Tunisia (US /tuːˈniːʒə/ two-NEE-zhə or UK /tjuːˈnɪziə/ tew-NIZ-iə; Arabic: تونس Tūnis pronounced [ˈtuːnɪs]), officially the Republic of Tunisia (Arabic: الجمهورية التونسية al-Jumhūriyyah at-Tūnisiyyah), is the northernmost country in Africa. It is an Arab Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area is almost 165,000 square kilometres (64,000 sq mi), with an estimated population of just under 10.7 million. Its name is derived from the capital Tunis located in the northeast.
Tunisia is the smallest country in North Africa. The south of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) of coastline.
Tunisia has an association agreement with the European Union and is a member of the Arab Maghreb Union, the Arab League, and the African Union. Tunisia has established close relations with France in particular, through economic cooperation, industrial modernization, and privatisation programs.
The word Tunisia is derived from Tunis; a city and capital of modern-day Tunisia. The present form of the name, with its Latinate suffix -ia, evolved from French Tunisie. The French derivative Tunisie was adopted in some European languages with slight modifications, introducing a distinctive name to designate the country. Other languages remained untouched, such as the Russian Туни́с (Tunís) and Spanish Túnez. In this case, the same name is used for both country and city, as with the Arabic تونس, and only by context can one tell the difference.
The name Tunis can be attributed to different origins. It can be associated with the Phoenician goddess Tanith (aka Tunit), ancient city of Tynes or to the Berber root ens which means "to lie down".
The Atlas mountains and the Sahara desert both played a prominent role in ancient times, first with the famous Punic city of Carthage, then as the Roman province of Africa, which was known as the "bread basket" of Rome. Later, Tunisia was occupied by Vandals during the 5th century AD, Byzantines in the 6th century, and Arabs in the 8th century. Under the Ottoman Empire, Tunisia was known as "Regency of Tunis". It passed under French protectorate in 1881. After obtaining independence in 1956 the country took the official name of the "Kingdom of Tunisia" at the end of the reign of Lamine Bey and the Husainid Dynasty. With the proclamation of the Tunisian Republic on July 25, 1957, the nationalist leader Habib Bourguiba became its first president.
The country was led by the authoritarian government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from 1987 to 2011 before he fled during the Tunisian revolution. Tunisia now finds itself as an export-oriented country in the process of liberalizing and privatizing an economy that, while averaging 5% GDP growth since the early 1990s, has suffered from corruption benefiting politically connected elites.
Farming methods reached the Nile Valley from the Fertile Crescent region about 5000 BC, and spread to the Maghreb by about 4000 BC. Agricultural communities in the humid coastal plains of central Tunisia then were ancestors of today's Berber tribes.
It was believed in ancient times that Africa was originally populated by Gaetulians and Libyans, both nomadic peoples. According to the Roman historian Sallust, The demigod Hercules died in Spain and his polyglot eastern army was left to settle the land, with some migrating to Africa. Persians went to the West and intermarried with the Gaetulians and became the Numidians. The Medes settled and were known as Mauri latter Moors.
The Numidians and Moors belonged to the race from which the Berbers are descended. The translated meaning of Numidian is Nomad and indeed the people were semi-nomadic until the reign of Masinissa of the Massyli tribe.
At the beginning of recorded history, Tunisia was inhabited by Berber tribes. Its coast was settled by Phoenicians starting as early as the 10th century BC. The city of Carthage was founded in the 9th century BC by Phoenician and Cypriot settlers. Legend says that Dido from Tyre, now in modern day Lebanon, founded the city in 814 BC, as retold by the Greek writer Timaeus of Tauromenium. The settlers of Carthage brought their culture and religion from the Phoenicians.
After a series of wars with Greek city-states of Sicily in the 5th century BC, Carthage rose to power and eventually became the dominant civilization in the Western Mediterranean. The people of Carthage worshipped a pantheon of Middle Eastern gods including Baal and Tanit. Tanit's symbol, a simple female figure with extended arms and long dress, is a popular icon found in ancient sites. The founders of Carthage also established a Tophet, which was altered in Roman times.
A Carthaginian invasion of Italy led by Hannibal during the Second Punic War, one of a series of wars with Rome, nearly crippled the rise of Roman power. From the conclusion of the Second Punic War in 202 BC, Carthage functioned as a client state of the Roman Republic for another 50 years.
Following the Battle of Carthage in 149 BC, Carthage was conquered by Rome. After the Roman conquest, the region became one of the main granaries of Rome and was fully Latinized.
The Romans controlled nearly all of modern Tunisia from 149 BC until the area was conquered by the Vandals in the 5th century AD, only to be reconquered by Roman general Belisarius in the 6th century, during the rule of Emperor Justinian I.
During the Roman period the area of what is now Tunisia enjoyed a huge development. The economy, mainly during the Empire, boomed: the prosperity of the area depended on agriculture. Called the Granary of the Empire, the area of actual Tunisia and coastal Tripolitania, according to one estimate, produced one million tons of cereals each year, one-quarter of which was exported to the Empire. Additional crops included beans, figs, grapes, and other fruits.
By the 2nd century, olive oil rivalled cereals as an export item. In addition to the cultivations, and the capture and transporting of exotic wild animals from the western mountains, the principal production and exports included the textiles, marble, wine, timber, livestock, pottery such as African Red Slip, and wool.
There was even a huge production of mosaics and ceramics, exported mainly to Italy, in the central area of El Djem (where there was the second biggest amphitheater in the Roman Empire).
Berber bishop Donatus Magnus was the founder of a Christian group known as the Donatists. During the 5th and 6th Centuries (from 430 to 533 AD), the Germanic Vandals invaded and ruled over a kingdom in North Africa that included present-day Tripoli. They were defeated by a combined force of Romans and Berbers.
Around the second half of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century, the region was conquered by Arab Muslims, who founded the city of Kairouan, which became the first city of Islam in North Africa. In this period, the Great Mosque of Kairouan (also called the Mosque of Uqba) was erected in 670 AD. The Great Mosque of Kairouan, which has the oldest standing minaret in the world, is the most ancient and most prestigious sanctuary in the Muslim West; it is also a remarkable masterpiece of Islamic art and architecture. Tunisia flourished under Arab rule as extensive irrigation installations were constructed to supply towns with water and promote agriculture (especially olive production). This prosperity permitted luxurious court life and was marked by the construction of new Palace cities such as al-Abassiya (809) and Raqadda (877).
Successive Muslim dynasties ruled Tunisia (Ifriqiya at the time) with occasional instabilities caused mainly by Berber rebellions; of these reigns we can cite the Aghlabids (800–900) and Fatimids (909–972). After conquering Cairo, Fatimids abandoned North Africa to the local Zirids (Tunisia and parts of Eastern Algera, 972–1148) and Hammadid (Central and eastern Algeria, 1015–1152). Zirid Tunisia prospered, with agriculture, industry, trade and learning, both religious and secular, all flourishing. Management of the later Zirid emirs was neglectful though, and political instability was connected to the decline of Tunisian trade and agriculture. The invasion of Tunisia by the Banu Hilal, a warlike Arab Bedouin tribe encouraged by the Fatimids of Egypt to seize North Africa, sent the region's urban and economic life into further decline. The Arab historian Ibn Khaldun wrote that the lands ravaged by Banu Hilal invaders had become completely arid desert.
The coasts were held briefly by the Normans of Sicily in the 12th century, but following the conquest of Tunisia in 1159–1160 by the Almohads the last Christians in Tunisia disappeared either through forced conversion or emigration. The Almohads initially ruled over Tunisia through a governor, usually a near relative of the Caliph. Despite the prestige of the new masters, the country was still unruly, with continuous rioting and fighting between the townsfolk and wandering Arabs and Turks, the latter being subjects of the Armenian adventurer Karakush. The greatest threat to Almohad rule in Tunisia was the Banu Ghaniya, relatives of the Almoravids, who from their base in Mallorca tried to restore Almoravid rule over the Maghreb. Around 1200 they succeeded in extending their rule over the whole of Tunisia, until they were crushed by Almohad troops in 1207. After this success, the Almohads installed Walid Abu Hafs as the governor of Tunisia. Tunisia remained part of the Almohad state, until 1230 when the son of Abu Hafs declared himself independent. During the reign of the Hafsid dynasty, fruitful commercial relationships were established with several Christian Mediterranean states. In the late 16th century the coast became a pirate stronghold (see: Barbary States).
In the last years of the Hafsids, Spain seized many of the coastal cities, but these were recovered by the Ottoman Empire. Under its Turkish governors, the Beys, Tunisia attained virtual independence. The Hussein dynasty of Beys, established in 1705, lasted until 1957. The Maghreb suffered from the deadly combination of plague and famine. The great epidemics ravaged Tunisia in 1784–1785, 1796–1797 and 1818–1820.
In 1869, Tunisia declared itself bankrupt and an international financial commission took control over its economy. In 1881, using the pretext of a Tunisian incursion into Algeria, the French invaded with an army of about 36,000 and forced the Bey to agree to the terms of the 1881 Treaty of Bardo (Al Qasr as Sa'id). With this treaty, Tunisia was officially made a French protectorate, over the objections of Italy. Under French colonization, European settlements in the country were actively encouraged; the number of French colonists grew from 34,000 in 1906 to 144,000 in 1945. In 1910 there were 105,000 Italians in Tunisia.
World War II
In 1942–1943, Tunisia was the scene of the third major operations by the Allied Forces (the British Empire and the United States) against the Axis Powers (Italy and Germany) during World War II. The main body of the British army, advancing from their victory in the Battle of el-Alamein under the command of British Field Marshal Montgomery, pushed into Tunisia from the south. The U.S. and other allies, following their invasions of Algeria and Morocco in Operation Torch, invaded from the west.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, commander of the Axis forces in North Africa, had hoped to inflict a similar defeat on the Allies in Tunisia as German forces did in the Battle of France in 1940. Before the battle for el-Alamein, the Allied forces had been forced to retreat toward Egypt. As such, the battle for Tunisia was a major test for the Allies. They concluded that in order to defeat Axis Powers they would have to coordinate their actions and quickly recover from the inevitable setbacks the German-Italian forces would inflict.
On February 19, 1943, Rommel launched an attack on the American forces in the Kasserine Pass region of Western Tunisia, hoping to inflict the kind of demoralizing and alliance-shattering defeat the Germans had dealt to Poland, Britain and France. The initial results were a disaster for the United States; the area around the Kasserine Pass is the site of many U.S. war graves from that time.
However, the American forces were ultimately able to reverse their retreat. With a critical strategy in tank warfare, and having determined that encirclement was feasible, the British, Australian and New Zealand forces broke through the Mareth Line on March 20, 1943. The Allies subsequently linked up on April 8, and on May 13, the German-Italian Army in Tunisia surrendered. Thus, the United States, United Kingdom, Australian, Free French, and Polish forces (as well as others) were able to win a major battle as an Allied army.
The battle, though overshadowed by Stalingrad, represented a major Allied victory of World War II largely because it forged the Alliance that would one day liberate Western Europe.
Tunisia achieved independence from France in 1956 led by Habib Bourguiba, who later became the first Tunisian President. In November 1987, doctors declared Bourguiba unfit to rule and, in a bloodless coup d'état, Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali assumed the presidency. He and his family subsequently were accused of corruption and plundering the country's money and fled into exile in 2011.
Before the revolution
Tunisia is a constitutional republic, with a president serving as chief of state, prime minister as head of government, a bicameral legislature and a court system influenced by French civil law. While Tunisia is formally a democracy with a multi-party system, the secular Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), formerly Neo Destour, had controlled the country as one of the most repressive regimes in the Arab World since its independence in 1956.
President Ben Ali, previously Habib Bourguiba's minister and a military figure, held office from 1987 to 2011, having acceded to the executive office of Habib Bourguiba after a team of medical experts judged Bourguiba unfit to exercise the functions of the office in accordance with Article 57 of the Tunisian constitution. The anniversary of Ben Ali’s succession, November 7, was celebrated as a national holiday. He was consistently re-elected with enormous majorities every election, the last being October 25, 2009, until he fled the country amid popular unrest in January 2011.
Tunisia has a republican presidential system characterized by a bicameral parliamentary system, including the Chamber of Deputies, which has 214 seats, 25% of which are reserved for 'opposition parties,' and the Chamber of Advisors (112 members), which is composed of representatives of political parties, professional organisations patronised by the president, and by personalities appointed by the president of the Republic. The Prime Minister and cabinet, appointed by the president, play a strong role in the execution of policy and approval of legislation. Regional governors and local administrators are also appointed by the central government. Largely consultative mayors and municipal councils are elected.
The President’s Constitutional Democratic Rally, or RCD in an abbreviation of the French, had consistently won large majorities in local and parliamentary elections. It composed of more than 2 million members and more than 6000 representations throughout the country and largely overlapped with all important state institutions. Although the party was renamed (in Bourguiba’s days it used to be known as the Socialist Destourian Party), its policies were still considered to be largely secular but not socialist or liberal. Rare for the Arab world, women hold more than 20% of seats in both chambers of parliament. Moreover, Tunisia is the only country in the Arab world where polygamy is forbidden by law. This is part of a provision in the country’s Code of Personal Status, which was introduced by the former president Bourguiba in 1956.)
The Tunisian legal system is based on the French civil code and on Islamic law; the judiciary is appointed by the Ministry of Justice. The Code of Personal Status remains one of the most progressive civil codes in the Middle East and the Muslim world. Enacted less than five months after Tunisia gained its independence, the code was meant to end gender inequality and update family law, to enable greater social and economic progress and make Tunisia a fully modern society. Among other reforms, the code outlawed the practices of polygamy and repudiation, or a husband’s right to unilaterally divorce his wife.
Independent human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, Freedom House, and Protection International, have documented that basic human and political rights were not respected. The regime obstructed in any way possible the work of local human rights organizations. In the Economist's 2008 Democracy Index Tunisia was classified as an authoritarian regime ranking 141 out of 167 countries studied. In 2008, in terms of freedom of the press, Tunisia was ranked 143 out of 173.
Since 1987 Tunisia has formally reformed its political system several times, abolishing life presidency and opening up the parliament to opposition parties. The President's official speeches are full of references to the importance of democracy and freedom of speech. According to Amnesty International, "the Tunisian government is misleading the world as it conveys a positive image of the human rights situation in the country while abuses by its security forces continue unabated and are committed with impunity".
Freedom of the press is officially guaranteed by the government, although independent press outlets remained restricted until 2011, as did a substantial amount of web content. According to the Open Net Initiative, journalists were often obstructed from reporting on controversial events. In practice, no public criticism of the regime was tolerated and all direct protest was severely suppressed and did not get reported in the local media. This was the case with the public demonstrations against nepotism. In January 2010 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned Tunisia and China as the two countries with the greatest internet censorship. The state-owned 'Publinet' internet network had more than 1.1 million users and hundreds of internet cafes, which monitored and filtered traffic. Hundreds of thousands of young men avoided compulsory conscription and lived with the constant fear of arrest, although it appears that the police went after them only in certain times of the year (the 'raffle') and often let them go if a sufficient bribe was paid.
Since the revolution of 2011, religious violence has increased in Tunisia, primarily consisting of Muslim attacks on Christians and members of other non-Muslim groups. Tunisian journalists and human rights activists were harassed and faced surveillance and imprisonment under harsh conditions. Others were dismissed from their jobs or denied their right to communicate and move freely. The authorities had also prevented the emergence of an independent judiciary, further compounding the problem.Islamist groups have also violently repressed artistic expression that is viewed to be hostile to Islam.
Corruption and nepotism
Accusations were made against the old regime, accusing it of being a kleptocracy with corrupt members of the Trabelsi family, most notably in the cases of Imed Trabelsi and Belhassen Trabelsi, controlling much of the business sector in the country. In its January/February 2008 issue, the Foreign Policy Magazine reported that Tunisia's First Lady was using a government 737 Boeing Business Jet to make "unofficial visits" to European fashion capitals, such as Milan, Paris and Geneva. The report mentioned that the trips are not on the official travel itinerary. The former first lady was described then as a shopaholic. Tunisia refused a French request for the extradition of two of the President's nephews, from Leila's side, who were accused by the French State prosecutor of having stolen two mega-yachts from a French marina. During the last few years of the old regime, rumors circulated that Ben Ali's son-in-law Sakher al-Materi (the husband of Zine and Leila's daughter Nessrine) was being primed to eventually take over the country.
2009 national elections
On October 25, 2009, national elections to elect the president and parliament were held in Tunisia in what was described by a Human Rights Watch report as "an atmosphere of repression". Ben Ali faced three candidates, two of whom said they actually supported the incumbent. No independent observer was allowed to monitor the vote. Zinedine Ben Ali won a landslide victory, with 89.62%. His opponent, Mohamed Bouchiha, received 5.01%. The candidate who was most critical of the regime, Ahmed Ibrahim, of the Ettajdid party, received only 1.57% after a campaign in which he was not allowed to put posters up or hold any kind of meeting. The president's party, the RCD, also got the majority of votes for the parliamentary election, 84.59%. The Movement of Socialist Democrats party received 4.63%.
The election received criticism in foreign media. Human Rights Watch has reported that parties and candidates were denied exposure equal to the sitting president, and that the Ettajdid party's weekly publication, Ettarik al-Jadid, was seized by authorities. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, "97% of newspaper campaign coverage was devoted to President Ben Ali amid severe restrictions on independent reporting. Ben Ali’s government went after the country’s journalist union, bringing down its democratically elected board, while his police bullied and harassed critical reporters. Two journalists, one of them a leading critic of the president, were in jail later in the year. Journalist Taoufik Ben Brik, who had published two articles in French newspapers that were critical of the regime, has been incarcerated since October 29, 2009 until his release on April 27, 2010. (The Court of Appeal upheld a sentence of nine years on 3 January 2010 in a trial that "confirmed the complete absence of independence of the Tunisian legal system" the defendant's French lawyer William Bourdon said.) Florence Beaugé, a correspondent for the French daily Le Monde, tried to cover the polling but was put on a flight back to Paris on October 21.
The Tunisian revolution was an intensive campaign of civil resistance, including a series of street demonstrations that took place in Tunisia. The events began when Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old Tunisian street vendor, set himself afire on 17 December 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the humiliation that was inflicted on him by a municipal official. This act became the catalyst for mass demonstrations and riots throughout Tunisia in protest of social and political issues in the country. Anger and violence intensified following Bouazizi's death on 4 January 2011, ultimately leading longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down on 14 January 2011, after 23 years in power. International Tunisian organizations, such as the Tunisian Community Center in the US, supported the protesters' aims toward democracy as well, in addition to TCC's efforts to freeze Ben Ali's assets abroad.
The demonstrations were precipitated by high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, a lack of freedom of speech and other political freedoms and poor living conditions. The protests constituted the most dramatic wave of social and political unrest in Tunisia in three decades and resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of which were the result of action by police and security forces against demonstrators. Labour unions were said to be an integral part of the protests. The protests inspired similar actions throughout the Arab world; sparking the Egyptian revolution in which Egypt's longtime president Hosni Mubarak was ousted, Libya – where a civil war broke out, the Yemeni Revolution, in which longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to resign and further protests in Algeria, Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq, Mauritania, Pakistan, and Syria, – as well as elsewhere in the wider North Africa and Middle East.
In response to the demonstrations, Ben Ali declared a state of emergency in the country, dissolved the government on January 14, 2011, and promised new legislative elections within six months. But on that same day Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi went on state television to say he was assuming power in Tunisia. Unconfirmed news reports, citing unidentified government sources in Tunisia, said that the President had left the country. Ghannouchi based his speech on Article 56 of the Tunisian constitution. However, the head of Tunisia's Constitutional Court, Fethi Abdennadher, confirmed that Ghannouchi violated the constitution, as Article 56 was not applicable to the circumstances and required a President. Article 57 of the constitution stated that the President of the Parliament should take the executive power and organize an election in 45 to 60 days. Consequently, Fouad Mebazaa became acting President following the Constitutional Court's interpretation of the situation and the Constitution. It was soon confirmed, however, that Ben Ali had indeed fled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. On January 26, 2011, INTERPOL confirmed that its National Central Bureau (NCB) in Tunis had issued a global alert via INTERPOL's international network to seek the location and arrest of former Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and six of his relatives.
Protests continued in Tunisia to call for banning of the ruling party and the eviction of all its members from the transitional government formed by Mohammed Ghannouchi. Eventually the new government gave in to the demands and a new prime minister Beji Caid-Essebsi was appointed by the acting president on Thursday March 3, 2011. Two of the first actions made after the appointment of the new government were the decision of the Tunis court to ban the ex-ruling party RCD and to confiscate all its resources, and a decree by the minister of the interior banning the "political police" including what has been known as the state security special forces which were used to intimidate and persecute political activists
2011 national elections
On 3 March 2011, the president announced that elections to a Constituent Assembly would be held on 23 October 2011. The constituent assembly elections took place as scheduled with international and internal observers declaring it free and fair. The Ennahda Movement, formerly banned under the Ben Ali regime, won a plurality of 90 seats out of a total of 217.
On 12 December 2011, former dissident and veteran human rights activist Moncef Marzouki was elected as president of Tunisia by a ruling coalition dominated by the moderate Islamist Nahda party, and sworn in on 13 December 2011. Marzouki had previously been imprisoned and exiled for years for opposing former President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. At the time of his election, Marzouki was head of the secular center-left Congress for the Republic party. The Islamist Nahda party also "won the largest share of seats in an assembly charged with appointing a transitional government and drafting a new constitution."
The new Constitution of Tunisia guarantees rights for women, and states that the President's religion "shall be Islam."
Tunisia has a diverse economy, ranging from agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and petroleum products, to tourism. In 2008 it had a GDP of US $41 billion (official exchange rates), or $82 billion (purchasing power parity). It also has one of Africa and the Middle East's highest per-capita GDPs (PPP). The agricultural sector stands for 11.6% of the GDP, industry 25.7%, and services 62.8%. The industrial sector is mainly made up of clothing and footwear manufacturing, production of car parts, and electric machinery. Although Tunisia managed an average 5% growth over the last decade it continues to suffer from a high unemployment especially among youth.
Tunisia was in 2009 ranked the most competitive economy in Africa and the 40th in the world by the World Economic Forum. Tunisia has managed to attract many international companies such as Airbus and Hewlett-Packard.
Tourism accounted for 7% of GDP and 370,000 jobs in 2009.
The European Union remains Tunisia's first trading partner, currently accounting for 72.5% of Tunisian imports and 75% of Tunisian exports. Tunisia is a one of the European Union’s most established trading partners in the Mediterranean region and ranks as the EU’s 30th largest trading partner. Tunisia was the first Mediterranean country to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, in July 1995, although even before the date of entry came into force, Tunisia started dismantling tariffs on bilateral EU trade. Tunisia finalised the tariffs dismantling for industrial products in 2008 and therefore was the first Mediterranean country to enter in a free trade area with EU.
Tunisia also attracted large Persian Gulf investments (especially from United Arab Emirates) the largest include:
- Mediterranean gate: a US$ 25 billion project to build a new city in the south of Tunis.
- Tunis Sport City: an entire sports city currently being constructed in Tunis, Tunisia. The city that will consist of apartment buildings as well as several sports facilities will be built by the Bukhatir Group at a cost of $5 Billion.
- Tunis Financial harbour: will deliver North Africa’s first offshore financial centre at Tunis Bay in a project with an end development value of US$ 3 billion.
- Tunis Telecom City: A US$ 3 billion project to create an IT hub in Tunis.
The majority of the electricity used in Tunisia is produced locally, by state-owned company STEG (Société Tunisienne de l´Electricité et du Gaz). In 2008, a total of 13,747 GWh was produced in the country.
Oil and gas
Oil production of Tunisia is about 97,600 barrels per day (15,520 m3/d). The main field is El Bourma.
Oil production began in 1966 in Tunisia. Currently there are 12 oil fields.
- List of oil fields
Tunisia has plans for two nuclear power stations, to be operational by 2019. Both facilities are projected to produce 900–1000 MW. France is set to become an important partner in Tunisia's nuclear power plans, having signed an agreement, along with other partners, to deliver training and technology.
The Desertec project is a large-scale energy project aimed at installing solar power panels in northern Africa, with a power line connection between it and southern Europe. Tunisia will be a part of this project, but exactly how it may benefit from this remains to be seen.
- The country maintains 19,232 kilometres (11,950 mi) of roads, with the A1 Tunis-Sfax, P1 Tunis-Libya and P7 Tunis-Algeria being the major highways.
- There are 30 airports in Tunisia, with Tunis Carthage International Airport and Monastir International Airport being the most important ones. A new airport, Enfidha – Hammamet International Airport, was completed at the end of October 2009 but was delayed in opening and did not open fully until 2011. The airport is located north of Sousse at Enfidha and is to mainly serve the resorts of Hamammet and Port El Kantoui, together with inland cities such as Kairouan. There are four airlines headquartered in Tunisia: Tunisair, Karthago Airlines, Nouvelair and Tunisair express.
- The railway network is operated by SNCFT and amounts to 2,135 kilometres (1,327 mi) in total. The Tunis area is served by a tram network, named Metro Leger.
Governorates and cities
Tunisia is subdivided into 24 governorates, they are:
The governorates are divided into 264 "delegations" or "districts" (mutamadiyat), and further subdivided into municipalities (shaykhats) and sectors (imadats).
The Tunisian armed forces are divided into three branches:
- Air Force
Tunisia's military spending is 1.6% of GDP (2006). The army is responsible for national defence and also internal security.
Tunisia is situated on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile Delta. It is bordered by Algeria on the west and Libya on the south east. It lies between latitudes 30° and 38°N, and longitudes 7° and 12°E. An abrupt southward turn of the Mediterranean coast in northern Tunisia gives the country two distinctive Mediterranean coasts, west-east in the north, and north-south in the east.
Though it is relatively small in size, Tunisia has great environmental diversity due to its north-south extent. Its east-west extent is limited. Differences in Tunisia, like the rest of the Maghreb, are largely north-south environmental differences defined by sharply decreasing rainfall southward from any point. The Dorsal, the eastern extension of the Atlas Mountains, runs across Tunisia in a northeasterly direction from the Algerian border in the west to the Cape Bon peninsula in the east. North of the Dorsal is the Tell, a region characterized by low, rolling hills and plains, again an extension of mountains to the west in Algeria. In the Khroumerie, the northwestern corner of the Tunisian Tell, elevations reach 1,050 metres (3,440 ft) and snow occurs in winter.
The Sahel, a broadening coastal plain along Tunisia's eastern Mediterranean coast, is among the world's premier areas of olive cultivation. Inland from the Sahel, between the Dorsal and a range of hills south of Gafsa, are the Steppes. Much of the southern region is semi-arid and desert.
Tunisia has a coastline 1,148 kilometres (713 mi) long. In maritime terms, the country claims a contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles (44.4 km; 27.6 mi), and a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi).
Tunisia's climate is temperate in the north, with mild rainy winters and hot, dry summers. The south of the country is desert. The terrain in the north is mountainous, which, moving south, gives way to a hot, dry central plain. The south is semiarid, and merges into the Sahara. A series of salt lakes, known as chotts or shatts, lie in an east-west line at the northern edge of the Sahara, extending from the Gulf of Gabes into Algeria. The lowest point is Shatt al Gharsah, at 17 metres (56 ft) below sea level and the highest is Jebel ech Chambi, at 1,544 metres (5,066 ft).
Some 98% of modern native Tunisians are from a sociological, historical and genealogical standpoint mainly of Arab and Berber descent, but the overwhelming majority simply identify themselves today as Arabs. Tunisian Arabic, like other Maghrebi dialects, has a vocabulary mostly Arabic, with significant Berber substrates. However, there is also a small (1% at most) population located in the Dahar mountains and on the island of Jerba in the south-east and in the Khroumire mountainous region in the north-west and Altrough the Borders still dominate the pure Berber languages, often called Shelha. recent studies make clear no significant genetic differences exist between the majority of Arabic speaking population and Berber speaking minority, highlighting that in common with most of the Arab World, Arabization was mainly via acculturation of non-Arab indigenous populations over time.
The small European population (1%) consists mostly of French and Italians. There is also a long-established Jewish community in the country, the history of the Jews in Tunisia going back some 2,000 years. In 1948 the Jewish population was an estimated 105,000, but by 2003 only about 1,500 remained.
The first people known to history in what is now Tunisia were the Berbers. Numerous civilizations and peoples have invaded, migrated to, and been assimilated into the population over the millennia, with influences of population via conquest from Phoenicians/Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Alans, Arabs, Spaniards, Ottoman Turks and Janissaries, and French. There was a continuing inflow of nomadic Arab tribes from Arabia.
Additionally, after the Reconquista and expulsion of non-Christians and Moriscos from Spain, many Spanish Moors and Jews also arrived. According to Matthew Carr, "As many as eighty thousand Moriscos settled in Tunisia, most of them in and around the capital, Tunis, which still contains a quarter known as Zuqaq al-Andalus, or Andalusia Alley." In addition, from the late 19th century to after World War II, Tunisia was home to large populations of French and Italians (255,000 Europeans in 1956), although nearly all of them, along with the Jewish population, left after Tunisia became independent.
Tunisia's health system is effective; life expectancy at birth in 2004 was 73.4 years, and infant mortality the same year was 25 per 1000.
The constitution declares Islam as the official state religion and requires the President to be Muslim. Aside from the president, Tunisians enjoy a significant degree of religious freedom, a right enshrined and protected in its constitution, which guarantees the freedom to practice one's religion.
The country has a secular culture that encourages acceptance of other religions and religious freedom. With regards to the freedom of Muslims, the Tunisian government has restricted the wearing of Islamic head scarves (hijab) in government offices and it discourages women from wearing them on public streets and public gatherings. The government believes the hijab is a "garment of foreign origin having a partisan connotation". There were reports that the Tunisian police harassed men with "Islamic" appearance (such as those with beards), detained them, and sometimes compelled men to shave their beards off. In 2006, the former Tunisian president declared that he would "fight" the hijab, which he refers to as "ethnic clothing".
Individual Tunisians are tolerant of religious freedom and generally do not inquire about a person's personal beliefs.
The majority of Tunisia's population (around 98%) are Muslims while about 1% follow Christianity and the remaining 1% adhere to Judaism or other religions. The bulk of Tunisians belong to the Maliki School of Sunni Islam and their mosques are easily recognizable by square minarets. However, the Turks brought with them the teaching of the Hanafi School during the Ottoman rule which still survives among the Turkish descended families today, their mosques traditionally have octagonal minarets.
Tunisia has a sizable Christian community of around 25,000 adherents, mainly Catholics (22,000) and to a lesser degree Protestants. Berber Christians continued to live in Tunisia up until the early 15th century. Judaism is the country's third largest religion with 1,500 members. One-third of the Jewish population lives in and around the capital. The remainder lives on the island of Djerba, with 39 synagogues, and where the Jewish community dates back 2,500 years.
Djerba, an island in the Gulf of Gabès, is home to El Ghriba synagogue, which is one of the oldest synagogues in the world. Many Jews consider it a pilgrimage site, with celebrations taking place there once every year. In fact, Tunisia along with Morocco has been said to be the Arab countries most accepting of their Jewish populations.
Arabic is the official language, and Tunisian Arabic, known as Derja, is the local, vernacular variety of Arabic and is used by the public. There is also a small minority of speakers of Shelha, a Berber language.
Due to the former French occupation, French also plays a major role in the country, despite having no official status. It is widely used in education (e.g., as the language of instruction in the sciences in secondary school), the press, and in business. Most Tunisians are able to speak it. Due to Tunisia's proximity to Italy and the large number of Italian Tunisians, Italian is understood and spoken by a small part of the Tunisian population.
Education is given a high priority and accounts for 6% of GNP. A basic education for children between the ages of 6 and 16 has been compulsory since 1991. Tunisia ranked 17th in the category of "quality of the [higher] educational system" and 21st in the category of "quality of primary education" in The Global Competitiveness Report 2008-9, released by The World Economic Forum.
While children generally acquire Tunisian Arabic at home, when they enter school at age 6, they are taught to read and write in Standard Arabic. From the age of 8, they are taught French while English is introduced at the age of 12.
Colleges and universities in Tunisia include:
- École Polytechnique de Tunisie
- International University of Tunis
- Université Libre de Tunis
- Université de l'Aviation et Technologie de Tunisie
- Institut National d'Agronomie de Tunis
- Université des Sciences de Tunis
The culture of Tunisia is mixed due to their long established history of conquerors such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Spaniards, and the French who all left their mark on the country.
In practice, no public criticism of the Ben Ali regime was tolerated and all direct protest was severely suppressed and did not get reported in the local media. Tunisian journalists and human rights activists were harassed and faced surveillance and imprisonment under harsh conditions.
Several private radio stations have been established, including Mosaique FM, Shems FM and private television stations such as Hannibal TV and Nessma TV.
Football is the most popular sport in Tunisia. The Tunisia national football team, also known as "The Eagles of Carthage," won the 2004 African Cup of Nations (ACN), which was held in Tunisia. They also represented Africa in the 2005 FIFA Cup of Confederations, which was held in Germany, but they could not go beyond the first round. The Eagles of Carthage have participated in four World Cup Championships. The team's record in the World Cup is shown below:
The premier football league is the "Tunisian Ligue Professionnelle 1". The main clubs are Espérance Sportive de Tunis, Club Africain, Club Sportif Sfaxien and Étoile Sportive du Sahel. The latter team participated in the 2008 World Cup for clubs and reached the semi-final match, in which it was eliminated by Boca Juniors from Argentina.
The Tunisia national handball team has participated in several handball world championships. In 2005, Tunisia came fourth. The national league consists of about 12 teams, with ES. Sahel and Esperance S.Tunis dominating. The most famous Tunisian handball player is Wissem Hmam. In the 2005 Handball Championship in Tunis, Wissem Hmam was ranked as the top scorer of the tournament. The Tunisian national handball team won the African Cup eight times, being the team dominating this competition. The Tunisians won the 2010 African Cup in Egypt by defeating the host country.
In boxing, Victor Perez ("Young") was world champion in the flyweight weight class in 1931 and 1932.
In the 2008 Summer Olympics, Tunisian Oussama Mellouli won a gold medal in 1500 freestyle.
Tunisia is a member of the following organizations:
- Outline of Tunisia
- Index of Tunisia-related articles
- Government of Tunisia official website
- Tunisia entry at The World Factbook
- Tunisia web resources provided by GovPubs at the University of Colorado–Boulder Libraries
- Tunisia at the Open Directory Project
- Tunisia profile from the BBC News
- Wikimedia Atlas of Tunisia
- Tunisia travel guide from Wikitravel
Coordinates: 34°N 9°E
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