Contact: April Brady, Communications Coordinator, POMED,, 202-804-4747


(Washington D.C.) – The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) issued the following statement on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the Tunisian Revolution:

Eight years ago today, on January 14, 2011, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s dictatorship collapsed after massive, peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations by the Tunisian people. A month earlier, street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire, driven to despair by the corruption and greed of a regime that saw Tunisian citizens not as people deserving of rights and opportunity, but as tools for its own enrichment and exploitation. The sudden demise of Tunisia’s seemingly entrenched authoritarian system sent shock waves across a region that had long resisted democratization. What occurred on January 14, 2011, inspired millions of Arabs to stand up to their oppressors and demand a better future. It remains a historic event.

Since 2011, Tunisia’s young democracy has shown remarkable resilience in the face of political, security, economic, and regional challenges. Tunisians have created a genuinely pluralistic political system, held multiple free and fair elections, completed several peaceful transfers of power, enacted a new constitution and laws enshrining freedoms, and built an inspired and resourceful civil society that has safeguarded the democratic transition at several critical points.

But there is much work left to be done, and 2019 will be a crucial year in determining the fate of Tunisia’s transition.

  • Economic opportunity and social justice should be accessible to all Tunisians.
  • A comprehensive and serious effort to combat corruption should be launched.
  • Security forces need to be held accountable for discriminatory and abusive behavior, including for torture.
  • Although the mandate of the Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD) ended last month, far more work is required to bring justice to the dictatorship’s victims and to create new systems of accountability.
  • The long-delayed Constitutional Court, along with other constitutionally mandated institutions designed to guarantee newfound freedoms, needs to be established.
  • Civil society must remain vigilant against attempts to restrict freedom of association.
  • The Tunisian government should take immediate steps to strengthen the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE) and ensure its autonomy so that credible, free, and fair parliamentary and presidential elections can take place before the end of 2019 as scheduled.

Many goals of the 2011 revolution remain unmet, and Tunisia faces a steep road ahead. The Tunisian people should be proud of all they have accomplished, while remaining steadfast in the face of those who want to see their democracy fail. Tunisians have defied those who claim that Arabs do not desire to live freely and that peaceful democratic change in this region is impossible. The United States and other democracies should do everything they can to help Tunisian democracy survive and thrive.

The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to examining how genuine democracies can develop in the Middle East and how the United States can best support that process. Through research, advocacy, and civil society partnerships we work to strengthen the constituency for U.S. policies that peacefully support democratic reform in the Middle East.

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Photo: Amine Ghrabi/Flickr