Terrorist attack in Tunisia sparks a political debate

Wed 1 Jul 2015

Terrorist attack in Tunisia sparks a political debate

Islamic State confirmed to be responsible for another terrorist attack  in Tunisia on 26th of  June that has caused strong reactions not only within the country but also worldwide. According to some observers, the attack has indicated the government of Tunisia to be unprepared to implement the anti-terrorist law which is based on the securitisation of terrorist threats to locals and tourists. However, the threat of Islamic extremists is becoming a bigger issue, hence, the international community is showing their support and involvement to prevent further attacks of Islamic State.

International community

Tunisia has received support in its fight against terrorism from international community. The Arab League (AL) has released a statement that it stands beside Tunisia in its war and supports all the measures taken to eradicate this scourge. More attention to the accident is paid by UK government as most of the 39 victims of the attack were British. The British government and the rest of the world "must do more" to rout extremism, Prime Minister David Cameron said in a 1,000-word statement on Sunday while the World and European leaders expressed their solidarity against the "scourge" of terrorism.  The investigation on this attack has become the largest counter-terrorism operation since the bombings in London, more than 600 officers and staff have been assigned to the operation because of the scale of the attack and its international nature. There is a team of over 50 consular staff, police officers and experts from the Red Cross on the ground in Sousse. Beyond the immediate investigatory priorities, a critical issue for the Tunisian authorities after two major attacks within months will be reviewing the security profile of their resorts - and six British officials are now helping them.

Criticism of anti-terrorist law

The short time frame between the recent terrorist attacks in Tunisia has sparked fury among analysts who’ve accused the government of ignoring advice on how to tighten the country’s security setup. Mazen Cherif, security analyst for the Tunisian Centre for Global Security Studies said: “Here in Tunisia we still haven’t learned our lesson since the Bardo attacks. The current government lacks a clear security strategy and they refuse to look into the future or learn from previous mistakes.” The criticism of new security policies is a very sensitive issue as Tunisia has had a relatively successful democratic transition since its Arab Spring uprising in 2011 and unlike some countries in the region, it has held free elections and brought in a new constitution. Democracy in the country is still vulnerable this is why securitization processes, when politics has to go beyond democratic norms to assure security, such as anti-terrorism, have led to much stronger reactions. According to some analysts, the strong reactions are also influenced by the non-clear definition of Islam in politics in a democratic state and the role and position of Islamist parties and movements. Such a quick transformation to democracy left Tunisia with a lot of unresolved issues. Some in Tunisia fear that the internationally protected freedoms are used by extremist groups for their own purposes and even though the criticism of anti-terrorist law is reasonable there are concerns that anti-terrorist law is unable to deal with such international issues. Consequently, the government of Tunisia already started the collaboration with British government. However, they still have to cope with the growing dissatisfaction of some local political parties which claim that  "The law is a window to return the state police and we categorically reject it" as it was said by Popular Front leader Hamma Hammami.

Telegraph 1, 2; BBC 1, 2; All Africa; Reuters