TS Update-(Hurdles Ahead…)

This week has been amazing.  It’s been such an honor for me to meet so many expat and local security professionals.  I’ve learned so much and feel more inspired and confident than ever.

They say tough times never last, but tough people do…times like these requires us to be tough.

Hurdles ahead

As far back as May 10th 2011, we wrote about the security challenges involved with Fridays.  Specifically, we advised Expats to take extra precautions on Fridays and adjust their routines accordingly.  We can safely say  that Fridays will continue to be the highest risk day of the week.

Major test ahead…

It will be interesting to see how the general public reacts on October 18th when according to various reports, the date of the next elections will be announced.  It is important to note that the 18th falls on a Thursday so plan ahead for additional precautions on the following day, Friday October 19th.

Indeed even before September 14th, many security analysts anticipated major security challenges in Tunisia during the October 18th-October 30th time frame.  September 14th may yet prove to be a blessing in disguise in terms of motivating the government to take a strong position on security matters…or it may well have been a preview of what’s to come.

Time will tell…

Word on the street…

Sources state that local security forces are stepping up their level of training, planning, and preparedness.  The powers that be want the October 23rd date to pass by like a silent film.  Of course we’ll get a preview on October 18th, but sources claim that things will go smoothly.

The challenge with forecasting events in Tunisia is that there are far too many wild cards and unknowns.  Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki’s interview with CNN’s Amanpour is a good example of the challenge we are facing.

Ready or not… October 23rd is coming…the time for awareness & preparedness is NOW.  

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour-Marzouki

 

 

TS Update-(Security Irony)

While enjoying a beautiful evening last night at the Select Beach restaurant in Gammarth, I couldn’t help reflecting on the irony of the current security situation. There,  I was enjoying good music, the soothing sounds of crashing waves, and the beautiful night sky with hundreds of shining stars.  All around me there were cheerful and pleasant people enjoying themselves.

If presented on a television screen, from the looks of how people were dressed and on what they were drinking,  you wouldn’t be able to tell if we were in Paris or New York City…but I guess that’s what makes Tunis so special.

Although I wanted to take a break from the information overload that I’ve been experiencing since September 14th, I couldn’t resist reading one last article before we left the house on our way to Select Beach.

Entitled:   Aggressive Salafist Islamists threaten Tunisia’s dream of freedom.  The article highlights an incident that recently took place (9/4/2012) in Sidi Bouzid.  Apparently, “80 Islamic hardliners arrived to smash up the Horchani Hotel, the only place in Sidi Bouzid where you could buy a cold beer.”

According to the article:  “Bearded, angry young men threatened the few staff who were around at lunchtime with iron bars, broke windows, smashed up ornamental fountains and threw bottles of wine and spirits into the empty pool, which is now full of shattered glass.”

A sharp contrast indeed…

Dealing with the Vocal Minority

Awareness is empowering and as Expats we have to be aware of this growing issue.  They are called salafists, ultra conservative Muslims, etc., but in the end they’re mainly angry men who feel it is their duty to make things “right“.

Ironically enough, Abdelfattah Mourou, a Tunisian lawyer and the co-founder of the Ennahda Movement offers a very insightful overview into the mindset & tactics of salafists.

  • Salafists’ use violence to impose their ideas and opinions.
  •  Superficiality strengthens their ignorance. They do not read, do not think and do not accept those who disagree with their opinions.
  • It is time for Tunisians to pay more attention to this phenomenon and for the authorities to act decisively and apply laws against all offenders. The state must be based on moderate tenets that respect differences within society.

Expats Adjust

Informed Expats do not stop living exciting lives simply because there are a few cowards who wish to impose their ideas through violence.  Instead we simply adjust our activities and adapt to the current situation.

Now more than ever we have to help each other.  The most effective way to help a fellow expat is pass on insightful, verifiable, and practical information.

Please continue to use the Tunisia Security Update blog as one of your many tools that empowers you to remain informed, prepared, and engaged.  We are committed to passing as much useful information as we can through our various channels with the hopes that our Expat community remains aware and active.

 

TS Update-(Information Flow)

I appreciate that many of you are following the blog and even more importantly thank you for the good feedback; keep it coming. We are sharing everything we get…we’re really flowing as a team.

On a day like today I am using quicker channels to post information so feel free to connect with me through these mediums:

Twitter:  @DavidSecurity

Facebook Page:  TunisiaSecurityUpdate

Stay safe & alert out there.  

TS Update-(Expat Security Professionals…time to unite)

Every great tragedy presents us with opportunities to make things better.  We are more inspired, motivated, and determined to make our security team at the American Cooperative School of Tunis better and stronger than ever.   

With that in mind, I would like to ask every Expat Security Professional to email me if they are interested in participating in a “Security Professional Gathering”.  

September 14th proved that beyond contingency plans and physical security; intelligence is the key.  Having access to relevant and up to date information is critical.  The time for expat security coordinators, managers, directors, to come together is NOW.  

Please email me at:  dsantiago@acst.net  

Knowledge is power…information is critical…collaboration is essential.  

 

TS Update-(A New Tunisia)

Expats …take a deep breath.  We are still in Tunis.  Burogiba‘s generals are still in charge.  Once they responded to the situation at the US embassy and the American school; order was restored.

The problem is that security has been politicized in Tunisia. On September 14th the military once again made a statement:  Tunisian security forces can not deal with this new threat.

There is a group, which are loosely called salafists trying to make a name for themselves.  They are being used by various political organizations who are trying to position themselves for the elections that will take place during the Spring of 2013.

Tunisia is transitioning from dictatorship to democracy…it won’t be easy.

But we are still in Tunisia. 

Is Tunisia more conservative?  Yes.  Is petty crime on the rise?  Yes.  Is it less safe for Expats?  Yes.  Can Expats continue to live and thrive in Tunisia?  Yes, if they learn to adjust…

Adjust & Overcome

What do all these cities have in common?  Caracas, Venezula… Rio de Janeiro, Brazil…Bogota, Colombia…Guatemala City, Guatemala….Cape Town, South Africa…

They are all beautiful destinations, with vibrant Expat communities and a far higher crime rate than Tunisia.  Also, they are all on the 2012 top 10 most dangerous cities list.  In all of these cities Expats find ways not only to live but also to thrive.  Expats find ways to address their security concerns and explore all of these beautiful cities.

Tunisia is not even close to making this list…and driving continues to be the number one hazard for visitors.  Still, there is no doubt that the landscape has changed.  There is a conservative shift that Expats need to recognize.  Tunisia is going through a major transition which means that we need to stay informed and aware of what’s happening on the ground.

A choice…

We have a choice…we can choose to live here or we can choose to move on.  We can choose to live in fear or we can unite.  We can choose to complain about security or we can improve it by keeping each other informed.

As Expats we can not afford to outsource our security.  We can not afford to simply rely on the authorities…living in limbo is not an option.

Good Intel is the Key

Good information is the key.  You don’t have to worry about 1001 scenarios if you have good sources.  You don’t have to live in fear if you can trust your community, network, and information.

Now is the time to make sure that you have access to reliable information…if you don’t…do whatever you need to do to change that.

Subscribe to a blog you can trust…have good conversations with friends and neighbors…and commit to making your personal security a priority.

Remember we are here of our own free and we don’t want to simply survive…we are here to thrive…let’s keep the good information flowing and continue to live vibrant & colorful Expat Adventures.

 

TS Update-(Progress…and looking ahead)

First I would like to say thank you for all the kind emails and support that I’ve received from the entire Expat community.  The American school is more united and determined than ever and we will not allow thugs and criminals to prevent us from providing the Expat community with a safe & dynamic place to learn.

Please excuse my short postings, as time goes on I hope to be able to share more insightful information.  While experiencing the chaos on September 14 I vowed that if I survived I would do everything that I could to provide expats  with useful & empowering information.

Although I know that sometimes I will sound like an alarmist…I rather be safe than sorry.

Blessing or Curse

September 14 may prove to be a blessing for Tunisia or the final chapter of the democracy project”.  If the Tunisian authorities decide to put politics aside and focus on security, history will prove that September 14 was the turning point for Tunisia.

On the other hand September 14 could be just a preview of an even greater challenge.  It’s no secret that analysts were anticipating challenges during the month of October.  With the constitution deadline  (October 23rd) and growing salafists problem; the consensus was that things would heat up in October.

And then the clip from hell was released…

What’s frustrating is that we know that the Tunisian security forces have the necessary tools to deal with the current security challenge.  We know that with the right intelligence gathering (i.e. hateful sermons at the mosques) and basic  preventative actions (i.e. 360 coverage of the US embassy)…if they had just done the basics…September 14th does not happen.

But it did happen…

Caution & Awareness

Expats do not take the current situation lightly.  It is very important that you continue to review your personal security both on the road and at home.  One of the most important lessons we learned on September 14th is that information is critical.

The right information will empower you to make the right decision which will save from being in the wrong situation.  Make sure your electronic, social, and community information channels are providing you with good, reliable, and practical information.

We should never forget 9/14 and use it as a reminder to always put our personal safety first…

TS Update-(September 14…don’t forget it)

Conspiracy theories aside…September 14th showed me one very important lesson:  At a moment’s notice the “powers that be” can mobilize a viscous and very dangerous mob.  I am 100% certain that the spectacle we witnessed at the American embassy was planned and approved.   I refuse to be politically correct…nobody has the right to play with our lives.

OK…now that I got that out of my system…let’s proceed to some analysis:

What went wrong? 

Tunisia’s Ruling Party Condemns US Embassy Attacks —Source:  ABC news

According to the AP story:  “Tunisia’s governing moderate Islamist party condemned the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and the neighboring American school, saying Saturday that such violence threatens the country’s progress toward democracy after decades of dictatorship.”

While the recognition and apology are appreciated; they are too little too late.  Anybody with even a little experience in security knows that the real planning is done before the event.

It was very alarming to hear directly from a colleague that on Friday September 14th, the Iman (Muslim preacher) was actually encouraging violence.  In fact, the message was so hateful that at one point he stated that he wanted to “leave the Friday prayer session”.  If you know anything about these Friday sermons you know that they are scripted and deliberate.

As I watched a young girl walk on the US embassy perimeter wall with a “salafist flag” these are the two words that kept ringing in my mind:  Scripted & Deliberate.

Positive Note

We’ve been informed that over 40 criminals have been arrested in the Laouina area (American School neighborhood).  Talking with an officer today that presented himself as a supervisor in the Tunisian “anti-terriosim” unit, I saw a look that told me he knew they dropped the ball.  It was a look that said:  “hey we messed up…how can we help now?”

According to the Interior ministry (the same people that said only 500  people would attend a peaceful protest in front of the embassy)   75  people that took part in the embassy protest have been arrested.

Better late than never they say.
Let’s continue to share information and stay informed.