarding the Salafits:  “Their ability to wreak havoc, as well as the jihadist past of some of their leaders, are sources of concern.”

Be sure to check out the Tunisia Security Update-Audiocast  for a quick & insightful security update.



TS Update-(Sejnane Advisory)

Before I share some analysis concerning the alarming incidents that took place in Sejnane (Bizerte, Tunisia), I would like to thank all the motivating Tunisia Security Updaters out there who keep sending me solid & relevant information. It’s one thing to read a story online, but to actually receive eye-witness accounts is so much more empowering. 

As reported by various news outlets, two separate yet related incidents recently took place in the town of Sejnane: 

  1. A group of students on a field trip from the Higher Institute of Applied Biological Sciences (ISSBAT), stopped in Sejnane (Bizerte) on their way to Ain Draham. According to eyewitnesses students were attacked by religious activists.  
  2.   Basically, a mix group of foreigners and Tunisians were attacked on the road while on their way back from a trip to Cap Serrat.  In the words of one of the victims:  “I would  highly recommend to avoid the City of SEJNANE / Cap Serrat.”
  3. Additionally, other security coordinators have received similar accounts related to the same area.  

While Sejnane itself is not a popular touristic destination, it is on the way to Ain Draham, Tabarka, and several other more attractive places.  The “Sejnane incident” is not a surprise for anyone who has been following the developments throughout the country since the Revolution. As early as January 2012, the Tunisian media reported that a  “group of about 250 individuals managed to “talibanize” Sejnane , imposing their hardline Islamic rule, without being in any way contravened by the country’s security forces.”

Field Trip Security

Interestingly enough there is a useful correlation between driving and good situational awareness.  Make sure that you are using at least 3 levels of situational awareness while driving.  Here’s a simple model which you can use as a starting point: 

  • Level 1:  Relaxed Awareness…In this state you want to make sure that you are not only driving safely but also able to look ahead for possible hazards.  Like a good chess player, make sure you’re at least 3 moves ahead of the next guy.
  • Level 2:  Focused Awareness…Have you ever been driving and suddenly knew that something was wrong up ahead?  You don’t know how but something (intuition, experience, higher self…) let you know that you better be careful and most of the times you are right! 
  • Level 3:  Action Awareness….Whereas in focused awareness your attention was on identifying what was happening…in action awareness you are moving from thinking to doing. Make sure your action is swift and precise.

The bottom line is that Tunisia has many beautiful sites to visit and road trips are usually enjoyable & safe.  By practicing good situational awareness you will make sure that all your excitement remains on the fun side of the Expat experience.

 Once again thank you for all the feedback & let’s keep sharing information…

TS Update-(Djerba Advisory)

It’s interesting to see that Israel’s National Security Council (NSC) has “increased its travel warning to Tunisia following reports of possible attacks on Israeli or Jewish targets in the country.”  According to their Anti-terrorism Bureau their major concern is on the island of Djerba and the upcoming pilgrimage that will be taking place there this Wednesday and Thursday (May 9th & 10th, 2012). 

As stated by the latest US embassy travel alert, the security situation “in most tourist and business centers remains calm.”  However, for the time being we would recommend that you think twice about visiting the lovely island of Djerba at least for this week. 

On a Positive Note…

I had the privilege of coordinating security for 9 field trips throughout Tunisia. Trips in Zaghouan, Ghar El Milh, Mannouba, Sidi Thabet, Testour, Raf Raf, Sid Bou, and Carthage; all proved to be successful.  On all sites we encountered cooperative security forces that appeared alert & prepared.  Additionally, not only was the weather amazing but the people were friendly and welcoming. 

Field Trip Map

Enjoy the nice weather and remember to stay safe, informed, and positive. 

TS Update-(Risky Times)

Recently, I became inspired to write an article on Risk Management while reading an article on the online version of the Washington Post.  As someone in the security industry, Risk Management is a field that I find particularity fascinating.  I know what you are thinking…risk management? fascinating?  really?

The reason why risk management seems boring is because it is a huge field that deals with one of the things people fear the most:  RISK.  What I find fascinating about risk is that if managed smartly, it can be a good thing.  In other words risk management is concerned with both the positive and negative aspects of risk. 

Risk Assessment-Questions

At the heart of conducting a good risk assessment is asking the right questions.  March Fisher’s  (Senior Editor of The Washington Post) article  entitled “In Tunisia after Arab Spring, Islamists’ new freedoms create new Muslim divide”, not only asks the right questions, but also gives security coordinators like myself; a good paradigm to study. 

This question clearly highlights how sensitive the situation in Tunis still remains:  Can and should Tunisia’s blend of Western and Islamic values and practices be maintained under the North African country’s new freedom, or has that freedom unleashed a religious extremism that threatens to push this land of 10 million people toward a new kind of dictatorship?

The article makes (2) great points that strengthen the question:

  • In a country that is nearly 100 percent Muslim, a growing rift over religion threatens — in the view of the secular president of the new parliament — to throw Tunisia into “chaos.”
  • “Now, our situation is so fragile and sensitive because we are caught between two forces — one that wants progress and one that wants to go back in time.”

Risk Assessment-Positives

For many security analysts, May 1st peaceful protests downtown were further evidence that Tunisia is continuing to move in the right direction.  That being said we have also learned that the State of Emergency will be extended into the Summer and perhaps beyond. 

Risk management is a continuous and evolving process.  As Tunisia continues to transition into a new & more democratic version, we will continue to write our risk assessments in pencil.