Tunis, October 10th, 2013.
At one of the rallies organized by the Tunisian opposition and the Tunisian civil society in front the Constituent Assembly building, we met Dr. Wassim Jday who is an assistant professor at the University of Monastir and a political activist and asked him a number of questions to have an idea about the situation in Tunisia. The little conversation was later followed by further exchanges of views of which the following interview can serve as a summary of the main issues raised.
Rally in Tunisia - August 25, 2013 by Madelyn Hoffman
Hoffman: "You and I had a wide-ranging conversation at the demonstration and rally in Tunis on August 24th. I really enjoyed our conversation, but wanted to ask you some questions formally to reinforce what we discussed. It will help me to remember your very strong analysis if I have it in writing. My intentions are to share some of the insights in op-ed pieces, and presentations to peace and justice activists in New Jersey. What do you think is the most important political battle going on in Tunisia right now?"
Jday: "Thank you Madelyn for your interest in what's going on in Tunisia. I will try to answer your questions one by one, but as I told you earlier we are here speaking about political issues, so every idea expressed could and would be contested by people who position themselves on the opposite side. There is, however, incontestable material such as the video that I showed you a couple of days ago and which exposes blatant lies manipulatively advanced by CNN. Let me first say that what is happening in Tunisia now is very critical despite the efforts made by the government and its representatives to show the opposite. The situation is very difficult and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The government, which hasn't respected its term of office of only one year according to the electoral law, is now sticking to power and doesn't want to leave it lest its ministers should be sued and imprisoned for the too many violations and crimes they have committed during these two years. So they want to stick to power whatever it takes and despite the country's imminent economic bankruptcy."
Hoffman: "What do you think is the 2nd more important political battle going on in Tunisia right now?"
Jday: "The second more important battle is a battle that goes beyond political parties, I believe, it's a battle related to the division of the Tunisian people itself between those who want an Islamist state, that is a theocracy regardless of the many names some tend to give it, and those who want a secular state, and this problem will persist regardless of political parties."
Hoffman: "What do you see as the likelihood of getting the current President of Tunisia/President of the government to step down?"
Jday: "As I said before this will be very complicated. They won't give it up easily, mainly because they'll be sued once they do. For instance, President Marzouki is fond of repeating: "I will pass power only to an elected president" whereas his very government refuses to fix any date for the next elections. So, it's a very ironical hide-and-seek game. And some analysts confirm that no change would ever happen before 2015."
Hoffman: "What additional tactics are necessary to ensure success?"
Jday: "I am personally very pessimistic and believe the only tactic that would work is the absolute boycott of the government in order to let the people itself face them and revolt against them. I don't see any other possible solution with them."
Hoffman: "What role, if any, do you think the United States is playing in Tunisia's political battles?"
Jday: "I don't preach any sort of conspiracy theories, but it is a fact not a theory that the USA has been supporting Islamists in Tunisia. There are hundreds of details that confirm this and one can never mention all of the proofs. Probably the most ironic one for me is how Rached Ghanoushi (just like Moncef Marzouki) is called a "great world thinker" in America and is hosted and honored by American institutes and organizations. When you watch the blatant lies on CNN, for instance, in the video that I showed you, the only conclusion that any sane person can come to is that the USA is doing its best to support the Islamist government in Tunisia in all crooked ways and despite the disasters that it brought to the Tunisian people. By the way, the Middle East Institute (MEI) is organizing a conference next weekend in Washington on "Tunisia's democratic transition" and the only Tunisian speaker will be the unconditional supporter of the Islamist government and of the Islamist Nahdha Party, Radwan Masmoudi. This man is actually a key figure to be studied if one wants to understand the role of America in supporting theocrats in Tunisia."
Hoffman: "What role do you think the United States SHOULD play in Tunisia's political battles?"
Jday: "I believe that America should rather respect the will of the Tunisian people while encouraging, by all legitimate and honest means, a transition towards a secular State, a State of Universal Human Rights (which are being contested at this very moment by Nahdha members in the Constituent Assembly), a State of equality between men and women, a State of religious freedoms and cultural diversity. All these humanistic values on which the United States itself is based are contested by America's friends and allies in Tunisia who attacked and sacked the US Embassy in Tunis in September 2012. The principles that Nahdha party and its multi-named derivatives and proponents are defending are in absolute opposition with the values defended by Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Founding Fathers. And finally, I have to insist that the argument saying that "America has to respect the decision of the Tunisian people who chose Islamists" is just preposterous. First, one has to defend universal values, Human Rights, equality, religious freedom and cultural diversity even if these are defended only by a small minority in any given country. Second, the Islamist party, which doesn't represent a popular majority at all in Tunisia, had been supported by America way before it came to power."
Hoffman: "Will the situation in Tunisia ever become like what's happening in Egypt? Why or why not?"