Tunisia has a highly irregular coastline that affords many bays and several fine harbors, notably Bizerte, Qabis, Safaqis, and Susah. Part of the Atlas Mts. runs through N Tunisia; but, unlike Morocco and Algeria, the mountains in Tunisia rarely exceed 4,000 ft (1,219 m) in elevation. In the south, below the Chott Djerid (a great salt lake), stretches the Sahara Desert. The population, which is largely Berber and Arab, lives mainly near the coast, in urban areas. Most Tunisians are Sunni Muslims; there is a small Jewish community dating back to ancient times, although most have emigrated to Israel or France. Tunisians of all backgrounds have migrated to France in significant numbers. Arabic is the official language, but French also is spoken.
Although the mining, energy, tourism, and manufacturing sectors of the economy are important, and the country has become increasingly middle class, over half of Tunisia's workers are engaged in farming. The agricultural sector, however, accounts for less than 15% of the GDP. The leading crops are olives, wheat, barley, tomatoes, citrus, sugar beets, dates, and almonds. Livestock raising and fishing are also important. Because irrigation is inadequate, agricultural production varies widely according to rainfall.
Petroleum was found (1964) in the Sahara not far from the Algerian border, and production began in 1966; subsequent oil discoveries have increased production significantly. Recent developments in the extraction of natural gas, centered in the Gulf of Gabes, have made the country more self-sufficient. Tunisia has large phosphate reserves and iron ore is found in quantity. Zinc, lead, and salt are also mined.
Tunisia's industries (located primarily in Tunis) produce textiles, leather, steel, and foods and beverages. Tourism is also an important economic activity. Petroleum, phosphates, chemicals, textiles and clothing, and olive oil are the country's leading exports; its imports are headed by textiles, machinery and equipment, hydrocarbons, chemicals, and food (particularly cereals). France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Libya are the main trade partners.
Tunisia is governed under the constitution of 1959 as amended. The president, who is the head of state, is popularly elected for a five-year term, with no term limits. The bicameral legislature consists of the 189-seat Chamber of Deputies, whose members are popularly elected every five years, and the 126-seat Chamber of Advisers, whose members are either appointed by the president (41) or elected by indirect vote (85) and serve six-year terms. The prime minister, who is the head of government, and cabinet are appointed by the president. Administratively, the country is divided into 24 governates.
The coast of Tunisia was settled in 10th cent. B.C. by Phoenicians. In the 6th cent. B.C., Carthage rose to power, but it was conquered by Rome (2d cent. B.C.), and the region became one of the granaries of Rome. It was held by Vandals (5th cent. A.D.) and Byzantines (6th cent.). In the 7th cent. it was conquered by Arabs, who founded Al Qayrawan. The region became known as Ifriqiya and the Berber population was converted to Islam. Successive Muslim dynasties ruled, interrupted by Berber rebellions. The reigns of the Aghlabids (9th cent.) and of the Zirids (from 972), Berber followers of the Fatimids, were especially prosperous. When the Zirids angered the Fatimids in Cairo (1050), the latter ravaged Tunisia.
The coasts were briefly held by the Normans of Sicily in the 12th cent. In 1159, Tunisia was conquered by the Almohad caliphs of Morocco. The Almohads were succeeded by the Berber Hafsids (c.1230-1574), under whom Tunisia prospered. In the last years of the Hafsids, Spain seized many of the coastal cities, but they were recovered for Islam by the Ottoman Turks. Under its Turkish governors, the beys, Tunisia attained virtual independence. In the late 16th cent. the coast became a pirate stronghold (see Barbary States). The Hussein dynasty of beys, established in 1705, lasted until 1957.European Influence and Nationalist Aspirations
In the 19th cent. the heavy debts that the beys had contracted gave European powers cause for intervention. France, Great Britain, and Italy took over Tunisia's finances in 1869. A number of incidents, including attacks by Tunisians on Algeria (a French possession since 1830), led to a French invasion of Tunisia. The bey was forced to sign the treaties of Bardo (1881) and Mersa (1883), which provided for the organization of a protectorate under a French resident general. The protectorate was opposed by Italy, which had economic interests and a sizable group of nationals in Tunisia. Italy's attitude grew increasingly belligerent, and, in the years immediately preceding World War I, threats of annexation were made.
A nationalist movement developed fairly quickly in Tunisia. In 1920 the Destour (Constitutional) party was organized. In 1934 a more radical faction, led by Habib Bourguiba, formed the Neo-Destour party. In World War II, Tunisia came under Vichy rule after the fall of France (June, 1940). Major battles of the war in North Africa were fought in Tunisia (see North Africa, campaigns in). After the war nationalist agitation intensified. In 1950, France granted Tunisia a large degree of autonomy. The French population in Tunisia, however, opposed further reforms, and negotiations broke down. Bourguiba was arrested (1952), and his imprisonment precipitated a wave of violence.Tunisia since Independence
In 1955, France granted Tunisia complete internal self-government. Full independence was negotiated in 1956, and Habib Bourguiba became prime minister. The country became a republic in 1957 when the bey, Sidi Lamine, was deposed by a vote of the constituent assembly, which then made Bourguiba president. Bourguiba followed a generally pro-Western foreign policy, but relations with France were strained over Algerian independence, which Tunisia supported, and the evacuation of French troops from Tunisia. The French naval installations at Bizerte were the scene of violent confrontation in 1961; France finally agreed to evacuate them in 1963.
Relations between Tunisia and Algeria deteriorated after the latter gained its independence from France in 1962, and border disputes between the two countries were not settled until 1970. Bourguiba's support for a negotiated settlement with Israel in the Arab-Israeli conflict caused strains in its relations with other Arab countries. Domestically, Bourguiba's policies emphasized modernization and planned economic growth. An agrarian reform plan, involving the formation of cooperatives, was begun in 1962, but it was halted in 1969 due to harsh implementation and corruption.
The 1970s saw increasing conflict within the ruling Destour party between liberals and conservatives, as well as public demonstrations against the government. However, Bourguiba's socialist government enjoyed a long period of favorable relations with France and became a moderating influence in the Arab League. In 1981, Bourguiba authorized the legal formation of opposition political parties, indicating a possible shift in the direction of democracy, and multiparty legislative elections were held for the first time in 1981. By 1986, six opposition parties had legal status. Nonetheless, the 1980s were largely characterized by popular unrest and labor difficulties, as well as a search for the aged Bourguiba's successor.
In 1987, Bourguiba was ousted by Gen. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The new regime restored diplomatic relations with Libya and signed a treaty of economic cooperation with Libya, Algeria, Mauritania, and Morocco (see under Maghreb). Ben Ali initially moved toward liberal reforms, but after the 1989 elections, in which Islamic activists made a strong showing, he instituted repressive measures against them. During the 1994 election campaign, the government arrested political dissidents and barred the Islamic party Al Nahda from participating. Running uncontested and endorsed by all the legal opposition parties, Ben Ali drew nearly 100% of the vote.
In 1999, Ben Ali was again reelected with nearly 100% of the vote; he faced a token challenge from two opposition candidates. A constitutional amendment, approved in 2002 in a referendum by a similar margin, permitted the president to run for more than two terms. In 2004 and 2009 Ben Ali was reelected a lopsided share (94% and 89%) of the vote; he again faced only token opposition. The landslide victories of Ben Ali and the government party have been marked by intimidation and credible accusations of vote-rigging.
See W. Knapp, Tunisia (1970); H. C. Reese et al., Area Handbook for the Republic of Tunisia (1970); R. Said, Cultural Policy in Tunisia (1970); A. Marsden, British Diplomacy and Tunis, 1875-1902 (1972); D. L. Ling, Morocco and Tunisia (1979); R. I. Lawless et al., Tunisia (1982); L. Anderson, The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980 (1986).
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Tunisia (تونس Tūnis), officially the Tunisian Republic is a country located in North Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and Libya to the southeast. It is the northernmost country on the African continent, and the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range. Around forty percent of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and a 1300 km coastline. Both played a prominent role in ancient times, first with the famous Phoenician city of Carthage, and later as the Africa Province, which became known as the bread basket of the Roman Empire. Tunisia ranks high among Middle Eastern and African nations in reports released by The World Economic Forum.
At the beginning of recorded history, Tunisia was inhabited by Berber tribes. Its coast was settled by Phoenicians starting as early as the 10th century BC. The city of Carthage was founded in the 9th century B.C. by settlers from Tyre, now in modern day Lebanon. Legend says that Dido founded the city in 814 B.C., as retold in by the Greek writer Timaeus of Tauromenium. The settlers of Carthage brought their culture and religion from the Phoenicians and other Canaanites.
After a series of wars with Greek city-states of Sicily in the 5th century BC, Carthage rose to power and eventually became the dominant civilization in the Western Mediterranean. The people of Carthage worshipped a pantheon of Middle Eastern gods including Baal and Tanit. Tanit's symbol, a simple female figure with extended arms and long dress, is a popular icon found in ancient sites. The founders of Carthage also established a Tophet which was altered in Roman times.
Though the Romans referred to the new empire growing in the city of Carthage as Punic or Phoenician, the empire built around Carthage was an independent political entity from the other Phoenician settlements in the Western Mediterranean.
A Carthaginian invasion of Italy led by Hannibal during the Second Punic War, one of a series of wars with Rome, nearly crippled the rise of the Roman Empire. Carthage was eventually conquered by Rome in the 2nd century BC, a turning point which led to ancient Mediterranean civilization having been influenced mainly by European instead of African cultures. After the Roman conquest, the region became one of the granaries of Rome, and was Latinized and Christianized. It was conquered by the Vandals in the 5th century AD and reconquered by the commander Belisarius in the 6th century during the rule of Byzantine emperor Justinian.
In the 7th century the region was conquered by Arab Muslims, who founded the city of Kairouan. Successive Muslim dynasties ruled, interrupted by Berber rebellions. The reigns of the Aghlabids (9th century) and of the Zirids (from 972), Berber followers of the Fatimids, were especially prosperous. When the Zirids angered the Fatimids in Cairo (1050), the latter sent in the Banu Hilal tribe to ravage Tunisia.
The coasts were held briefly by the Normans of Sicily in the 12th century and the following Arab reconquest made the last Christians in Tunisia disappear. In 1159, Tunisia was conquered by the Almohad caliphs. They were succeeded by the Berber Hafsids (c.1230 1574), under whom Tunisia prospered. In the late 16th century the coast became a pirate stronghold (see: Barbary States). In the last years of the Hafsids, Spain seized many of the coastal cities, but these were recovered by the Ottoman Empire. Under its Turkish governors, the Beys, Tunisia attained virtual independence. The Hussein dynasty of Beys, established in 1705, lasted until 1957.
In 1942 1943 Tunisia was the scene of the first major operations by the Allied Forces (the British Commonwealth and the United States) against the Axis Powers (Italy and Germany) during World War II. The main body of the British army, advancing from their victory in Battle of el-Alamein under the command of British Field Marshal Montgomery, pushed into Tunisia from the south. The US and other allies, following their invasions of Algeria and Morocco in Operation Torch, invaded from the west.
General Rommel, commander of the Axis forces in North Africa, had hoped to inflict a similar defeat on the allies in Tunisia as German forces did in the Battle of France in 1940. Before the battle for Tunisia, the inexperienced allied forces had generally been unable to withstand German blitzkriegs and properly coordinate their operations. As such the battle for Tunisia was a major test for the allies. They figured out that in order to defeat Axis forces they would have to coordinate their actions and quickly recover from the inevitable setbacks the experienced German-Italian forces would inflict.
On February 19, 1943, General Rommel launched an attack on the American forces in the Kasserine Pass region of Western Tunisia, hoping to inflict the kind of demoralizing and alliance-shattering defeat the Germans had dealt to Poland and France. The initial results were a disaster for the United States; the area around the Kasserine Pass is the site of many US war graves from that time.
However, the American forces were ultimately able to reverse their retreat. Having learned a critical lesson in tank warfare, the Allies broke through the Mareth line on March 20, 1943. The allies subsequently linked up on April 8 and on May 2, 1943 the German-Italian Army in Tunisia surrendered. Thus, the United States, United Kingdom, Free French, and Polish (as well as other forces) were able to win a major battle as an allied army.
The battle, though often overshadowed by Stalingrad, represented a major allied victory of World War II largely because it forged the Alliance which would one day liberate Western Europe.
In Tunisia, the President is elected to 5-year terms. He appoints a Prime Minister and cabinet, who play a strong role in the execution of policy. Regional governors and local administrators also are appointed by the central government. Largely consultative mayors and municipal councils are elected. There is a bicameral legislative body, the Chamber of Deputies, which has 182 seats, 20% of which are reserved for the opposition parties and the Chamber of Advisors which is composed of representatives from political parties, from professional organisations and by personalities appointed by the president of the Republic. Both chambers are composed of more than 20% of women, making it one of the rare countries in the Arab world where women enjoy equal rights. Incidentally, it is also the only country in the Arab world where polygamy is forbidden by law. This as part of a provision of the country’s Code of Personal Status which was introduced by the former president Bourguiba in 1956. The judiciary is independent. The military is professional and does not play a role in politics. Since 1987, Tunisia has gradually reformed its political system, it has abolished life presidency and opened up parliament to opposition parties. There are currently nine political parties in Tunisia, six of whom are represented in parliament. The majority party known as the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) in French, is composed of about 2 million members and more than 6000 representations throughout the country; although the party was renamed (in Bourguiba’s days it used to be known as the Socialist Destourian Party), its policies are still considered to be largely secular. Since 2007, all political parties represented in parliament benefit from state subsidies to cover the rising cost of paper and to expand their publication. In July 2008, new constitutional provisions have been voted by the country’s parliament. These provisions which include lowering the age of voting to 18, as well as easing the conditions for eligibility for the presidency, also allow for any head of political party , whether represented in parliament or not to present their candidacy, to run for president.
The state has also abolished the ‘depot legal’, which required prior authorization before sending to print, and issued legislation meant to bring amendments to the press code which provides journalists with greater freedom to express their ideas. Recently, the election of a syndicate of journalists met with a positive reaction from journalists. There are currently about 300 publications in Tunisia, most of them are financially and editorially independent. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), as well as other press freedom groups have regularly led fact finding missions and issued reports calling on Tunisia to free what they consider as detained journalists, however Tunisian authorities have reacted by saying that there are no journalists currently held for having expressed their ideas. The recent case in point was provided by the ‘Slim Boukhdir case’, a journalist (since then released before serving his term), who was sentenced to a year in jail for having insulted a police officer on duty, according to the version given by the authorities. CPJ denies this version, arguing he was convicted for having written articles critical of the president. Tunisian authorities maintain that only pornographic material and articles inciting to hate, are banned by law. This is the case of both the printed press and the internet which has witnessed a considerable development with more than 1,1 million users and hundreds of internet cafes, known as ‘publinet.’ Human rights are also the subject of controversy between human rights groups such as Amnesty International that argue that rights are not respected and Tunisian authorities that make the point that in recent international fora such as the United Nations - based New York Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Committee in Geneva (2008), where all of the countries of the world go through a ‘periodic review’, Tunisia ‘s efforts to promote a comprehensive system of human rights were officially acknowledged.
Tunisia is also one of three Muslim countries (Azerbaijan and Turkey are the others) that prohibits the hijab in government buildings. By government edict, women that insist on wearing the hijab cannot enter public buildings. Dissenters are liable to a fine and have to sign a document to avoid recidivism. Even if the ban against the hijab in public offices is not always strictly enforced, the publicity given to certain cases has overshadowed the real issues.
Underground opposition from Islamic fundamentalists has an obvious but shadowy existence in Tunisia. Under former president Bourguiba, Islamic fundamentalists were temporarily allowed to serve as a counterweight to more left-leaning movements, until their plans to seize power was revealed . Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, has consistently expressed his opposition to the presence of religious parties in parliament, and the Tunisian constitution clearly forbids the inclusion of religious parties in the political system. While Tunisia cannot boast the natural resources its neighbors have, standards of living are among the best in the developing world. This can be evidenced by two compelling economic observations: the level to which Tunisia has become self-sufficient in material goods, and the extent of real estate development in the cities and major towns of the country. Put simply, the mid-level retail outlet will typically offer goods more than 90% of which are home produced. As to the rise of the building and construction industry, a fleeting visit to any of Tunisia's smaller towns (let alone the cities) will confirm that development is rampant: many projects, especially hotels, are newly opened, and many more stand as skeleton buildings, ready to be developed as soon as demand - and capital funds - are available to bring them to completion. starvation, homelessness, and disease, problems seen in much of Africa and Asia, are rare.Poverty has significantly been reduced thanks to a national solidarity policy and strong social commitment from the government , and now stands at 3,8%, instead of some 50% in 1956.
The following is an excerpt from the The World Factbook about Tunisia;
Following independence from France in 1956, President Habib BOURGUIBA established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In recent years, Tunisia has taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to defuse rising pressure for a more open political society.
Tunisia has a sizable Christian community of around 560,000 adherents (320,000 Protestants, 240,000 Roman Catholics); it is roughly equally divided between Catholics and Protestants.
Djerba, Wish, located in the south of Tunisia, is a Jewish enclave. One of the oldest synagogues in the world is here; many Jews celebrate a pilgrimage once a year to Djerba.
Tunisia has a culture that encourages acceptance of other religions; religious freedom is widely practiced and the government is tolerant of religious freedom as long as it does not threaten national unity. Individual Tunisians are also tolerant of religious freedom and generally do not inquire about a person's personal beliefs.
Tunisia is one of the very few North African countries where synagogues and churches are open to worshipers.
Tunisia is subdivided into 24 governorates, they are:
Tunisia is a country situated on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile Valley. It is bordered by Algeria in the west and Libya in the south-east. An abrupt southern turn of its shoreline gives Tunisia two faces on the Mediterranean.
Despite its relatively small size, Tunisia has great geographical and climactic diversity. The Dorsal, an extension of the Atlas Mountains, traverses Tunisia in a northeasterly direction from the Algerian border in the west to the Cape Bon peninsula. North of the Dorsal is the Tell, a region characterized by low, rolling hills and plains, although in the northwestern corner of Tunisia, the land reaches elevations of 1,050 meters. The Sahil is a plain along Tunisia's eastern Mediterranean coast famous for its olive monoculture. Inland from the Sahil, between the Dorsal and a range of hills south of Gafsa, are the Steppes. Much of the southern region is semi-arid and desert.
The majority (98%) of modern Tunisians are Arab, and are speakers of Tunisian Arabic. However, there is also a small (1% at most) population of Berbers located in the Jabal Dahar mountains in the South East and on the island of Jerba. The Berbers primarily speak Berber languages, often called Shelha. The other long-established community in the country is Jewish (today mainly in the capital Tunis and on Jerba), much reduced in number since independence from France.
One study indicates that the majority of the genetic material in Tunisia did not arrive with the Arabs (no more than 20% was found to come from the Middle East, and most of this presumably was added by Phoenicians/Carthaginians or as even early as the neolithic several millennia B.C. rather than during the Arab conquest). Another study, which does not compare Tunisian genetics with those of the Middle East, states that what it calls the Arab subhaplotype Va was found at a relatively high frequency in Tunisia at 50.6%. , but also states that this group in fact "probably correspond to a heterogeneous group representing various ethnicities", rather than just Arabs. Yet another finds that "the Tunisian genetic distances to European samples are smaller than those to North African groups" (these groups being from the Moroccan Atlas and the Siwa oasis in Egypt). This suggests a fairly significant European input to Tunisian genetics.
The first people known to history in what is now Tunisia were the Berbers. Numerous civilizations and peoples have invaded, migrated to, and been assimilated into the population over the millennia, with varying influxes of population via conquest and settlement from Phoenicians/Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and French. Additionally, after the Reconquista and expulsion of non-Christians and Moriscos from Spain, many Spanish Moors and Jews also arrived at the end of the 15th century.
Religion in Tunisia is dominated by Islam, to which a majority of Tunisians (98%) adhere. One of the most ancient Jewish communities in the world resides in Jerba, where religious diversity thrives. The southern Tunisian island is home to 39 synagogues.
Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is Tunisia's official language. However, as is the case in the rest of the Arab world, a vernacular form of Arabic is used by the public. In Tunisia, the dialect is Tunisian Arabic, which is closely related to the Maltese language. There is also a small minority of speakers of Shelha, a Berber language.
French also plays a major role in the country, despite having no official status. It is widely used in education (e.g. as the language of instruction in the sciences in secondary school), the press, and in business. Most educated Tunisians are able to speak it. Many Tunisians, particularly those residing in large urban areas, readily mix Tunisian Arabic with French.
While children generally acquire Tunisian Arabic at home, when they enter school at age 6, they are taught to read and write in Standard Arabic. From the age of 8, they are taught French while English is introduced at the age of 12.
Colleges and universities in Tunisia include:
The culture of Tunisia is mixed due to their long established history of conquerors such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Spaniards, and the French who all left their mark on the country.
Current ethnicity consists of Arab (98%), European (1%), others (1%).
The dominant Religion in Tunisia is Sunni Islam (99%). There are also small groups of Christians and Jews.
|United Nations||since 12 November 1956|
|Arab League||since 1958|
|Organization of the Islamic Conference||since 1969|
|World Trade Organization||since 29 March 1995|
|Mediterranean Dialogue group||since February 1995|
Tunisia: Progress through Moderation; Economic and Social Equality Go Hand-in-Hand in Tunisia's Goods and Services-Oriented Economy
May 31, 1999; Tunisia: Progress Through Moderation; Economic and Social Equality Go Hand-in-Hand in Tunisia's Goods and...