Tunisian civil society group wins Nobel Peace Prize

Honour intended to encourage Tunisians and make them example for Arab world

Kaci Kullmann Five,  head of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee. “We want to prove that it is possible for Islamist and secular political movements to work together in the best interests of the people,” she said. Photograph: Heiko Junge/Reuters

Kaci Kullmann Five, head of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee. “We want to prove that it is possible for Islamist and secular political movements to work together in the best interests of the people,” she said. Photograph: Heiko Junge/Reuters

 

The 96th Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to four groups from Tunisian civil society who saved the country’s fragile transition from dictatorship to democracy by mediating between Islamists and secularists.

Above all, said Kaci Kullmann Five, chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the prize was intended as “an encouragement to the Tunisian people”.

Ms Five held Tunisia up as an example for other Arab countries. “We want to prove that it is possible for Islamist and secular political movements to work together in the best interests of the people,” she said.

The €860,000 prize is shared by the groups comprising the “National Dialogue Quartet”. They are: the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) – which played a historic role in obtaining independence from France in 1956; the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, which represents business management; the Tunisian Human Rights League and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.

The Nobel Committee stressed that the prize was awarded to the quartet as a whole and not to the individual organisations for “its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011”.

Tunisia’s young democracy weathered its greatest crisis, in 2013, following the assassinations of Chokri Belaid in February and Mohamed Brahmi in July of that year. Both politicians opposed Ennahda, the Islamist party that won the October 2011 elections.

Burned down

The experience proved that an Arab country can build a democracy, that Arabs are not fated to be ruled by dictatorship or Islamic fundamentalism.

The announcement prompted scenes of joy in Tunisia, which was severely tested by jihadist attacks that killed 22 people in Tunis last March and claimed 39 more lives in Sousse in June.

Most of the victims were European tourists, and the massacres, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility, have decimated the country’s tourism industry.

The “Arab Spring” started in Tunisia on December 17th, 2010, when Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor, immolated himself after a police shakedown. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the dictator who had ruled Tunisia for 23 years, was forced into exile the following month, after 136 people were killed in police repression of demonstrations.