Newsletter

The Tunisian American Professional Quarterly     
October 10, 2012 | Issue: 7
 

A note from TAYP’s President

TAYP’s mission has undoubtedly shifted since the events of September 14 in Tunis. While our existing programs are continuing, we have put new entrepreneurship and investment promotion activities on the back burner temporarily. In fact, you won’t find these sections in today’s newsletter simply because we believe that while much needed, it is untimely to urge for more economic cooperation before reassuring and communicating on Tunisia’s current transition.

We are focusing all of our energies to demonstrate the real and true story of Tunisia.  The team quickly coordinated a press release, a letter to our National Constituent Assembly’s representative, a note to the American school in Tunis, press interviews with the US press and the Tunisia press, co-sponsoring of a Tunisian-American concert, and the publication of an op-ed (the original version is published in full below and you can also click on the published version).  Our major focus now is to help repair the recent set back to Tunisia’s image in the United States. We are also continuing to urge the Tunisian government to take decisive actions and adopt a credible and stronger stand on key questions of rule of law, safety and security.

Although it’s only been a month and a half, the privilege of hearing President Obama say “I have great hopes for Tunisia” seems far away. Instead, we are at a point where we need to demonstrate through actions and commitment that those who believed in Tunisians capacity to overcome the toughest setbacks are right. This action that began on September 15 will continue, and we will work even harder to show our support and commitment to strong US-Tunisia ties.

Finally, many of you inquired about practical action on the ground.  Well, it is with great honor and pride that I share with you the upcoming launch of a TAYP chapter in Tunisia, based in Tunis.  Stay tuned for a major announcement relative to TAYP in Tunisia.

Mohamed Malouche 
 
 
TAYP's op-ed
 
 
Mondher Ben Hamida
 
TAYP’s
Vice-President
 
 
 
 
 
 
Tunisia and the Arab Spring: From cradle to grave

By Mondher Ben Hamida, Wafa Ben Hassine and Mariem Malouche

 

By now, any American with at least some access to news sources must have heard that once again, the Arab world is in major turmoil.

The events that took place on September 14, where mobs of protesters attacked the US Embassies of Tunis, Cairo, Khartoum and Sana’a, have undoubtedly undermined the democratic transformative wind blowing in the region. Two factors make the recent events particularly compelling in the United States. First, their timing in the midst of a heated presidential campaign has already impacted the nature and substance of domestic political discourse. Secondly, the tragic loss of a distinguished American diplomat and three members of his staff in Benghazi – a city that came to symbolize a new approach in American foreign policy in the Arab world – has tarnished the image of the fledgling Arab Spring.

As a group of Tunisian Americans hailing from diverse professional backgrounds, we share two main objectives: to ensure a successful democratic transition in our home country, and to see democratic values and principles, such as those enshrined in U.S. society, flourish in Tunisia. We were shocked and disgusted to see a group of extremists attack the U.S. Embassy and the American school in Tunis. This mob greatly damaged the image and economic prospects of a country that has been enjoying a great deal of sympathy and support, here in the United States and throughout the world.

It was also particularly disheartening to watch a number of U.S. politicians and policy experts rushing to write the obituary of the Arab Spring. Their arguments insinuate that all it took was a mere 20 months for the dream to go from cradle to grave, ironically in the same city: Tunis. The reality is obviously much more complex. The Arab Spring countries are undergoing a much-delayed and much-needed political and societal transformation. All the while, the eyes of a hopeful but apprehensive world are keeping watch.

However, the chaotic scenes broadcasted all over U.S. cable networks the past two weeks could not be more misleading. Partly thanks to the strong moral leadership and material support of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, the MENA region is undergoing an irreversible transformation into a vibrant democracy. We remain convinced that Tunisia, in particular, has all the ingredients necessary to succeed: strong institutions, a large middle-class, an active intellectual elite, advanced women’s status, and geographic and cultural proximity to Europe. These ingredients nurture the thirst for democracy. Today, there is no going back to a domineering institution, be it a dictatorship or a theocracy.

Systems theory teaches us that the initial phase of a transformation is usually the most painful, fragile, and critical, as many forces (often at odds) come into play and jostle for domination. Tunisia’s experience is no exception. We should not expect a country where freedom of speech was nonexistent, civil society shackled and corruption widespread to suddenly become the perfect democracy.

In the midst of this exciting and promising transformation, a noisy minority of fundamentalists has emerged. They hold anti-democratic beliefs that are often coupled with an anti-American discourse. This group is beginning to threaten the very essence of this experiment. By siding with the Tunisian youth against the despotic regime of the long-time U.S. ally Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali, the image of the U.S. experienced a historic upgrade. Arabs, including Tunisians, followed this shift in policy, which also contributed to the ouster of Egypt’s Mubarek and led to the overthrow of Libya’s Gaddafi, with a mix of incredulity, gratefulness and naturally, suspicion. The biggest loser throughout these historic events was Al Qaeda and its various affiliates, as this new U.S. policy greatly undermined their recruiting efforts.

However, despite all the challenges, this new experiment is well worth it for the Tunisian people and the Arab world, as well as for the stability of Western economies. Tunisian democracy is starting to function. Fair and free elections were held for the first time ever in October 2011. Topics that as recently as two years ago would have warranted arrests and torture are now openly debated on television.

For the sake of millions of people who deserve and need democracy, and for the sake of American ideals and geo-strategic interests, let us be steadfast in supporting Tunisia. Let’s not allow the senseless violence of a few put a historical process at risk. History will tell us that our efforts today will translate into one of the best investments we ever made.

To learn more, visit our Tunisian American Young Professionals site,  e-mail us, or follow us on Facebook Tunisian American young Professionals

 

 
Important Actions and Reminders
 
 

Become a member…

TAYP Membership gets you access to job postings very relevant to Tunisia and US-Tunisia relationships. It also gives you first access to the official events we organize, the lectures and webinars that discuss challenges and opportunities for the diaspora. Consider joining our organization to enjoy these benefits and network with fellow Tunisian professionals in the US. By becoming a member you can either choose to be active and take part in the many actions that are ongoing, or you can be a supporting member and gain gratification that you are helping fund an activity that supports Tunisia and its professional diaspora.

Thank you for your support and all the best,

Omar Kechrid, VP Membership

 

Contribute your expertise….

As members of the Tunisian diaspora, we are all looking for ways to help our beloved country go through its historic transition. The world is watching us and we have to succeed.  Members of TAYP have been debating a number of options to energize the communication channels within the extended diaspora community with the ultimate goal of putting our expertise and lessons learned living and working abroad at the service of our country(wo)men back home. One suggestion is to set up a number of tracks each focused on a particular theme that will hold periodic webinars where topics of relevance to Tunisia will be debated and information exchanged. These tracks could cover entrepreneurship, business certifications, crowd funding, etc. The plan is to leverage tools such as GoToMeeting (www.gotomeeting.com ) or Webex (www.webex.com ) that allow free VoIP (Voice over IP) communication and sharing of documents and to facilitate these discussions.

Are you interested in this concept and if yes, are there any particular topics you'd like to propose and/or organize. Please contact Mondher Ben Hamida for more information at mondher.benhamida@tayp.org
 
 
 
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