Iranian judo agrees to end decades-long boycott of Israeli athletes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Iranian judo agrees to end decades-long boycott of Israeli athletes

Historic commitment comes after talks with International Judo Federation over ‘disturbing phenomenon’ of Iranians throwing matches

Uzbekistan's Bekmurod Oltiboev, in white, competes against Iran's Javad Mahjoub during their men's +100 kg judo bronze medal match at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, August 31, 2018. (AP/Dita Alangkara)

Uzbekistan’s Bekmurod Oltiboev, in white, competes against Iran’s Javad Mahjoub during their men’s +100 kg judo bronze medal match at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, August 31, 2018. (AP/Dita Alangkara)

In a historic move, Iranian judo officials have agreed to stop boycotting Israeli athletes on the mat, ending a practice that had drawn criticism against Tehran in the sporting world.

In a letter to the International Judo Federation published Saturday, Iran’s Olympic Committee and local Judo Federation agreed to “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle.”

In a statement, the IJF said the letter came after several rounds of talks regarding the “disturbing phenomenon, which involves the sudden ‘injury’ or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes,” which it said was related to Iran trying to avoid meeting athletes from certain countries.

Neither Iran nor the IJF specifically mentioned Israel, but Iranian athletes have on several occasions forfeited matches to avoid facing Israelis, who have become increasingly relevant in the sport on the world stage.

Iran’s sports policy is an outgrowth of the country’s official refusal to recognize Israel. Its leaders routinely encourage the demise of the Jewish state and the countries are considered arch foes.

In February, Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei threw a match at the Paris Grand Slam to avoid facing Israeli Sagi Muki in the next round by feigning an injury, ending his chance at a gold medal. He then recovered to win his bronze medal match, but feigned another injury to avoid standing on the podium with Muki.

According to Israel’s Army Radio, the IJF had threatened to ban Iran from international competitions, including the Olympics, if it did not agree to fight Israelis.

On Saturday, Muki won gold at the Baku Grand Slam, likely securing his place at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Israel’s Sagi Muki poses on the podium with his gold medal following the men’s under 81 kg weight category competition during the European Judo Championship in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on April 27, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

The IJF has in recent years stepped up pressure on Muslim boycotts of Israeli athletes, including refusals to host them or shake hands.

In 2018, the body stripped international competitions from the UAE and Tunisia over their refusal to allow Israelis to compete as Israelis.

The UAE later relented, resulting in the anthem Hatikvah being played in the country for the first time last year after Muki won the gold in the under-81 kg category.

Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and Israel Judo Association President Moshe Ponte with medal winners during the women 52 kg medal ceremony at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Judo tournament in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Iran has had a long-time policy of avoiding Israelis in athletic competitions, frequently at the expense of its own competitors. An Iranian swimmer refused to enter the same pool as an Israeli at the Beijing Olympics and in the 2004 Athens Games, an Iranian judoka refused to face an Israeli, resulting in his disqualification.

In February, after Mollaei threw the match in Paris, Iranian athletics chief  Davoud Azarnoush said he hoped “Israel will be wiped out and annihilated before the next Olympic games, and all of us will breathe a sigh of relief,” according to Radio Farda.

A letter from Iranian judo officials to the IJF, published on May 11, 2019. Click to expand. (IJF)

In the letter to the IJF, the Iranian sports officials said they were negotiating with Iran’s parliament “to identify proper legal resolutions,” seemingly in order to rescind the unofficial ban on competing against Israelis.

Iranians athletes have increasingly found themselves caught between domestic officials, who may punish them for competing against Israelis, and international officials, who will punish them if they forfeit matches. In recent years, an increasing number of Iranian athletes and coaches have spoken out against the policy.

The last competition between Iranian and Israeli teams on the international level dates back to a wrestling match in 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine.

The regime in Iran routinely encourages the demise of Israel, and funds, arms and trains terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad in Gaza that avowedly seek the annihilation of the Jewish state. Israel has led international opposition to the 2015 P5+1 powers’ deal with Iran, which was intended to prevent Iran attaining a nuclear weapons arsenal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing the Iranians of lying about their nuclear weapons program and successfully lobbying US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the accord.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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COMMENTS

Israel Said Set To Seek $250b Compensation From Arab Countries Plus Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel said set to seek $250b compensation for Jews forced out of Arab countries

After 18 months of research, first claims being finalized for reported $35b from Tunisia, $15b from Libya, for assets Jews left behind when kicked out after establishment of Israel

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Israel is preparing to demand compensation totaling a reported $250 billion from seven Arab countries and Iran for property and assets left behind by Jews who were forced to flee those countries following the establishment of the State of Israel.

“The time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms (against Jews) in seven Arab countries and Iran, and to restore, to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property, what is rightfully theirs,” Israel’s Minister for Social Equality, Gila Gamliel, who is coordinating the Israeli government’s handling of the issue, said Saturday.

According to figures cited Saturday night by Israel’s Hadashot TV news, compensation demands are now being finalized with regards to the first two of the eight countries involved, with Israel set to seek $35 billion dollars in compensation for lost Jewish assets from Tunisia, and $15 billion dollars from Libya.

In total, the TV report said Israel will seek over $250 billion from those two countries plus Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Iran.

Yemenite Jews walking to Aden, the site of a reception camp, ahead of their emigration to Israel, 1949. (Kluger Zoltan/Israeli National Photo Archive/public domain)

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), an international umbrella group of Jewish community organizations, has estimated that some 856,000 Jews from 10 Arab countries — the other two were Algeria and Lebanon — fled or were expelled in 1948 and after, while violent Arab riots left many Jews dead or injured.

For the past 18 months, utilizing the services of an international accountancy firm, the Israeli government has quietly been researching the value of property and assets that these Jews were forced to leave behind, the TV report said.

Immigrants from Iraq soon after landing at Lod Airport, summer 1951 (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

It is now moving toward finalizing claims as the Trump Administration prepares for the possible unveiling of its much-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal. A 2010 Israeli law provides that any peace deal must provide for compensation for assets of Jewish communities and individual Jews forced out of Arab countries and Iran.

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“One cannot talk about the Middle East without taking into consideration the rights of the Jews who were forced to leave their thriving communities amid violence,” said Gamliel, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“All the crimes that were carried out against those Jewish communities must be recognized.”

The Palestinian Authority has sought over $100 billion in compensation from Israel for assets left behind by Arab residents of what is today Israel who fled or were forced to leave at the time of the establishment of the Jewish state, and presented documentation to that effect to the United States a decade ago, the TV report said.

The Palestinians have also always demanded a “right of return” to what is today’s Israel for the few tens of thousands of surviving refugees and for their millions of descendants. This demand would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state and has been dismissed by successive Israeli governments. Israel argues that Palestinian refugees would become citizens of a Palestinian state under a permanent peace accord, just as Jewish refugees from Arab lands became citizens of Israel. It also argues that by extending refugee status to Palestinian descendants, the relevant UN agencies artificially inflate the issue, complicating peace efforts. The latter view is shared by the Trump administration, which last year announced it was halting funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

Israel has never formally demanded compensation for Jews forced out of Arab lands and Iran, and although many of those Jews arrived in Israel with next to nothing, they did not seek formal refugee status from the international community.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon giving the opening remarks at an official UN event commemorating Jewish refugees from Arab lands, on December 1, 2015. (Shahar Azran)

At the time, the newly established Jewish state was struggling to attract migration from the world’s Jews and to project its legitimacy as a sovereign state, able to care for its own people. Its first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, would not have wanted Jews returning to their “historic homeland” classed as refugees, according to Meir Kahlon, chairman of the Central Organization for Jews from Arab Countries and Iran.

Monies obtained from the eight countries would not be allocated to individual families, the TV report said, but would rather be distributed by the state via a special fund. Gamliel is coordinating the process, together with Israel’s National Security Council, which works out of the Prime Minister’s Office.

In 2014, Israel passed a law making each November 30 a day commemorating the exit and deportation of Jews from Arab and Iranian lands, which involves educational programming and diplomatic events aimed to increase international awareness of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran, and of their right to compensation.

That year, at the first such events, Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin issued calls for financial reparations.

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a ceremony marking the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. November 30, 2014. (photo credit: Courtesy)

“It is not for nothing that this day is marked on the day after the 29th of November,” Netanyahu said on November 30, 2014, in reference to the anniversary of the UN adoption of the Palestine partition plan in 1947. “The Arab countries, which never accepted the UN declaration on the establishment of a Jewish state, compelled the Jews living in their territories to leave their homes while leaving their assets behind… We have acted – and will continue to act – so that they and their claims are not forgotten.”

Read: The expulsion that backfired: When Iraq kicked out its Jews

In his address at that first ceremony, Rivlin appealed for greater Sephardic representation in Israeli society, as well as for compensation for their suffering. He acknowledged that the troubles of Middle Eastern Jews were not mitigated upon their arrival in Israel, where European Jews were firmly entrenched in power.

“Their voices were muted, but the words were in their mouths all along, even if they were said in Hebrew with a Persian or Arabic accent, which in Israel were thought of as enemy languages and viewed as a source of shame,” he said.

“The voice of Jews from Arab countries and Iran must be heard within the education system, in the media, in the arts, and in the country’s official institutions, as it needs to be heard in the international arena as well, in order to mend the historical injustice, and to ensure financial reparations,” Rivlin said.

Kahlon said that “nearly 800,000 came here (in the years after the establishment of the state) and the rest (around 56,000) went to the United States, France, Italy and elsewhere.”

Kahlon himself came to Israel as a child from Libya and spent his first years in the Jewish state in one of the tent camps set up to shelter the flood of newcomers.

Barber Rachamim Azar, a new immigrant from Baghdad, carries out his trade in the tent he shares with his wife and two children at a maabara (immigrant camp) in central Israel in summer 1951. He told a Government Press Office photographer that he intended to move to a kibbutz (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

In March 2014, Canada formally recognized the refugee status of the Jewish emigres who fled or were expelled from Arab countries after Israel’s founding.

Some of the migrants to Israel say privately that the issue is being promoted to give Israel a bargaining card in negotiations with the Palestinians, to set against Palestinian compensation claims for property and assets left behind in what is now Israel.

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Tunisia Ruling Party Suspends Prime Minister’s Membership

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Tunisia Ruling Party Suspends Prime Minister’s Membership

Sunday, 16 September, 2018 – 11:00
Tunisia’s Prime Minister Youssef Chahed talks during an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia, September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
Tunisia – Almunji Suaidani
Tunisia’s ruling Nidaa Tounes party froze the prime minister’s membership.

“The party decided to freeze the membership of Chahed,” Nidaa Tounes said in a statement.

Following long discussions that lasted for hours on Friday, the party took that decision that might lead in a further phase to a temporary dismissal of Chahed. During his visit to one of the schools in the north of the capital, Chahed refused to comment.

Wafa Makhlouf, a founding member of Nidaa Tounes, expressed objection and other members’ rejection of the statement content – a stance that shows affection with the prime minister who aspires to play a key political role bigger than the one determined for him when he was first appointed a prime minister.

Makhlouf expressed concern regarding the current condition in the country.

A former leader in Nidaa Tounes Riad Alaziz expected the number of deputies from the National Coalition bloc to reach 55, and all of them would be supporting the political program of Chahed. This makes the bloc come second after Ennahda Movement and push Nidaa Tounes to the third place.

This parliamentary bloc works on ensuring positive outcomes of Chahed government during the upcoming voting over the financial law 2019, also through voting in favor of Chahed carrying out a partial amendment in the government, as well as conducting huge reforms and implementing a development program.

Tunisia: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Tunisia

Introduction Rivalry between French and Italian interests in Tunisia culminated in a French invasion in 1881 and the creation of a protectorate. Agitation for independence in the decades following World War I was finally successful in getting the French to recognize Tunisia as an independent state in 1956. The country’s first president, Habib BOURGUIBA, established a strict one-party state. He dominated the country for 31 years, repressing Islamic fundamentalism and establishing rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation. In November 1987, BOURGUIBA was removed from office and replaced by Zine el Abidine BEN ALI in a bloodless coup. BEN ALI is currently serving his fourth consecutive five-year term as president; the next elections are scheduled for October 2009. Tunisia has long taken a moderate, non-aligned stance in its foreign relations. Domestically, it has sought to defuse rising pressure for a more open political society.
History 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 B.C. by settlers from Tyre, now in modern day Lebanon. Legend says that Dido founded the city in 814 B.C., as retold in by the Greek writer Timaeus of Tauromenium. The settlers of Carthage brought their culture and religion from the Phoenicians and other Canaanites.

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.

Though the Romans referred to the new empire growing in the city of Carthage as Punic or Phoenician, the empire built around Carthage was an independent political entity from the other Phoenician settlements in the Western Mediterranean.

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 the Roman Empire. Carthage was eventually conquered by Rome in the 2nd century BC, a turning point which led to ancient Mediterranean civilization having been influenced mainly by European instead of African cultures. After the Roman conquest, the region became one of the granaries of Rome, and was Latinized and Christianized. It was conquered by the Vandals in the 5th century AD and reconquered by the commander Belisarius in the 6th century during the rule of Byzantine emperor Justinian.

In the 7th century the region was conquered by Arab Muslims, who founded the city of Kairouan which became the first city of Islam in North Africa. Tunisia flourished under Arab rule. 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[citation needed]; 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 Algeria, 972-1148) and Hammadid (Central and eastern Algeria, 1015-1152). North Africa was submerged by their quarrels; political instability was connected to the decline of Tunisian trade and agriculture. In addition the invasion of Tunisia by Banu Hilal, a warlike Arab Bedouin tribes encouraged by 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 and the following Arab reconquest made the last Christians in Tunisia disappear. In 1159, Tunisia was conquered by the Almohad caliphs. They were succeeded by the Berber Hafsids (c.1230 – 1574), under whom Tunisia prospered. 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. From 1881 – 1956 the country was 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 first 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 Battle of el-Alamein under the command of British Field Marshal Montgomery, pushed into Tunisia from the south. The US and other allies, following their invasions of Algeria and Morocco in Operation Torch, invaded from the west.

General 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-alemin, the allied forces had been forced to retreat toward Egypt. As such the battle for Tunisia was a major test for the allies. They figured out that in order to defeat Axis forces they would have to coordinate their actions and quickly recover from the inevitable setbacks the German-Italian forces would inflict.

On February 19, 1943, General 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 and France. The initial results were a disaster for the United States; the area around the Kasserine Pass is the site of many US war graves from that time.

However, the American forces were ultimately able to reverse their retreat. Having known a critical strategy in tank warfare, the Allies broke through the Mareth line on March 20, 1943. The allies subsequently linked up on April 8 and on May 2, 1943 the German-Italian Army in Tunisia surrendered. Thus, the United States, United Kingdom, Free French, and Polish (as well as other forces) were able to win a major battle as an allied army.

The battle, though often overshadowed by Stalingrad, represented a major allied victory of World War II largely because it forged the Alliance which would one day liberate Western Europe.

Geography Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya
Geographic coordinates: 34 00 N, 9 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 163,610 sq km
land: 155,360 sq km
water: 8,250 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Georgia
Land boundaries: total: 1,424 km
border countries: Algeria 965 km, Libya 459 km
Coastline: 1,148 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 12 nm
Climate: temperate in north with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers; desert in south
Terrain: mountains in north; hot, dry central plain; semiarid south merges into the Sahara
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Shatt al Gharsah -17 m
highest point: Jebel ech Chambi 1,544 m
Natural resources: petroleum, phosphates, iron ore, lead, zinc, salt
Land use: arable land: 17.05%
permanent crops: 13.08%
other: 69.87% (2005)
Irrigated land: 3,940 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 4.6 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.64 cu km/yr (14%/4%/82%)
per capita: 261 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: toxic and hazardous waste disposal is ineffective and poses health risks; water pollution from raw sewage; limited natural fresh water resources; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: strategic location in central Mediterranean; Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration
Religion The constitution declares Islam as the official state religion and requires the President to be Muslim. Tunisia also enjoys 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 culture that encourages acceptance of other religions; religious freedom is widely practiced and the government is tolerant of religious freedom as long as it does not threaten national unity. Individual Tunisians are also tolerant of religious freedom and generally do not inquire about a person’s personal beliefs.

The majority of Tunisia’s population (98%) are Muslims, while 1% follow Christianity and the rest adhere to Judaism or other religions. However, there are no reliable data on the number of practicing Muslims. Some reports stipulate that atheists form the second largest group in the country (making it probably on top of any other North African country).

Tunisia has a sizable Christian community of around 25,000 adherents; mainly Catholics (20,000) and to a lesser degree Protestants. 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, 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.

Tunisia is one of the very few North African countries where synagogues and churches are open to worshipers.

People Population: 10,383,577 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 23.2% (male 1,246,105/female 1,167,379)
15-64 years: 69.7% (male 3,638,062/female 3,595,254)
65 years and over: 7.1% (male 345,590/female 391,187) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 28.8 years
male: 28.2 years
female: 29.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.989% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 15.5 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 5.17 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.44 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.88 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 23.43 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 25.7 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 20.98 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 75.56 years
male: 73.79 years
female: 77.46 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.73 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 1,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Tunisian(s)
adjective: Tunisian
Ethnic groups: Arab 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%
Religions: Muslim 98%, Christian 1%, Jewish and other 1%
Languages: Arabic (official and one of the languages of commerce), French (commerce)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 74.3%
male: 83.4%
female: 65.3% (2004 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 14 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 7.3% of GDP (2005)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Tunisian Republic
conventional short form: Tunisia
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah at Tunisiyah
local short form: Tunis
Government type: republic
Capital: name: Tunis
geographic coordinates: 36 48 N, 10 11 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions: 24 governorates; Ariana (Aryanah), Beja (Bajah), Ben Arous (Bin ‘Arus), Bizerte (Banzart), Gabes (Qabis), Gafsa (Qafsah), Jendouba (Jundubah), Kairouan (Al Qayrawan), Kasserine (Al Qasrayn), Kebili (Qibili), Kef (Al Kaf), Mahdia (Al Mahdiyah), Manouba (Manubah), Medenine (Madanin), Monastir (Al Munastir), Nabeul (Nabul), Sfax (Safaqis), Sidi Bou Zid (Sidi Bu Zayd), Siliana (Silyanah), Sousse (Susah), Tataouine (Tatawin), Tozeur (Tawzar), Tunis, Zaghouan (Zaghwan)
Independence: 20 March 1956 (from France)
National holiday: Independence Day, 20 March (1956); also the anniversary of BEN ALI’s assumption of the presidency, 7 November (1987)
Constitution: 1 June 1959; amended 1988, 2002
Legal system: based on French civil law system and Islamic law; some judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court in joint session; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal except for active government security forces (including the police and the military), people with mental disabilities, people who have served more than three months in prison (criminal cases only), and people given a suspended sentence of more than six months
Executive branch: chief of state: President Zine el Abidine BEN ALI (since 7 November 1987)
head of government: Prime Minister Mohamed GHANNOUCHI (since 17 November 1999)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (no term limits); election last held on 24 October 2004 (next to be held in October 2009); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI reelected for a fourth term; percent of vote – Zine El Abidine BEN ALI 94.5%, Mohamed BOUCHIHA 3.8%, Mohamed Ali HALOUANI 1%
Legislative branch: bicameral system consists of the Chamber of Deputies or Majlis al-Nuwaab (189 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms) and the Chamber of Advisors (126 seats; 85 members elected by municipal counselors, deputies, mayors, and professional associations and trade unions; 41 members are presidential appointees; members serve six-year terms)
elections: Chamber of Deputies – last held on 24 October 2004 (next to be held in October 2009); Chamber of Advisors – last held on 3 July 2005 (next to be held in July 2011)
election results: Chamber of Deputies – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – RCD 152, MDS 14, PUP 11, UDU 7, Al-Tajdid 3, PSL 2; Chamber of Advisors – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – RCD 71 (14 trade union seats vacant (due to boycott))
Judicial branch: Court of Cassation or Cour de Cassation
Political parties and leaders: Al-Tajdid Movement [Ahmed IBRAHIM]; Constitutional Democratic Rally Party (Rassemblement Constitutionnel Democratique) or RCD (official ruling party) [President Zine El Abidine BEN ALI]; Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties or FDTL [Mustapha Ben JAFAAR]; Green Party for Progress or PVP [Mongi KHAMASSI]; Liberal Social Party or PSL [Mondher THABET]; Movement of Socialist Democrats or MDS [Ismail BOULAHYA]; Popular Unity Party or PUP [Mohamed BOUCHIHA]; Progressive Democratic Party [Maya JERIBI]; Unionist Democratic Union or UDU [Ahmed INOUBLI]; note – the Islamist party, Al Nahda (Renaissance), is outlawed
Political pressure groups and leaders: 18 October Group [collective leadership]; Tunisian League for Human Rights or LTDH [Mokhtar TRIFI]
International organization participation: ABEDA, AfDB, AFESD, AMF, AMU, AU, BSEC (observer), FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAS, MIGA, MONUC, NAM, OAPEC (suspended), OAS (observer), OIC, OIF, OPCW, OSCE (partner), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d’Affaires Tarek Ben YOUSSEF
chancery: 1515 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005
telephone: [1] (202) 862-1850
FAX: [1] (202) 862-1858
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Robert F. GODEC
embassy: Zone Nord-Est des Berges du Lac Nord de Tunis 1053
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [216] 71 107-000
FAX: [216] 71 963-263
Flag description: red with a white disk in the center bearing a red crescent nearly encircling a red five-pointed star; the crescent and star are traditional symbols of Islam
Culture The Culture of Tunisia is a product of more than three thousand years of history and an important multi-ethnic influx. Ancient Tunisia was a major civilization crossing through history; different cultures, civilizations and multiple successive dynasties contributed to the culture of the country over centuries with a varying degrees of influence. Among these cultures were the Panic, Roman, Jewish, Christian, Arab, Islamic, Turkish, and French, in addition to native Berbers. This unique mixture of cultures made Tunisia, with its strategic geographical location in the Mediterranean, the core of some great civilizations of Mare Nostrum.

The history of Tunisia reveals this rich past where different successive Mediterranean cultures had a strong presence. After the Carthaginian Empire, the Roman Empire came and left a lasting effect on the land with various monuments and cities such the El-Jem Amphitheater and the archaeological site of the ancient city of Carthage, which is classified as a world heritage site. El Jem is just one of seven world heritage sites found in Tunisia.

After a few centuries of the presence of Christianity, represented by the Church of Africa, the Arab Islamic conquest transformed the whole country and founded a new city called Al-Qayrawan, Al-Qayrawan is a renowned center for religious and intellectual pursuits.

With the annexation of Tunisia by the Ottoman Empire, the center of power shifted from Tunis to Istanbul. This shift in power allowed the local government of the new Ottoman Province to gain more independence, which was maintained until the institution of the French Protectorate (which was later seen as occupation). The protectorate introduced elements of Western – French – culture.

The important elements of Tunisian culture are diverse and represent a unique, mixed heritage. This heritage can be experienced first-hand in: museums, the contrast and diversity of city architecture, cuisine, music, literature, cinema, religion, the arts, and sports.

Economy Economy – overview: Tunisia has a diverse economy, with important agricultural, mining, tourism, and manufacturing sectors. Governmental control of economic affairs while still heavy has gradually lessened over the past decade with increasing privatization, simplification of the tax structure, and a prudent approach to debt. Progressive social policies also have helped raise living conditions in Tunisia relative to the region. Real growth, which averaged almost 5% over the past decade, declined to 4.7% in 2008 and probably will decline further in 2009 because of economic contraction and slowing of import demand in Europe – Tunisia’s largest export market. However, development of non-textile manufacturing, a recovery in agricultural production, and strong growth in the services sector somewhat mitigated the economic effect of slowing exports. Tunisia will need to reach even higher growth levels to create sufficient employment opportunities for an already large number of unemployed as well as the growing population of university graduates. The challenges ahead include: privatizing industry, liberalizing the investment code to increase foreign investment, improving government efficiency, reducing the trade deficit, and reducing socioeconomic disparities in the impoverished south and west.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $83.4 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $41.77 billion (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 4.7% (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $8,000 (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 10.8%
industry: 28.3%
services: 61% (2008 est.)
Labor force: 3.676 million (2008 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 55%
industry: 23%
services: 22% (1995 est.)
Unemployment rate: 14% (2008 est.)
Population below poverty line: 7.4% (2005 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.3%
highest 10%: 31.5% (2000)
Distribution of family income – Gini index: 40 (2005 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 24.4% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budget: revenues: $9.652 billion
expenditures: $11.03 billion (2008 est.)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Public debt: 53.1% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 5% (2008 est.)
Stock of money: $9.491 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $13.56 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $25.23 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $5.355 billion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture – products: olives, olive oil, grain, tomatoes, citrus fruit, sugar beets, dates, almonds; beef, dairy products
Industries: petroleum, mining (particularly phosphate and iron ore), tourism, textiles, footwear, agribusiness, beverages
Electricity – production: 12.65 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 10.75 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 135 million kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – imports: 0 kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 99.5%
hydro: 0.5%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: 86,210 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – consumption: 91,110 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil – exports: 73,790 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – imports: 89,130 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – proved reserves: 400 million bbl (1 January 2008 est.)
Natural gas – production: 2.55 billion cu m (2006 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 3.85 billion cu m (2006 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 65.13 billion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
Current account balance: -$993 million (2008 est.)
Exports: $19.7 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Exports – commodities: clothing, semi-finished goods and textiles, agricultural products, mechanical goods, phosphates and chemicals, hydrocarbons, electrical equipment
Exports – partners: France 31.3%, Italy 21%, Germany 8.5%, Spain 5.5%, Libya 5.5% (2007)
Imports: $23 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Imports – commodities: textiles, machinery and equipment, hydrocarbons, chemicals, foodstuffs
Imports – partners: France 23.8%, Italy 21.9%, Germany 9.7%, Spain 5%, Libya 4.4% (2007)
Economic aid – recipient: $376.5 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $8.875 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt – external: $19.33 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment – at home: $28.51 billion (2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad: $130 million (2008 est.)
Currency (code): Tunisian dinar (TND)
Currency code: TND
Exchange rates: Tunisian dinars (TND) per US dollar – 1.211 (2008 est.), 1.2776 (2007), 1.331 (2006), 1.2974 (2005), 1.2455 (2004)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 1.273 million (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 7.842 million (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: above the African average and continuing to be upgraded; key centers are Sfax, Sousse, Bizerte, and Tunis; Internet access available
domestic: in an effort jumpstart expansion of the fixed-line network, the government has awarded a concession to build and operate a VSAT network with international connectivity; competition between the two mobile-cellular service providers has resulted in lower activation and usage charges and a strong surge in subscribership; expansion of mobile-cellular services to include multimedia messaging and e-mail and Internet to mobile phone services also leading to a surge in subscribership; overall fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity is about 90 telephones per 100 persons
international: country code – 216; a landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable system that provides links to Europe, Middle East, and Asia; satellite earth stations – 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 1 Arabsat; coaxial cable and microwave radio relay to Algeria and Libya; participant in Medarabtel; 2 international gateway digital switches
Radio broadcast stations: AM 7, FM 38, shortwave 2 (2007)
Radios: 2.06 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 26 (plus 76 repeaters) (1995)
Televisions: 920,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .tn
Internet hosts: 376 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 1.722 million (2007)
Transportation Airports: 30 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 14
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 6
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 16
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 7 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 2,665 km; oil 1,235 km; refined products 353 km (2007)
Railways: total: 2,153 km
standard gauge: 471 km 1.435-m gauge
narrow gauge: 1,674 km 1.000-m gauge (65 km electrified)
dual gauge: 8 km 1.435 m and 1.000-m gauges (three rails) (2006)
Roadways: total: 19,232 km
paved: 12,655 km (includes 262 km of expressways)
unpaved: 6,577 km (2004)
Merchant marine: total: 7
by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 1, chemical tanker 1, passenger/cargo 4
registered in other countries: 1 (Panama 1) (2008)
Ports and terminals: Bizerte, Gabes, La Goulette, Rades, Sfax, Skhira
Military Military branches: Army, Navy, Republic of Tunisia Air Force (Al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Jamahiriyah At’tunisia) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 20 years of age for compulsory military service; conscript service obligation – 12 months; 18 years of age for voluntary military service (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 2,992,249
females age 16-49: 2,912,819 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 2,539,962
females age 16-49: 2,465,295 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 101,794
female: 95,198 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: 1.4% of GDP (2006)
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: none

French Development Agency’s Commitments to Tunisia to Reach 1.2 Billion Euros  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

French Development Agency’s Commitments to Tunisia to Reach 1.2 Billion Euros

Thursday, 5 October, 2017 – 07:15
Tunis – Al Munji Al Saidani

The French Development Agency (AFD) has renewed its EUR 1.2 billion commitment to finance projects over the next five years.

In a statement to TAP on the sidelines of a press conference held on Monday to celebrate the agency’s 25th anniversary, AFD Director Gilles Chausse recalled that the French authorities announced at the Tunisia 2020 conference, which was held in November 2016, the commitment of EUR 1.2 billion, which will finance investment projects part of the five-year development plan (2016/2020).

He said the AFD will focus on traditional intervention sectors, including vocational training, transport and agriculture and is expected to open on other sectors such as health, ICTs, social protection and governance in which a number of operations are already underway such as the governance of public enterprises.

Tunisian authorities are waiting for several countries, which had participated in the Tunisia 2020 international conference by making financial promises, to meet their pledges.

At the time Prime Min­ister Youssef Chahed said the investment conference enabled Tu­nisia to mobilize 34 billion dinars ($15 billion).

In this regard, Tunisian economic expert Saad Boumakhle said that the initiative of several international financial bodies to fund investment projects in Tunisia would have positive effects on the country’s economy, which is badly in need for such funds to provide job opportunities for hundreds of thousands of unemployed Tunisians.

The expert said a Tunisian-French program supports Tunisian exports to French markets, providing financial returns in hard currency if the doors for export were wide open to Tunisian institutions.

In 2016, AFD granted Tunisia donations of EUR 4.2 million following the signature of two funding agreements.

Morocco, Tunisia: No Military Solution to Libyan Crisis

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Morocco, Tunisia: No Military Solution to Libyan Crisis

Protest against the UN to draft agreement talks headed by the Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Bernardino Leon in Benghazi

Rabat – Morocco and Tunisia have announced their support to a political solution to the crisis in Libya, namely the Skhirat Agreement, which was signed in late 2015 under the auspices of the United Nations.

In a joint statement issued at the end of the 19th session of the Tunisian-Moroccan High Joint Commission in Rabat, the two countries praised efforts that are aimed at “supporting our Libyan brothers and accompanying them in the path towards a comprehensive political settlement.”

The meeting, which was co-chaired by Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine al-Othmani and his Tunisian counterpart, Youssef Chahed, stressed the two countries’ rejection of the military options.

The statement underlined the importance of reaching a political solution as the only means to overcome the current situation by preserving the country’s territorial unity.

The two sides expressed their condemnation of all forms of terrorism, highlighting the need to unify efforts to fight terrorist groups in the Maghreb region and the world.

In this regard, the two countries urged the five Maghreb states to “promote cooperation, consolidate dialogue and increase security cooperation in order to face terrorism according to an organized mechanism that aims at prioritizing common interests and rejecting all forms of introversion.

Tunisia and Morocco also called for the need to overcome all deadlocks within the Maghreb Union, as well as activating the work of institutions.

“This requires a strong political will and serious work by the five Maghreb countries in line with the noble goals which were set in the Marrakesh agreement,” the statement said.

It also called for fulfilling the aspirations of the Maghreb population with regards to growth, stability and decent living.

The two sides also condemned the violations committed by Israel and the attacks against Al-Aqsa Mosque, urging the international community to force the Jewish state to abide by the international legitimacy.

The commission discussed means to boost bilateral cooperation and signed 10 agreements in various sectors, including agriculture, investment, civil aviation, vocational training, higher education, and employment.

Algeria, France urge political solution in Libya to halt terrorism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

Algeria, France urge political solution in Libya to halt terrorism

By Hamid Ould Ahmed | ALGIERS

The foreign ministers of Algeria and France on Tuesday urged Libya’s rival armed factions to seek a political solution in the North African country to help stem the spread of militant groups there and potential spillover across its borders.

Algeria has joined with North African neighbor Tunisia to seek support for an inclusive dialogue in Libya, where competing governments and armed supporters have struggled for control since a 2011 civil war ousted veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi.

France aims to play a bigger role in bringing Libya’s factions together to end the turmoil that has allowed Islamist militants to gain a foothold and migrant smugglers to flourish in the absence of a strong central government.

“The main objective remains the fight against terrorism in this area of turbulence, where the presence of terrorists is reinforced because of the chaotic situation in Libya,” Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Messahel said after talks with France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian, according to state news agency APS.

Le Drian, on a two-day visit to Algiers, described his talks with Messahel as “thorough”.

French officials fear Islamic State militants – who were driven from the coastal city of Sirte last year – and other jihadists are trying to exploit the power vacuum in Libya to regroup after losing substantial ground in Syria and Iraq.

A U.N.-backed Libyan government of national accord has sat in Tripoli for more than a year, but it has struggled to reach agreement with eastern factions, including with powerful commander Khalifa Haftar.

Libya’s neighbors and regional powers have often differed on how to help. Egypt is closer to Haftar and his anti-Islamist militant campaign while Algeria has pushed for an inclusive approach including using the influence of Tunisia’s moderate Islamist.

Last week Le Drian last week held talks with Egypt on how to stabilize Libya and on Monday began a two-day visit to Algiers, where he said he had “thorough” talks with his Algerian counterpart Abdelkader Messahel.

Last year Islamic State was driven out of the Libyan coastal city of Sirte.

“It is this determination which leads us to wish for a political solution in Libya,” APS quoted Le Drian as saying.

Algeria and France have agreed to “combine their efforts to reach an inclusive political solution that allows the integrity of Libyan territory and a peace process”, Le Drian added.

Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt last week expressed support for dialogue in Libya and rejected foreign interference or any military options, days after Egyptian jets carried out strikes against militant camps inside Libya.

The talks between Le Drian and Messahel also included the situation in the Sahel, two years after Algeria helped mediate a peace deal in Mali between the government and Tuareg rebels, in part to help stop Islamist militants gaining ground.

(Editing by Patrick Markey and Gareth Jones)

Qatar Invests in Tunisian Tourism Sector

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Qatar Invests in Tunisian Tourism Sector

Qatar will establish a number of tourism projects in Tunisia, some of which are under construction, including Qatari Diar’s $80 million desert resort project in Tozeur that is scheduled for inauguration in 2018.

Several tourism projects in Tunisia have Qatari investors, including a mega project that is valued at $300 million and which will see a resort built over 15 hectares in Gammarth, north of the Tunisian capital.

Tunisia has welcomed 5.7 million tourists in 2016 and is expected to see more than 6.5 million tourists this year, the ministry added.

Selma Elloumi Rekik, the minister of tourism and handicrafts, announced that Tunisia is preparing a two-day investment forum on October 19 to urge investments in the tourism sector and create the conditions for the revival of the industry.

To promote this event, Elloumi visited a number of Arabian Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Oman and Jordan, urging businessmen to visit Tunisia and invest in the promising tourism sector.

The minister added that Tunisia is working on a new strategy to attract tourists and lure Arabian Gulf investments.

Qatar Development Fund is considering an estimated 250 million dollars to fund some public projects in Tunisia.

Tunisian Finance Minister Lamia Zribi announced that Tunisia will receive up to one billion dollars as funding for the state budget.

The Tunisian Suspect In Berlin Attack Faced Terror Probe Earlier This Year

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Tunisian suspect in Berlin Christmas market attack faced past German terror probe, official says

December 21 at 12:19 PM
The prime suspect sought in the deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market — a 24-year old Tunisian migrant — was the subject of a terror probe in Germany earlier this year and was not deported following his rejection for asylum because Tunisia initially refused to take him back, a senior official said Wednesday.The suspect — who went by numerous aliases, but had a Facebook page under the name Anis Amri — became the subject of a national manhunt Wednesday after investigators discovered a wallet with his identity documents in the truck used in Monday’s attack, two law enforcement officials told The Washington Post.

German authorities issued a 100,000 euro ($105,000) reward for information leading to his capture, warning citizens not to approach the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Amri, who they described as “violent and armed.”

His past record, however, further deepened the political fallout from the bloodshed — pointing to flaws in the deportation system and putting a harsh light on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s humanitarian bid to open the nation’s doors to nearly 1 million asylum seekers last year.

Although the vast majority of those who flooded into Europe were on the move to escape war and unrest, dozens of terror suspects have slipped into Germany and other nations posing as migrants.

Islamic State claims responsibility for Berlin truck attack that killed 12

Twelve people were killed and dozens more were injured after a large truck plowed into a Christmas market in Berlin. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. (Victoria Walker, Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

The dragnet for the suspect appeared to initially focus on the German state of North Rhine Westphalia as well as Berlin, both places where the Tunisian suspect once lived, and where police units moved in for possible raids.

The interior minister in North Rhine Westphalia, Ralf Jäger, said the Tunisian man had bounced around Germany since arriving in July 2015, living in the southern city of Freiburg, and later in Berlin.

He applied for asylum, but was rejected in June of this year and became the subject of deportation proceedings on suspicion of “preparing a serious act of violent subversion.” Jäger said the Tunisian had not been deported because — like many asylum seekers in Germany — he did not have a passport.

The Tunisian government, Jäger explained, initially denied he was their national, and delayed issuing his passport. The passport, he said, finally arrived Wednesday.

“I don’t want to comment further on that circumstance,” said a visibly angered Jäger.

Officials suggested that the leaking of the suspect’s name and photograph in the press may have upset attempts to find him. Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, would only tell reporters in Berlin that Germany had registered “a suspect” as wanted European databases. He refused to give further details.

The two German law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive case, said investigators discovered the man’s documents in the cabin of the truck that barreled into the market, killing 12 people, wounding dozens and reigniting debates about security and immigration.

It remained unclear whether authorities believe the Tunisian man drove the truck, but police nevertheless made tracking him a priority.

The asylum seeker had at first received a “toleration” status from the government, meaning he was not granted full asylum but permitted to remain in Germany legally.

Germany’s Bild newspaper ran a photo of the suspect, who had several aliases and was apparently born in the southern Tunisian desert town of Tataouine in 1992.

Witnesses described one man fleeing the scene after the truck — packed with a cargo of steel — roared into revelers at a traditional Christmas market. One suspect, a Pakistani asylum-seeker, was arrested on Monday night, but authorities later released him due to lack of evidence.

According to the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Tunisian suspect arrived in Italy in 2012, but moved to Germany in July 2015. In April 2016, he applied for asylum, but disappeared earlier this month. The paper said he had been using eight different names.

The revelation sparked outrage among conservative politicians, and seemed set to damage Merkel, who is running for reelection next year.

“There is a connection between the refugee crisis and the heightened terror threat in Germany,” said Stefan Mayer, parliamentary spokesperson for the Christian Social Union party on domestic affairs told reporters. “This can also be seen in the case of this Tunisian.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung, along with other German media outlets, added that the man had contacts with a network run by a radical Islamist known as Abu Walaa, who was arrested last month for allegedly recruiting Islamic State fighters.

The new information emerged as German investigators raced for clues in the hunt for suspects in the deadly assault, poring over forensic evidence and GPS data as they sought to retrace the steps of the runway attacker. They were re-questioning witnesses and analyzing DNA traces found in the truck, and well as on the body of a dead Polish man in the passenger seat.

The Pole worked for a trucking company and was delivering a payload of steel to Berlin. Investigators are currently going on the assumption that he was taken hostage by the assailant — and may even have died a hero. Jörg Radek deputy chairman of the German Trade Union of the Police, said evidence suggested that “a fight took place in the driver’s cabin.” As it careened toward the crowded market, the truck was not driving straight, but “in a zigzag line,” he noted.

Bild also quoted an investigator as saying the Polish man — who was shot dead — also had received multiple stab wounds in a manner that suggested he may have tried to grab the steering wheel to stop the assault as it happened.

The Islamic State on Tuesday claimed responsibility for inspiring the unknown attacker — a claim as yet unproven and possibly just opportunistic — leading some politicians to quickly point the finger at Merkel’s humanitarian move last year to open Germany’s door to asylum seekers from the war-torn Middle East.

Yet others quickly pushed back, calling the accusations a politicizing of tragedy that had no place in progressive Germany.

On Tuesday, Horst Seehofer, chairman of the Christian Social Union, sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats said: “We owe it to the victims, those affected and the entire population to rethink and readjust our entire immigration and security policy.”

On Wednesday, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann defended Seehofer from a barrage of critics claiming he and others were seizing on the attack to further their anti-migrant stance.

“This is no sweeping judgment of refugees,” he said. “Compared to the high number of refugees, these are only very few, but the risks are obvious and we must not close our eyes.”

A number of newspaper editorials and other politicians criticized Herrman’s remarks and similar statements as premature and lacking in respect for the victims.

Commentator Jürgen Kaube in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said such comments risked over-generalizing Muslim migrants and were implicitly turning the hateful views of the Islamic State into “the true representative of the Muslim world.”

“It is appalling if there are now calls to reconsider the refugee policy as a whole,” the paper Die Tageszeitung wrote in an editorial. “Why for heaven’s sake? . . . What happened in Berlin was long feared. An act of brutal violence. The only effective defense: to keep calm.”

There were also growing calls for the deployment of more police on the streets with military-style weapons — a frequent sight in France and Belgium, for instance, but far more unusual in pacifist Germany.

Klaus Bouillon, head of a conference of interior ministers from German states, declared on Tuesday that the country was now “in a state of war.” He called for beefed up security at public events.

At the normally quaint and picturesque Christmas markets in at least three German cities — Mainz, Magdeburg and Dresden — concrete barriers were quickly erected for added security. In Magdeburg, police officers armed with automatic weapons were guarding the entrance.

Yet others argued that living a free society was perhaps more important, and that Germans were willing to accept a certain measure of risk to preserve that openness.

“If we want to maintain the freedom of our society, we simply have to live with the risk contained in this decision,” Die Tageszeitung added in its editorial.

Can The Government Legally Ban A Terrorist Islamist Political Party?

(This article is courtesy of the Times of Israel)

Tunisia moves to ban radical Islamist party

Tunisia’s government is asking a military court to outlaw the radical Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, which has been regularly accused of “undermining public order” since its legalization in 2012, an official said Wednesday.

“A request to ban was submitted recently. We are awaiting the decision of the military investigative judge,” the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity, tells AFP.

He says a total ban on the party is imminent.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is known for focusing on unifying Muslims into a caliphate and is already banned in several countries.

The party last month successfully overturned a decision by a civil judge to ban it, and has denounced what it says is “police harassment” in Tunisia.

It released an apparently inflammatory statement saying that “the government… knows that its time has come and that heads and hands will be cut.”

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