Saturday, July 16, 2016
Why Does Tunisia Produce So Many Terrorists?
The success story of the Arab Spring has made room for moderate secularists to flourish. But that’s a double-edged sword.
People gather around flowers placed on the Promenade des Anglais on July 15 in Nice, France, after a terrorist attack the previous day.
We still don’t have all the details, but it would appear that the man behind the horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, was , a 31-year-old deliveryman and petty criminal. Bouhlel, who was killed by police at the scene, was a French citizen. But the detail that many terrorism experts immediately zeroed in on was his country of origin: Tunisia. That’s right: The country that is often hailed as “the success story of the Arab Spring” because it has actually managed to stick with democracy since the downfall of its dictator in 2011.
The experts have long since that Tunisia is a disproportionate source of recruits for radical Islamist causes. Despite the country’s relatively small population of 11 million, Tunisians are conspicuously among the fighters of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. According to , 7,000 Tunisians have joined the cause — more than any other country, including much larger ones such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. There are also, according to numerous reports, thousands of Tunisians training and fighting for jihad in Libya, Tunisia’s next-door neighbor, which has a strong Islamic State presence. (Indeed, the Tunisian authorities have that they’ve prevented some 12,000 other potential jihadists from leaving the country for Syria since 2013 — a statistic hardly as comforting as they apparently would like it to be.)
institutionalized contempt for their “backward” religion.
Christian Caryl is the editor of Democracy Lab, published by in conjunction with the London-based Legatum Institute. A former reporter at , he's also the author of . He is a regular contributor to the and a contributing editor at the.
This article was published first by Foreign Policy on 15 July 2016