Tunisia can make it !

Protestors in Tunisia, January 2011 (Reuters)
Protestors in Tunisia, January 2011 (Reuters)

Far too often journalists have parachuted into Tunisia after an incident and reported that the country was in “turmoil”, or worse! For those of us who have been in Tunisia since before and after the Revolution, they would know that this is hardly a reflection of daily life here. Yes, there has been a lot of political wrangling, disagreements and certainly, considerable political incompetence. The economy has shown little to no signs of improvement and the ruling party since the October 2011 elections has barely an accomplishment to show. They are also more than a year overdue in their initial charge of writing the Constitution.

Despite these political hills and valleys,  two well publicized incidents of political assassinations and frequent labor demonstrations, daily life continues with relative normality for the majority of Tunisians; theaters and cafes are open, concerts take place, schools are open, shopping malls are packed and tourists continue to come. Parachuting journalists have often left the impression in the media that Tunisia is another Egypt or worse, Syria, Libya or Iraq. As anyone who truly knows Tunisia, this is far from the reality on the ground and a sad commentary on media that looks for the quick story, rather than the digging into the reality.

The last several weeks have seen Tunisian diplomacy that can perhaps set a barometer for the United States’s Congress’s Republicans and Democrats. Tunisian political adversaries have made concessions, often times politically painful ones. The latest agreement results in choosing a new Prime Minister who is more of a technocrat than a politician and who has been given the task of steering the country through the next stage, leading to the completion of the long overdue Constitution and calling for new elections. While the results of this next stage are too soon to be judged and the real test of seeing that the political party that offered to step down does as it promises, the process has been free of violence and has not brought interruption to the daily lives of Tunisians.

For a country that is a nascent democracy, barely three years old and never having had the history of a free and transparent political life, this relatively peaceful process is the real story underway in Tunisia. It is these hopeful signs that allow all of us here in Tunisia, Tunisian born and otherwise, to feel that if any Arab country can truly achieve democracy, it is Tunisia that signals the best hope!

Jerry Sorkin
Founder and President
TunisUSA

PS: Carlota Gall of the New York Time’s captured the Tunisian scene well in this recent article:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/world/africa/a-political-deal-in-a-deeply-divided-tunisia-as-islamists-agree-to-yield-power.html?emc=edit_tnt_20131216&tntemail0=y&_r=0

 

On the interim agreement between Iran and US…

The agreement recently signed in Geneva by the US and Iran is a good step forward. indeed. It is understandable that there are skeptics, not the least of whom include Saudia Arabia, Israel, some members of the US Congress and no doubt, other Americans. However, after thirty-four years of mutual antagonism, suspicion and very little civil communication, this agreement can serve as an important first step in what could be an even more important transition in relations that go well beyond US and Iran.

Thirty-four years of little to no dialogue, antagonistic action between the two countries in various forms and a lack of trust can only be improved by having direct negotiations. The actors have changed and minds and actions can change, as well. There are endless means of establishing safeguards to protect respective interests, but without opening channels of direct communication, one can be assured that there will never be improvement. Finding examples in modern history where political tempers have been lowered and relations restored in the absence of direct communication would be nearly impossible, if not impossible, to cite.

We hope that Secretary of State Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif can continue their progress on improving the relations between the US and Iran and hopefully, changing more minds and the destructive desires that can impose risks to all of us.

We will continue our part of trying to bring understanding between people through our cultural travel programs, which have proven to bring people together, time and time again!
We have been participants in voluminous encounters between people who never would have crossed paths and without such interaction, would likely have held steadfast to their animosity and distrust towards the other.

 

 

 

 

Jerry Sorkin
Founder and President
TunisUSA