Tunisia in long form the Tunisian Republic heir to ancient Carthage, is a state of North Africa bordered to the north and east by the Mediterranean Sea (1,148 kilometers of coastline), to the west by the Algeria with 965 km of common border and south-southeast by Libya with 459 km of border. Its capital Tunis is located in the northeast of the country, at the bottom of the gulf of the same name. More than 30% of the area of ​​the territory is occupied by the Sahara Desert, the rest being made up of mountainous regions and fertile plains.

Tunisia is home to the Capsian culture, a Mesolithic culture which lasted from 10,000 to 6,000 BCE and to which the city of Gafsa gave its name. It is also the cradle of the Carthaginian civilization which reached its peak in the second century BC. BC, before becoming part of the Berber kingdom of unified Numidia, then becoming an important province of the Roman Empire. Long called “regency of Tunis”, notably under Ottoman domination, Tunisia passed under French protectorate on May 12, 1881 with the signing of the Bardo treaty. At independence, on March 20, 1956, it first became a constitutional monarchy with Lamine Bey as its nineteenth and last reigning bey of the Husseinite dynasty. But, on July 25, 1957, the republic was proclaimed and the nationalist leader Habib Bourguiba became the first president of the Tunisian Republic. He modernized the country he led for thirty years, marked at the end by clientelism and the rise of Islamism. In 1987, he was deposed by Prime Minister Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who pursued the main objectives of “bourguibisme” while liberalizing the economy but held an authoritarian and police presidency, characterized by the importance of corruption. Ben Ali was chased away on January 14, 2011 by a popular revolution and took refuge in Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah under the blow, with his wife Leïla Ben Ali, of an international arrest warrant.

Integrated into the main bodies of the international community such as the UN or the International Criminal Court, Tunisia is also part of the Arab Maghreb Union, the Arab League, the Greater Arab Free Trade Area, the Common Market Eastern and Southern Africa, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Union for the Mediterranean, the African Union, the International Organization of La Francophonie, the Group of 77, the Community of States Sahelo-Saharan and non-aligned movement. Tunisia has also concluded an association agreement with the European Union and obtained the status of a major ally that is not a member of NATO.

Tunisia’s history

Over the centuries, the territory of present-day Tunisia has successively been under Carthaginian, Numidian, Roman, Byzantine, Vandal, Umayyad, Ahlabid, Fatimid, Norman, Almohad, Hafside, Ottoman and French influences. These circumstances, as well as Tunisia’s position at the intersection between the Mediterranean basin, Europe and Africa, have influenced the cultural diversity of the country.

Prehistory and protohistory

The first traces of human presence in Tunisia date from the Paleolithic. It is twenty kilometers east of Gafsa, in the oasis of El Guettar, that a small nomadic population of Mousterian hunter-gatherers gathers. Michel Gruet, the archaeologist who discovers the site, notes that they consume dates, the pollen of which he finds around the source which has now dried up.

An Iberomaurusian culture, spread over the coast and relatively minimal in Tunisia, was followed by the Capsian period, a name created by Jacques de Morgan and from the Latin Capsa, which itself gave the name of the current Gafsa. Morgan defines the Capsian as being a culture ranging from the Upper Paleolithic to the Neolithic, thus covering a period which extends from the 8th to the 5th millennium BC. J.-C. 34. From an ethnological and archaeological point of view, the Capsian takes on greater importance since bones and traces of human activity dating back more than 15,000 years are discovered in the region. In addition to the manufacture of stone and flint tools, the Capsiens produced, from bones, various tools including needles for sewing clothes from animal skins. In the Neolithic (around 4500 to 2500 BC), who arrived late in this region, human presence was conditioned by the formation of the Saharan desert, which acquired its current climate. Likewise, it was at this time that the population of Tunisia was enriched by the contribution of the Berbers, apparently from the migration north of Libyan populations (ancient Greek term for African populations in general ). The Neolithic also sees the contact being established between the Phoenicians of Tire, the future Carthaginians who found the Punic civilization, and the indigenous peoples of present-day Tunisia, of which the Berbers have now become the essential component.

We observe the passage from Prehistory to History mainly in the contribution of the Phoenician populations, even if the Neolithic way of life continued to exist alongside that of the new arrivals. This contribution is nuanced, notably in Carthage (center of Punic civilization in the West), by the coexistence of different minority but dynamic populations such as the Berbers, the Greeks, the Italians or the Iberians of Spain. The numerous mixed marriages contributed to the establishment of Punic civilization.

From Punic Carthage to Roman Carthage

The entry of Tunisia in the history is made by the expansion of a city resulting from a near-eastern colonization. Tunisia is gradually welcoming a series of Phoenician trading posts like many other Mediterranean regions. The first counter according to tradition is that of Utique, which dates from 1101 BC. In 814 BC. AD, Phoenician settlers from Tyr found the city of Carthage. According to legend, it is Queen Elyssa (Dido for the Romans), sister of the king of Tyr Pygmalion, who is at the origin of the city. Open to the sea, Carthage is also structurally open to the outside. A century and a half after the city was founded, the Carthaginians and Punics extended their hold over the western basin of the Mediterranean Sea. This presence takes various forms, including that of colonization, but remains primarily commercial (trading posts, signing of treaties, etc.). The mutation towards a more terrestrial empire collides with the Greeks of Sicily then with the rising power of Rome and its allies massaliotes, campaniens or Italiotes. The Carthaginian heart of Tunisia, on the eve of the Punic wars, has a greater agricultural production capacity than that of Rome and its united allies, and its exploitation is admired by the Romans. The struggle between Rome and Carthage gained momentum with the rise of the two cities: these were the three Punic wars, which almost saw the capture of Rome but ended with the destruction of Carthage, in 146 BC. AD, after a siege of three years. At the end of the Third Punic War, Rome settled on the rubble of the city. The end of the Punic wars marks the establishment of the Roman province of Africa of which Utica becomes the first capital, even if the site of Carthage imposes itself again by its advantages and becomes again capital in 1443.

In 44 BC AD, Julius Caesar decides to found a Roman colony, the Colonia Julia Carthago, but it will take a few decades for Augustus to launch the works of the city. The region then experienced a period of prosperity where Africa became for Rome an essential supplier of agricultural products, such as wheat and olive oil, thanks to the olive plantations dear to the Carthaginians. The province is covered with a dense network of Romanized cities whose vestiges still visible today remain impressive: it suffices to mention the sites of Dougga (ancient Thugga), Sbeïtla (Sufetula), Bulla Regia, El Jem (Thysdrus ) or Thuburbo Majus. Integral part of the Republic then of the Empire with Numidia, Tunisia becomes during six centuries the seat of a Roman-African civilization of an exceptional wealth, faithful to its vocation of “crossroads of the ancient world”. Tunisia is then the melting pot of the art of mosaic, which stands out for its originality and innovations. Competitors of the Roman gods, indigenous gods appear on friezes of the imperial era, and the worship of certain deities, Saturn and Caelestis, is a continuation of the worship dedicated by the Punics to Ba’al Hammon and Tanit, its parèdre. The “crossroads of the ancient world” also saw the early establishment of Jewish communities and, in the wake of these, the first Christian communities. The heyday of the third and early third centuries was not without its odds, however, with the province experiencing some crises in the third century BC. J. – C.: it is struck by the repression of the revolt of Gordien Ier in 238; it also suffered clashes between usurpers at the beginning of the fourth century. The province is one of the least affected by the difficulties experienced by the Roman Empire between 235 and the beginning of the fourth century. With the Tetrarchy, the province recovers a prosperity which reveals the archaeological vestiges, coming as much from public constructions as from private dwellings. This era is also the first century of official Christianity, which became a licit religion in 313 and a personal religion of the Emperor Constantine.


In an open space to the outside as the African province was then, Christianity developed early thanks to the settlers, traders and soldiers, and the region became one of the essential centers of the dissemination of the news. faith, even if the religious clashes there are violent with the pagans. From the 11th century, the province also applied imperial sanctions, the first martyrs being attested on July 17, 180: those who refused to join the official worship could be tortured, relegated to islands, beheaded, delivered to ferocious beasts, burned even crucified. At the end of the second century, the new religion progresses in the province because, despite a difficult situation, the new faith is implanted faster than in Europe, in particular because of the social role played by the Church of Africa which appears in the second half of the second century, helped in this by a very high urban density. In addition, once the Edict of Thessaloniki published by the emperor Theodosius I in 381, Christianization became automatic, since no other worship was allowed in the empire. Thus, during the 5th century and under the dynamic action of Augustine of Hippo and the impulse of some bishops, the big landowners and the urban aristocracy rallied to Christianity, where they saw their interest, the Church then integrating the various social strata. Quickly, the province of Africa is considered as a beacon of Western Latin Christianity.

This expansion, however, encountered obstacles, in particular during the Donatist schism which was definitively condemned to the Council of Carthage. The latter accuses the schismatics of having cut the ties between the African Church and the original Eastern Churches. Despite this religious struggle, the economic, social and cultural conjuncture was relatively favorable at the time of the triumph of Christianity, as evidenced by the numerous vestiges, in particular of the basilicas in Carthage and many churches arranged in ancient pagan temples (as in Sbeïtla) or even some recently discovered rural churches. On October 19, 439, after having become masters of Hippo, the Vandals and the Alans entered Carthage, where they installed their kingdom for almost a century. The Vandals are followers of Arianism, declared heresy at the Council of Nicea, which does not facilitate relations between them and the local notables, mainly Chalcedonians. The Vandals demand from the population a total allegiance to their power and to their faith. As a result, those who try to oppose the Vandals or Arianism are persecuted: many clergymen are martyred, imprisoned or exiled in camps south of Gafsa. In the economic field, the Vandals apply to the Church the confiscation policy from which the big landowners must suffer. However, Latin culture remains largely preserved and Christianity flourishes as long as it does not oppose the sovereign in place.

In this context, the territory, surrounded by Berber principalities, is attacked by the tribes of camel nomads: the defeat, in December 533 at the Battle of Tricaméron, confirms the annihilation of vandal military power. Carthage is easily taken by the Byzantines led by General Bélisaire, sent by Justinian, the vandal king Gélimer surrendered in 534. Despite the resistance of the Berbers, the Byzantines re-established slavery and instituted heavy taxes. In addition, the Roman administration is restored. The Church of Africa is put in step and Justinian then makes Carthage the seat of his diocese of Africa. At the end of the sixth century, the region was placed under the authority of an exarch combining civil and military powers, and having a large autonomy from the emperor. Claiming to impose state Christianity, the Byzantines chase paganism, Judaism and Christian heresies. However, following the monothelist crisis, the Byzantine emperors, opposed to the local Church, turned away from the city. However, with a Byzantine Africa dragged into the doldrums, an insurrectionary state of mind shakes up the confederations of sedentary tribes made up of principalities. These Berber tribes are all the more hostile to the Byzantine Empire that they are aware of their own strength. Even before its capture by the Arabs in 698, the capital and, to a certain extent, the province of Africa emptied of their Byzantine inhabitants. From the beginning of the seventh century, archeology indeed shows a decline, this being particularly evident in Carthage.

Ifriqiya in the Arab-Muslim Middle Ages

The first Arab expedition to Tunisia was launched in 650, at the time of the caliph Othmân ibn Affân. Commanded by Abd Allâh ibn Saad, the Arab army crushes the Byzantine army of Patrice Grégoire near Sbeïtla. In 666, a second offensive led by Mu’awiya ibn Hudayj at the time of the Umayyad Caliph Muʿawiya Ier ended with the capture of several cities including Sousse and Bizerte. The island of Djerba was taken in 667. The third expedition, led in 670 by Oqba Ibn Nafi al-Fihri, was decisive: the latter founded the city of Kairouan during the same year59 and this city became the base of the expeditions against north and west of the Maghreb. The complete invasion failed to fail with the death of Ibn Nafi in 683, following an ambush set up by the Berber chief Koceïla south of the Aurès. After the death of Ibn Nafi, the Arabs evacuate Kairouan, where Koceila settles who becomes the master of Ifriqiya: the Byzantines are no more, according to Arab historians, only his simple auxiliaries. Sent in 693 with a powerful Arab army, the Ghassanid general Hassan Ibn Numan succeeds in defeating the exarch and in taking Carthage in 695. Only certain Berbers led by the Kahena resist.

The Byzantines, taking advantage of their naval superiority, landed an army which captured Carthage in 696 while the Kahena won a battle against the Arabs in 697. The latter, at the cost of a new effort, however, ended up definitively taking over Carthage in 698 and by defeating and killing the Kahena. Unlike the Phoenicians, the Arabs did not just occupy the coast and set out to conquer the interior of the country. After having resisted, the Berbers converted to the religion of their victors, mainly through their recruitment into the ranks of the victorious army. Religious training centers were then organized, as in Kairouan, within the new ribats. One cannot, however, estimate the extent of this movement of adherence to Islam. Moreover, refusing assimilation, many are those who reject the dominant religion and adhere to Kharidjism, a Muslim religious current born in the East and proclaiming in particular the equality of all Muslims without distinction of race or class. The region remained an Umayyad province until 750, when the struggle between the Umayyads and the Abbasids saw the latter prevail. From 767 to 776, the Berber kharidjites under the command of Abu Qurra seized the whole territory, but they finally withdrew into the kingdom of Tlemcen, after having killed Omar ibn Hafs, nicknamed Hezarmerd, leader of Tunisia at this time.

In 800, the Abbasid caliph Hâroun ar-Rachîd delegates his power in Ifriqiya to the emir Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab and gives him the right to transmit his functions by hereditary route. Al-Aghlab established the Aghlabid dynasty, which reigned for a century over the central and eastern Maghreb. The territory enjoys formal independence while recognizing Abbasid sovereignty. Tunisia becomes an important cultural center with the influence of Kairouan and its Grand Mosque, a highly renowned intellectual center. At the end of the reign of Ziadet Allah I (817-838), Tunis became the capital of the emirate until 909. Supported by the Kutama tribes who formed a fanatic army, the action of the Ismaili proselyte Abu Abd Allah ach- Chi’i led to the disappearance of the emirate in fifteen years (893-909). In December 909, Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi proclaimed himself caliph and founded the Fatimid dynasty, which declared the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs who had rallied to Sunnism to be usurpers. The Fatimid state gradually imposed itself on all North Africa by controlling the caravan routes and the trade with sub-Saharan Africa. In 945, Abu Yazid, of the great Ifrenides tribe, unsuccessfully organized a great Berber revolt to drive out the Fatimids. The third caliph, Ismâ`îl al-Mansûr, then transfers the capital to Kairouan and seizes Sicily in 948. When the Fatimid dynasty moves its base towards the east in 972, three years after the final conquest of the region , and without giving up his suzerainty over Ifriqiya, the caliph Al-Muizz li-Dîn Allah entrusted to Bologhine ibn Ziri founder of the Zirid dynasty the task of governing the province in his name. The Zirids gradually take their independence from the Fatimid caliph, which culminates in the break with this overlord who has become distant and inaugurates the era of Berber emancipation.

The sending from Egypt of nomadic Arab tribes on Ifriqiya marks the Fatimids’ response to this betrayal. The Hilalians followed by Banu Sulaym whose total number is estimated at 50,000 warriors and 200,000 Bedouins set off after real property titles were distributed to them in the name of the Fatimid caliph. Kairouan resisted for five years before being occupied and pillaged. The sovereign then took refuge in Mahdia in 1057 while the nomads continued to spread in the direction of Algeria, the Medjerda valley remaining the only route frequented by merchants. Having failed in its attempt to settle in Sicily, taken over by the Normans, the Zirid dynasty tried unsuccessfully for 90 years to recover part of its territory to organize pirate expeditions and enrich themselves through maritime trade. From the first third of the twelfth century, Tunisia was regularly attacked by the Normans of Sicily and southern Italy, based in the Norman-Sicilian kingdom, who ended up conquering the entire Tunisian coast and founding the Kingdom there. from Africa. It is an extension of the Siculo-Norman border in the ancient Roman province of Africa (then called Ifriqiya), which today corresponds to Tunisia as well as part of Algeria and Libya. Primary sources relating to the kingdom are in Arabic, while Latin (Christian) sources are rarer. According to Hubert Houben, given that “Africa” ​​was never officially added to the royal titles of the kings of Sicily “we should not speak of a” Norman Kingdom of Africa “properly speaking”. “Norman Africa” ​​is rather a constellation of cities ruled by the Normans on the Ifriqiyenne coast.

The Sicilian conquest of Ifriqiya began during the reign of Roger II in 1146-1148. The Sicilian reign consists of military garrisons in the main cities, atrocities against the Muslim populations, the protection of Christians and the minting of coins. The local aristocracy is largely kept in place and Muslim princes are responsible for civil affairs under Norman supervision. Economic relations between Sicily and Ifriqiya, which were already strong before the conquest, were strengthened, while trade between Ifriqiya and northern Italy was extensive. Under the reign of William I of Sicily, the Kingdom of Africa fell into the hands of the Almohads (1158-1160). Its most lasting legacy is the realignment of the Mediterranean powers caused by its disappearance and the Siculo-Almohad peace finalized in 1180. The whole territory of Ifriqiya ends up being occupied by the army of the Almohad sultan Abd al-Mumin during from his expedition from the north of Morocco in 1159. The economy became flourishing and commercial relations were established with the main cities around the Mediterranean (Pisa, Genoa, Marseille, Venice and certain cities in Spain). The rise also touches the cultural field with the works of the great historian and father of sociology Ibn Khaldoun; the Almohad century is considered the “golden age” of the Maghreb. Large cities develop and the most beautiful mosques are erected at this time. The Almohads entrust Tunisia to Abû Muhammad `Abd al-Wâhid ben Abî Hafs but his son Abû Zakariyâ Yahyâ separated from them in 1228 and founded the new Berber dynasty of the Hafsides. It acquired its independence in 1236 and ruled Tunisia until 1574, making it the first Tunisian dynasty by its duration. It established the country’s capital in Tunis, and the city developed thanks to trade with the Venetians, Genoese, Aragonese and Sicilians.

Ottoman Tunisia

The Hafsides of Tunis run out of steam and gradually lose, after the battle of Kairouan in 1348, control of their territories in favor of the Merinids of Abu Inan Faris, while, hit hard by the plague of 1384, l ‘Ifriqiya continues to undergo demographic desertification initiated by the Hilalian invasions. It was then that the Muslim and Andalusian Jewish Moors began to arrive, fleeing the decline of the kingdom of Granada in 1492 and causing problems of assimilation. In ten years, the Spanish sovereigns Ferdinand d’Aragon and Isabelle de Castille took the cities of Mers el-Kébir, Oran, Bougie, Tripoli and the islet located opposite Algiers. To free themselves from it, the city authorities requested the help of two renowned privateers, of Greek origin: the brothers Arudj and Khayr ad-Din Barberousse. Tunisia offers a favorable environment, the Barberousse brothers are illustrated there: Arudj indeed receives from the hafside sovereign at bay the authorization to use the port of La Goulette then the island of Djerba as base. After the death of Arudj, his brother Khayr ad-Din placed himself in the vassalage of the Sultan of Istanbul. Appointed grand admiral of the Ottoman Empire, he seized Tunis in 1534 but had to withdraw after the city was taken by the armada that Charles Quint led in 1535. In 1560, Dragut reached Djerba and, in 1574, Tunis was taken over by the Ottomans, who made Tunisia a province of their empire in 1575. However, despite their victories, the Ottomans hardly established themselves in Tunisia.

During the seventeenth century, their role continued to decrease in favor of local leaders who gradually emancipated themselves from the tutelage of the Sultan of Istanbul when only 4,000 Janissaries were stationed in Tunis. After a few years of Turkish administration, more precisely in 159046, these Janissaries rebelled, placing at the head of the State a dey and, under his orders, a bey in charge of controlling the territory and collecting taxes . The latter did not take long to become the essential character of the regency alongside the pasha, who remained confined to the honorary role of representative of the Ottoman sultan, to the point that a Beylical dynasty was eventually founded by Mourad Bey in 1613. On July 15, 1705, Hussein Ier Bey founded the Husseinite dynasty. Although still officially a province of the Ottoman Empire, Tunisia acquired great autonomy in the 19th century, notably with Ahmed Ier Bey, reigning from 1837 to 1855, which set in motion a process of modernization. Under Franco-British pressure following the Sfez affair of 1857, Ottoman reforms of the Tanzimat took place under the pen of Mohammed Bey who promulgated the Basic Pact (Ahd El Aman) or Security Pact on September 10, 1857, a document inscribed in the heritage of the ideals of the French Revolution of 1789.

At that time, the country saw deep reforms, such as the abolition of slavery and following the Fundamental Pact, the adoption in 1861 of a real Constitution, given in 1860 by Sadok Bey to the emperor Napoleon III and even fails to become an independent republic.

It is difficult to measure the importance of the Turkish influences which remain in Tunisia. Some monuments display their Ottoman filiation like the Sidi Mahrez mosque in Tunis, built between 1692 and 1697. In another area, the art of carpets, which existed for some before the arrival of the Ottomans, sees the productions of Kairouan present purely Anatolian motifs in the 18th century. Despite these noticeable influences in the appearance of manufactured objects, the imprint of neighboring Italy became more and more evident during the 18th century, both in architecture and in decoration, thus marking an opening of the country to Europe.

French protectorate and nationalist struggle

However, the country is gradually experiencing serious financial difficulties, due to the ruinous policy of the beys, the increase in taxes and foreign interference in the economy. All these factors forced the government to declare bankruptcy in 1869 and to create an Anglo-Franco-Italian international financial commission. The regency quickly appears as a strategic issue of primary importance due to the geographic location of the country, at the hinge of the western and eastern basins of the Mediterranean. Tunisia is therefore the subject of rival covetousness from France and Italy. The French and Italian consuls are trying to take advantage of the bey’s financial difficulties, France counting on the neutrality of England (unwilling to see Italy take control of the Suez Canal route) and benefiting from Bismarck’s calculations, who wishes to divert it from the question of Alsace-Lorraine.

The battles between Algerian tribes and Khroumir tribes in Algerian territory provide a pretext for Jules Ferry to underline the need to seize Tunisia. In April 1881, French troops entered without major resistance and reached the outskirts of Tunis in three weeks, without fighting. On May 12, 1881, the protectorate was formalized when Sadok Bey, threatened with dismissal and replaced by his brother Taïeb Bey, signed the Bardo treaty at the palace of Ksar Saïd. This does not prevent the French troops to face, a few months later, revolts quickly suppressed in the regions of Kairouan and Sfax. The protectorate regime is reinforced by the La Marsa conventions of June 8, 1883, which grant France the right to intervene in Tunisia’s internal affairs. France therefore represents Tunisia on the international scene, and is quick to abuse its rights and prerogatives of protector to exploit the country as a colony, by forcing the bey to surrender almost all of its powers to the resident general. Nevertheless, economic progress is taking place, notably via banks and companies, as well as the development of numerous infrastructures (roads, ports, railways, dams, schools, etc.).

Colonization allowed the expansion of cereal crops and olive oil production as well as the exploitation of phosphate mines by the Company of phosphates and Gafsa railways, as well as iron by the Company of Djebel Djerissa, the first Tunisian and fifteenth French company. An important military port is built in Bizerte. In addition, the French establish a bilingual Arabic and French system which allows the Tunisian elite to train in both languages. The fight against the French occupation began at the beginning of the 20th century with the reformist and intellectual movement of the Young Tunisians founded in 1907 by Béchir Sfar, Ali Bach Hamba and Abdeljelil Zaouche. This nationalist current is manifested by the Djellaz affair in 1911 and the boycott of Tunisian trams in 1912. From 1914 to 1921, the country lived in a state of emergency and the anti-colonialist press was banned. Despite everything, the national movement does not cease to exist. At the end of the First World War, a new generation organized around Abdelaziz Thâalbi prepares the birth of the party of Destour. Having entered into conflict with the protectorate regime, the party set out, from the official proclamation of its creation on June 4, 1920, an eight-point program. After having castigated the protectorate regime in newspapers such as La Voix du Tunisien and L’Étendard tunisien, lawyer Habib Bourguiba founded in 1932, with Tahar Sfar, Mahmoud El Materi and Bahri Guiga, the newspaper L’Action tunisienne, which, in addition to independence, advocates secularism. This original position led on March 2, 1934, during the congress of Ksar Hellal, to the split of the party into two branches, one Islamizing which retains the name Destour, and the other modernist and secular, the Neo-Destour, a formation modern politics, structured on the models of European socialist and communist parties, and determined to conquer power to transform society.

After the breakdown of negotiations launched by the Blum government, bloody incidents broke out in 1937 and the riots of April 1938 were severely suppressed. This repression led to the clandestinity of the Neo-Destour, which encouraged the new leaders not to exclude the possibility of a more active struggle. In 1942, the Vichy regime delivered Bourguiba to Italy, at the request of Benito Mussolini, who hoped to use it to weaken the French Resistance in North Africa. However, Bourguiba did not wish to endorse the fascist regimes and launched on August 8, 1942 an appeal for support for the Allied troops. Meanwhile, Tunisia is the scene of major military operations known as the Tunisian campaign. After several months of fighting and a German armored counter-offensive in the region of Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid in early 1943, troops of the Third Reich were forced to capitulate on May 11 in Cape Bon, four days after the arrival of Allied forces in Tunis. After the Second World War, nationalist leaders included armed resistance in the strategy of national liberation. Post-war talks were held with the French government, so that in 1950 Robert Schuman mentioned the possibility of Tunisia’s independence in several stages. But the French government put an end to the negotiations with the Tunisian government by the note of December 15, 1951 affirming the “final character of the bond which links France to Tunisia”.

With the arrival of the new resident general, Jean de Hauteclocque, on January 13, 1952, and the arrest, on January 18, of 150 destouriens including Bourguiba, began the armed revolt, the French military repression and a hardening of the positions of each camp. . In addition, with the assassination of the trade unionist Farhat Hached by the extremist colonial organization of the Red Hand, on December 5, demonstrations, riots, strikes, sabotage attempts and homemade bombs broke out. The development of repression, accompanied by the appearance of counter-terrorism, encouraged the nationalists to target more specifically the colonists, the farms, the French companies and the governmental structures. This is why the years 1953 and 1954 are marked by the multiplication of attacks against the colonial system. In response, nearly 70,000 French soldiers are mobilized to stop the guerrillas of Tunisian groups in the countryside. This difficult situation is appeased by the recognition of the internal autonomy of Tunisia, conceded by Pierre Mendès France on July 31, 1954. It was finally on June 3, 1955 that the Franco-Tunisian conventions were signed between the Tunisian Prime Minister Tahar Ben Ammar and his French counterpart Edgar Faure. Despite the opposition of Salah Ben Youssef, who will be excluded from the party, the conventions are approved by the Neo-Destour congress held in Sfax on November 15 of the same year. After further negotiations, France finally recognized “solemnly the independence of Tunisia” on March 20, 1956, while retaining the military base at Bizerte.

Independent Tunisia

On March 25, 1956, the Constituent Assembly was elected: the Neo-Destour won all the seats and Bourguiba was led at its head on April 8 of the same year. On April 11, 1956, he became Prime Minister of Lamine Bey. The progressive Personal Code is proclaimed on August 13. Finally, on July 25, 1957, the monarchy was abolished; Tunisia becomes a republic of which Bourguiba was elected president on November 8, 1959. On February 8, 1958, during the Algerian war, French army planes crossed the Algerian-Tunisian border and bombed the Tunisian village of Sakiet Sidi Youssef. In 1961, in a context of foreseeable completion of the war, Tunisia claimed the handover of the base of Bizerte.

The following crisis caused nearly a thousand deaths, mainly Tunisians, and France ended, on October 15, 1963, by handing over the base to the Tunisian State. With the assassination of Salah Ben Youssef, Bourguiba’s main opponent since 1955, in Frankfurt and the ban of the Communist Party (PCT) on January 8, 1963, the Tunisian Republic becomes a one-party regime led by the Neo-Destour. In March 1963, Ahmed Ben Salah began a “socialist” policy of almost total state control of the economy. Riots against the collectivization of land in the Tunisian Sahel on January 26, 1969 led to the dismissal of Ben Salah on September 8 with the end of the socialist experience. The annual GDP growth rate, however, goes from 3.6% for the 1950s to 5.7% for the 1960s, and growth per capita to 2.9% against 1.2% for the 1950s. economy weakened by this episode and a pan-Arabism defended by Mouammar Gaddafi, a political project which would unify Tunisia and the Libyan Arab Republic under the name of Islamic Arab Republic was launched in 1974 but failed very quickly due to the tensions as well national as international. After the sentencing to a heavy prison sentence of Ben Salah, made responsible for the failure of the cooperative policy, comes the purification of the liberal wing of the PSD led by Ahmed Mestiri then the proclamation of Bourguiba as president for life in 1975. It is under these conditions, marked by a slight loosening of the noose of the PSD under the government of Hédi Nouira, that the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) gains in autonomy while the Tunisian League is born in 1976 Human Rights, the first national human rights organization in Africa and the Arab world. The coup de force of the “Black Thursday” against the UGTT in January 1978 and the attack on the mining town of Gafsa in January 1980 were not enough to muzzle the emerging civil society.

From the beginning of the 1980s, the country went through a political and social crisis which combined the development of clientelism and corruption, the paralysis of the State faced with the deterioration of Bourguiba’s health, the struggles for succession and the hardening of the diet. In 1981, the partial restoration of political pluralism, with the lifting of the ban on the Communist Party, raised hopes which would be disappointed by the falsification of the results in the legislative elections in November. Subsequently, the bloody repression of the “bread riots” of December 1983, the new destabilization of the UGTT and the arrest of its leader Habib Achour helped to accelerate the fall of the aging president. The situation favors the rise of Islamism and Bourguiba’s long reign ends in a fight against this political movement, led by Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, appointed Minister of the Interior then Prime Minister in October 1987. On November 7, 1987, Ben Ali deposed the president for senility, a medical coup that was welcomed by a large fraction of the political world. Elected on April 2, 1989 with 99.27% ​​of the votes125, the new president succeeded in reviving the economy while, in terms of security, the regime was proud to have spared the country the Islamist convulsions that bloodied the Neighboring Algeria, thanks to the neutralization of the Ennahdha party at the cost of the arrest of tens of thousands of activists and multiple trials in the early 1990s. Secular opponents signed the National Pact in 1988, a platform intended for democratization of the regime. However, the opposition and many human rights NGOs are gradually accusing the regime of attacking public freedoms by extending the repression beyond the Islamist movement. In 1994, President Ben Ali was re-elected with 99.91% of the vote.

The following year, a free trade agreement was signed with the European Union. The elections of November 24, 1999, although they are the first presidential to be pluralist with three candidates, see President Ben Ali reelected with a score comparable to the previous polls. The constitutional reform approved by the referendum of May 26, 2002 further increases the powers of the president, increases the age limit for candidates, removes the three-term limit reintroduced in 1988 and allows the president to run for new mandates beyond the 2004 deadline while enjoying lifelong judicial immunity. On April 11, 2002, a truck bomb attack targeted the Ghriba synagogue and killed 19 people, including fourteen German tourists. During the first half of 2008, serious unrest shook the mining region of Gafsa hard hit by unemployment and poverty. On October 25, 2009, President Ben Ali was re-elected for a fifth consecutive term with 89.62% of the vote, falling for the first time to below 90%. The campaign is marked by increased visibility of his wife Leïla. One of the couple’s sons-in-law, Mohamed Sakhr El Materi, was elected deputy on this occasion.

Post-revolution Tunisia

On December 17, 2010, an insurrectionary climate broke out following the immolation of a young itinerant fruit and vegetable seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, in the Sidi Bouzid region; it becomes the scene of riots and deadly clashes between residents and police. It is the beginning of the movement that we will call the Arab Spring.

These events, which then spread to other regions of the country, take place in a context where the unemployment rate of young graduates is particularly high while the relative demographic weight of the young generations of working people reaches its historic maximum. The causes are also political: President Ben Ali and his family, in particular that of his second wife Leïla, the Trabelsi, qualified according to observers as a “quasi-mafia clan”, are directly implicated in cases of corruption, embezzlement or theft, plagues that have particularly grown under his presidency. On January 13, 2011, Ben Ali announced that extraordinary measures had been taken during a television intervention: the promise of full press freedom and political expression as well as his refusal to stand for re-election in 2014. However, this speech does not help to calm the anger of the population, forcing the president to finally cede power to his Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi the next day and to leave the country the same evening. In accordance with the 1959 Constitution, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Fouad Mebazaa, was finally proclaimed interim president by the Constitutional Council on January 15.

He is responsible for organizing presidential elections within sixty days. On January 17, a “national unity government” of 24 members including opponents of the ousted regime (including three leaders of the legal opposition) was formed. On the same day, the release of all prisoners of conscience, the lifting of the activity ban of the Tunisian League for Human Rights, “total freedom of information” as well as the legalization of all political parties and associations that request it, is announced. However, the presence of members of the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) in key positions again provoked, in less than 24 hours, the anger of the population and the resignation of several opposition ministers, further weakening this government. The departure or expulsion of the RCD of several eminent personalities has no effect on the suspicion that public opinion has of the former presidential party, which several protesters are calling for the dissolution. However, on January 20, the ministers still affiliated with this group announced that they had left it too. Faced with pressure from the street demanding their departure, a cabinet reshuffle took place on January 27, definitively excluding (apart from Mohamed Ghannouchi) the former members of the RCD from all government responsibilities. On February 6, Interior Minister Farhat Rajhi froze RCD activities pending legal dissolution, while Parliament conferred additional powers on the interim president, such as the power to dissolve Parliament.

Ghannouchi was however forced to resign in turn on February 27 following several days of demonstrations marked by violence; he was replaced the same day by the former minister of Bourguiba, Béji Caïd Essebsi. The state of emergency, effective from January 2011, is maintained.

On September 15, 2012, violent riots broke out in Tunis following the broadcast of the film The Innocence of Muslims. While law enforcement remains passive, some Salafist groups storm the U.S. Embassy and burn it down, destroying several vehicles and buildings. Pressured by the United States, the government decides to react and sends the army and the presidential guard to repel the demonstrators. The clashes leave two dead and several injured. In the months that followed, the army and the national guard took over to fight the Salafist and jihadist groups that were active in the territory. The state of emergency was extended for three months in November 2012, only to be lifted in March 2014.

After the legislative elections of October 26, 2014, which saw the Nidaa Tounes party come first, the Assembly of People’s Representatives replaced the Constituent Assembly. The first round of the presidential election took place on November 23 and saw 27 candidates clash, including two, in the person of Béji Caïd Essebsi (Nidaa Tounes) with 39.46% of the votes and Moncef Marzouki with 33.43% of the votes, are qualified for the second round organized on December 21 and which allows Caïd Essebsi to win the election with 55.68% of the votes against 44.32% of the votes for Marzouki and thus to become the first president resulting from an election democratic and transparent. The national dialogue quartet, an association of four organizations that have set themselves the goal of organizing negotiations between Tunisian political parties to ensure the transition to a permanent democratic regime, obtains the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. This price is the first Nobel awarded to a national or organization from Tunisia after independence. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, expresses his joy and congratulates the quartet while affirming that this prize is dedicated to all the Tunisians who started the Arab Spring. François Hollande, President of the French Republic, said in a press release that the price proves the success of the democratic transition in Tunisia, that this country is on the right track and that it is the only one among the countries of the Arab Spring to succeed in its transitory evolution towards democracy. In 2017 and 2018, the country was affected by waves of protest from Tunisian youth who demonstrated in several cities of the country. Indeed, from the beginning of the month, in Tunis, Gabès, Thala, Jilma, Kasserine, Sidi Bouzid, or even Gafsa, Tunisians express their annoyance at the high cost of living, inflation (6.4 % in 2017) and omnipresent unemployment (15% of the active population and 30% of young graduates of higher education). This wave of protest against a policy of economic austerity would be organized by the Popular Front. Clashes with police and security forces leave one victim and several injured, and hundreds of demonstrators are arrested. The Tunisian Social Observatory lists 5,000 protest movements in 2015, more than 11,000 in 2017 and 4,500 for the first four months of 2018.

Since 2011, successive governments have called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to try to redress the country’s economic situation. A loan of $ 1.74 billion was granted in June 2013, then a second loan of $ 2.9 billion in 2016. The IMF only grants these loans in return for a liberal reform plan, such as the increase in certain taxes, the reduction of the wage bill in the public service, the reduction of subsidies on fuel prices, or even the modification of the pension system. In April 2016, the government accepted the principle of the independence of the central bank, giving priority to controlling inflation over supporting economic development. Since spring 2017, it has let slip the dinar, the value of which against the euro has dropped by almost half. Faced with the weight of the debt, the State must devote more than 20% of its budget to repaying its creditors, which neutralizes its investment capacity. President Béji Caïd Essebsi died on July 25, 2019, at 92 years old. At the end of 2019, a double ballot, legislative on October 6, and presidential, with a first round in September and the second round on October 13, took place smoothly, showing a certain maturity of electoral democracy in Tunisia. However, the legislative elections resulted in a fragmented assembly between various parties. The presidential election propels to the head of the state a newcomer to the political world, a lawyer and university specialist in constitutional law, 61 years old, Kaïs Saïed, elected with a comfortable advance against, in the second round, the businessman Nabil Karoui. Kaïs Saïed offers during his campaign a vision associating a certain moral and religious conservatism, a sovereignty, and a democratic mode of operation against the centralized organization of Burgundy.

Tunisia’s politics

A Constituent Assembly drafts a Constitution proclaimed on June 1, 1959, three years after independence. It underwent several amendments including that of July 12, 1988 to limit the number of presidential terms to three and that of June 1, 2002 following the constitutional referendum held on May 26 of the same year, allowing in particular the removal of the limit on the number of presidential terms, the extension of the age limit for applying for the presidency, the establishment of judicial immunity for the president during and after the exercise of his functions and the establishment of a bicameral parliament. Lack of political transparency, low freedom of expression and censorship, especially by the press and many websites, have long made it difficult to determine a precise political situation in Tunisia. Many international NGOs, however, have pointed to human rights abuses, in particular with regard to attacks on freedom of expression, political prisoners of conscience, the instrumentalization of justice by the executive power , torture and the prison situation, and the harassment of political dissent. For their part, the authorities at the time argued that their human rights efforts had been officially recognized by international bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose members stressed, with some reservations for some, the progress made by the country in this area. Tunisia only knows two presidents of the Republic in five decades: Bourguiba from July 25, 1957 to November 7, 1987 then Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from November 7, 1987 to January 14, 2011. At the party level, the Neo-Destour then the Destourian Socialist Party and the Constitutional Democratic Rally dominate political life after independence, including twenty years as the only legal political party, with more than two million members claimed.

The revolution of January 14, 2011 and the fall of the Ben Ali regime are game-changers. The Constitutional Democratic Rally is dissolved and the political scene quickly includes around a hundred political parties. Fouad Mebazaa acts as interim president of the Republic from January 15 to December 13, 2011, before being replaced by Moncef Marzouki from December 13, 2011. Mohamed Ghannouchi, who served in power for 24 hours after the flight Ben Ali, is placed at the head of the transitional government before being replaced by Béji Caïd Essebsi. The Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Councilors are dissolved and their powers assumed in fact by the High Authority for the achievement of the objectives of the revolution then, following the election of October 23, 2011, the first pluralist and transparent ballot organized by the Independent Higher Authority for Elections at the expense of the Ministry of the Interior, by the Constituent Assembly. The Constitution was suspended and replaced by the decree-law of March 23, 2011, then the constitutive law of December 16, 2011. Hamadi Jebali then formed a coalition government dominated by Ennahdha, renewed by Ali Larayedh from March 13, 2013. In 2014, a new Constitution was voted by the Constituent Assembly which established a semi-presidential regime in which the President of the Republic retained powers in matters of foreign policy, defense and internal security159. He is elected every five years by universal suffrage and can only stand for two presidential terms. Responsible for government action, the head of government is the candidate of the party or coalition which obtains the majority of seats in the Assembly of People’s Representatives. He is appointed by the President of the Republic and defines the general policy of the State. The unicameral legislative power is exercised by the assembly composed of 217 deputies.

Mehdi Jomaa formed a government of technocrats on January 29, 2014 after the adoption of the new Constitution. After the legislative elections of October 26, 2014, which sees Nidaa Tounes coming in first, the presidential election, organized in two rounds, sees Béji Caïd Essebsi, leader of Nidaa Tounes, being elected with 55.68% of the votes against 44.32 % of votes for Marzouki. Habib Essid immediately formed a new government, replaced in the summer of 2016 by that of Youssef Chahed. In 2018, Transparency International ranked Tunisia 73rd out of 180 countries taken into account in its ranking according to the corruption perception index.

Tunisia’s economy

In 2010, Tunisia’s gross domestic product (GDP) reached 57.17 billion dinars (39.58 billion dollars), an increase of 7% compared to 2009. In 1960, this amounted to only to 847 million dollars, passing to 1,581 billion in 1970, 8,634 billion in 1980, 12,875 billion in 1990 and 21,254 billion in 1999. As for the active population, it reaches 3,769 million people in 2010 but the employed active population totals 3,277 million people, including almost 30% women, which is still more than double the 1980 level. The Arab Spring had disastrous consequences for the country’s economy. The Islamist attacks have affected tourism, which accounted for almost 7% of national GDP. With almost zero economic growth, the country is close to recession and is experiencing a spectacular surge in its debt which reaches 60% of GDP.

Tunisia’s demography

While the vast majority of Tunisians tend to identify culturally with the Arabs, some studies tend to indicate that they would be ethnically closer to the Berbers but also to certain Europeans: “Compared with other communities, our result indicates that Tunisians are very close to North Africans and Western Europeans, especially the Iberians, and that Tunisians, Algerians and Moroccans are close to the Berbers, suggesting a small genetic contribution from the Arabs who populated the region in the seventh or seventh century. ” However, many civilizations invaded the country and were assimilated to varying degrees: Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals from Germany, Ottomans and finally French. In addition, many Muslims and Jews arrived from Andalusia at the end of the 15th century. The first Eastern Arabs, who came from the 7th century onwards with the Muslim conquests, contributed to the Islamization of most of Ifriqiya. On this occasion, some new cities were created, including Kairouan and Mahdia. It was from the 11th century, with the arrival of the Hilalian tribes driven from Egypt, that linguistic and cultural Arabization became decisive. Certain groups, descendants of the Berbers, have however managed to keep their language and customs, often due to their geographic isolation. Indeed, nowadays, they often live in mountain regions (Matmata, Tataouine, Gafsa or Sbeïtla). However, Berber speakers, who represent a large percentage in Morocco and Algeria, remain few in Tunisia.

It is considered that almost all Tunisians are of Sunni Muslim faith, mainly of Malikite rite, although there is no census covering the entire territory. Of the large Jewish population that existed for two thousand years, only a tiny part remains, living mainly in the region of Tunis and in Djerba, because the majority of Tunisian Jews emigrated to Israel or France. There is also a small Christian population. The few nomadic, minority tribes are mostly integrated and settled. Tunisia surpassed the ten million mark in 2005, which corresponds to a tripling of its population since 1956 (3,448,000 inhabitants) and a doubling since the early 1970s. Nevertheless, population growth is slowing down, the country accelerating its demographic transition in the 1990s. In 2012, the fertility index is estimated at 2.2 children per woman. Tunisia is also a country which has a high rate of emigration: the number of Tunisians living abroad is estimated in 2012 at 1,223,213 people, 84.5% of whom reside in Europe.

Tunisia’s education

Non-compulsory pre-school education, which is aimed at children aged three to six, is provided in kindergartens. Basic education is compulsory and free, from six to sixteen, and is spread over two cycles: the first cycle, lasting six years, is given in primary school while the second cycle, a period of three years takes place at the college. This course leads to the end of studies diploma in basic education allowing graduates to access secondary education (always free) provided at the lycée for four years from the 1995 reform. It includes a core curriculum of one year (three until 1991) at the end of which students are oriented towards a second cycle of three years comprising seven streams (letters, mathematics, experimental sciences, technical sciences, computer sciences, economics-management and sport) and sanctioned by the baccalaureate allowing access to higher education. It has in particular 179 establishments attached to the thirteen universities including five in Tunis, one in Sousse, one in Sfax, one in Kairouan, one in Gabès, one in Gafsa, one in Monastir and one in Jendouba but also 24 higher institutes of studies technological (ISET).

Vocational training is provided by a set of public operators, including the Tunisian Vocational Training Agency, which provides educational supervision for all public and private operators. The diplomas issued after initial training are of three levels: the professional aptitude certificate (CAP) which marks a training cycle of a minimum duration of one year after basic education, the professional technician certificate (BTP) ) which certifies a training cycle of a minimum duration of one year after the end of the first cycle of secondary education or after obtaining the CAP and the certificate of higher technician which sanctions a training cycle of a duration minimum of two years after the baccalaureate or after obtaining the BTP. While 21% of the national budget is devoted in 2008 to national education, the number of pupils enrolled in primary and secondary levels amounts to 2.1 million in 2008 against 2.4 million in 2000 and 1.7 million in 1987; 370,000 students are enrolled in higher education at the same time, or 27% of the age group concerned. In 2005, the literacy rate was 76.2% and the enrollment rate for children aged 12 to 17, equal for boys and girls, was 66%.

Tunisia’s language

Tunisia is the most linguistically homogeneous Maghreb state because almost all of the population speaks Tunisian Arabic, or Darija, and masters literal Arabic, which is the country’s official language, as well as French. Tunisian Darija is considered a dialect derived from classical Arabic or more exactly a set of dialects for which there is no official standardization body and which is mainly spoken in the context of a daily dialogue within the family. . According to linguistic studies, it is close to Maltese, which however is not considered an Arabic dialect for sociolinguistic reasons. Berber is spoken by a Berber-speaking minority, especially in the south of the country. During the French protectorate in Tunisia, French was essential through national institutions, particularly education, which became a strong vector for dissemination. From independence, the country gradually became Arab, even if administration, justice and education remained bilingual for a long time, while knowledge of European languages ​​was reinforced by Tunisia’s exposure to it. continent through television and tourism. The country has been a member of the International Organization of La Francophonie since 1970. In addition, the governorates of Béja, Gafsa, Médenine, Monastir, Sfax, Sousse and Tunis are members of the International Association of Francophone Regions.

The 1990s marked a turning point with the arabization of science courses until the end of middle school, with all the difficulties caused by this type of process, in order to facilitate access to higher education and this in a context of rehabilitation of the Arab-Islamic referent in public space. In October 1999, commercial establishments were forced to give twice as much space to Arabic characters as to Latin characters. At the same time, the administration is forced to communicate exclusively in Arabic, but only the Ministries of Defense and Justice and the Parliament are completely Arabized. In this context, the use of French seems to be declining despite the increased number of graduates from the education system, which leads to the fact that good practice of French remains an important social marker. Since it remains widely practiced in business circles, the medical world and the cultural world, we can even consider that it has become gentrified. According to the latest estimates provided by the Tunisian government to the International Organization of La Francophonie, the number of people with some command of French is estimated at 6.36 million people, or 63.6% of the population.