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In the name of national security and the war on terrorism, post-uprising Tunisia is witnessing increased securitization of public life; even a return to the Ben Ali days in some respects. The West is only too happy to help in reintegration of the North African nation into the global neoliberal system.

Recent events have called into question Tunisia’s status as the “model” Arab uprising state in contrast to the “failed states” and/or “persistent authoritarianism” elsewhere in the region.[1] Most analyses still begin with reference to the country’s two largely successful rounds of elections, the adoption of a widely praised constitution, and the opening up of the political and public spheres to participation by broader segments of Tunisian society. However, many now also point to the recent upsurge in political violence as a potential foil to Tunisia’s otherwise smooth progression.[2] Among the tragic incidences cited are the two political assassinations in 2013, sporadic attacks on military personnel in the mountainous regions in the west of the country, and the deadly attacks on foreign tourists at the Bardo national museum and, most recently, on the Sousse beach resort.

These more sober accounts are reinforced by reference to the excesses of the Tunisian government’s counter-terror response, highlighting echoes of pre-uprising “national security” measures. This includes the recently declared “state of emergency” under a Bourguiba-era statute,[3] the adoption of a new controversial and expansive anti-terror law,[4] a mass arrest campaign encompassing close to one percent of the population over the past seven months,[5] with several suspects killed,[6] the mass closure of mosques,[7] and the prevalent use of torture in the course of police interrogations and detention. Given that one of the first deployments of the emergency law entailed the use of force to disperse a sit-in in the governorate of Gabes, and following the Prime Minister’s comments that activists “can’t hold protests or go on strike, but they can express themselves in other ways,” many fear a return to national security as a means of social and political control.[8]

In addition to these measures, the government has promised to build a 115-mile-long (185km) “defensive wall” along Tunisia’s border with Libya. Contributing to the further militarization of the country’s borders, the planned structure is reminiscent of other wall-building projects, including those undertaken by the United States and Israel in recent years. Critical analysis highlights the disciplinary functions of such border architectures as they facilitate the governing of “problematic populations” and (rep)production of (neo)colonial “systems of power and repression.”[9] Many Tunisians have expressed concern with what they feel is the undemocratic process by which the decision was taken, and the government’s failure to “consult the Tunisian citizens.”[10] Others have pointed to its potential to undermine an already precarious economic context in the border towns.[11] For Selima Karoui, the wall’s construction is consistent with “(neo)colonialism and control by force,” and will further undermine efforts at regional integration.[12] Expressing a similar sentiment, a hotel owner from the border city of Medenine put it bluntly: “We're going to divide a people.”[13]

Though the “exceptionalist” narrative of Tunisia’s political experience may be on the wane, one still finds a preponderance of what Nadia Marzouki and Hamza Meddeb refer to as its “depoliticizing assumptions.”[14] In overlooking questions of power and (geo)politics, recent analyses in many ways parallel earlier global governance discourses in which Ben Ali’s Tunisia was held up as an “economic miracle” by dint of its adherence to a neoliberal roadmap, with International Financial Institutions cast in the role of “modern day missionaries.”[15] The Tunisian uprising exposed the “dark side” of Ben Ali’s “development” model, along with its attendant inequality and repression and the global web of power relations in which it was imbricated. Yet there is a tendency today to appeal for support and advice from a familiar set of actors, discourses and practices in order to steer Tunisia back on to the “democratic path.”16

Much has been said about the globalized nature of the “spectacular” terrorist attack, in terms of the international scope of its victims, global reach of the media attention it garners, and the transnational nature of the mechanisms and tools of violence it employs. However, often overlooked is the equally globalized nature of the counter-terror response. The British government’s stance after the Sousse attacks, in which 30 of the victims were British citizens, has been emblematic of this response. The terrorists “have declared war on Britain and they are attacking our people at home and overseas,” Prime Minister David Cameron proclaimed. Evoking now standard “war on terror” tropes and reinforcing “racialised counter-extremism narratives,”[17] he asserted that the terrorists have not only destroyed human life, but are also “attacking our way of life and what we stand for.” Nothing less than a "full spectrum" response would be required to address this exceptional threat, entailing an expansion of the UK’s national security operations at home and abroad.[18] Such mediation of the counter-terror response by Western officials is increasingly common, even in the absence of European victims.

Similar to the now familiar globalized response to economic “crisis,” and despite pretensions to “technicality” in the face of a particular instance of violence and trauma, the globalized counter-terrorism response may be seen to constitute an important pillar of a broader neoliberal political project, characterized by David Harvey as "accumulation by dispossession.” Entailing the interaction and (re)assemblage of “local, regional, national and global” interests “through and within new political configurations,"[19] the globalized response reinforces both domestic and international hierarchies of power and enables various forms of intervention in the name of “managing crisis.”[20]

In positing that Tunisia’s current political, institutional, and socio-economic juncture, despite its specificities, is not “exceptional” either as a “success” or “failure,” this paper seeks to build upon existing critical reflections. Rather than isolating this experience, it will examine change and continuity in Tunisia’s national security state and the forms of contestation it engenders in a broader temporal and geographical setting.


With its foundations laid in the colonial era, the national security state is designed to ensure that the political, social, and material energy of the state is overwhelmingly focused on questions of “security” and “public order.” Often posited as a Hobbesian social contract wherein the state provides protection in exchange for societal obedience, the national security state in reality is one in which “security” is differentially distributed and experienced by a hierarchically ordered citizenry. It is characterized by an oft-evoked or institutionalized “state of emergency” enabling a suspension of rights and centralization of power in the hands of the executive. Various aspects of life are militarized in the national security state, and an excess of laws continuously delineates new forms of criminality. In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States took the lead and “aggressively” fashioned an emergent body of international law that has sought to standardize the national security state and the concomitant counter-terror response.[21]

Though there has been an incremental shift within the U.S.'s own counter-terror legislation, the ripple effects of "global security law" continue to be felt. In the aftermath of 9/11 counter-terror laws were adopted or adapted in more than 140 countries, “ranging from narrowly defined crimes to political crimes so broadly framed that they include all government opponents in their purview.”[22] Many scholars have emphasized the differentially experienced impact of the national security state’s racialized, classed, and gendered practices and discourses.[23]

As in other parts of the world, Tunisia’s “war on terror” has also entailed expansive counter-terror legislation. Tunisia’s adoption of the law in 2003 was initially praised by many Western states (including the United States) as it allowed for what Ian Patel has described as “synchronization” with current global security law trends.[24] However, the law came to be criticized by a range of domestic and international human rights actors for its vague definition of terrorism, including everything from “damage to public and private property,” to “disturbing public order, peace or international security” and “harming public transportation.”[25]

Together with the state of emergency and ad hoc policies and practices adopted to maintain “public order,” the 2003 anti-terror law formed a central component of Tunisia’s national security state architecture. Equally important were the discursive and symbolic systems that functioned to normalize an otherwise unaccountable power. Though it can claim a much more extensive genealogy,[26] the “war on terror” made widely available an expansive repertoire of orientalist and racialized tropes. Ben Ali’s discursive power gained sustenance from this globalized repertoire, in which his regime was constructed as a necessary bulwark against religious fanaticism and violence.

In many ways, Tunisia's uprising was against its national security state. Consolidated under the 23-year rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the national security state arrested, tortured, and denied thousands of Tunisians their most basic human rights in the name of “security.” Much of the state violence was politically targeted, yet there was also the everyday and structural violence of the state that functioned as a means of social control. Mohamed Bouazizi, the street vendor whose desperately heroic act of self-immolation sparked the 2010-2011 uprising, was perhaps the most iconic victim of such state violence. Although the material effects of police brutality are often more tangible, Salwa Ismail has highlighted the salience of its “affective” dimension, in particular by “modulating...citizens’ anxieties about becoming the subject of public spectacles of humiliation.”[27]

Police violence as a mode of governance informs not only societal obedience when it occurs but also resistance, as dramatically illustrated by Bouazizi’s action. The burning of some 250 to 300 police stations as well as several policeman’s homes during the Tunisian uprising, may also be seen in this light.[28"> Many of the targeted police stations were located in marginalized and neglected interior regions of the country, with investment and development under both Bourguiba and Ben Ali concentrated in the coastal regions and cities. Yet, despite consistent attempts at its disarticulation, what has often perplexed analysts of the post-uprising period is the haste with which key elements of Tunisia’s national security state have been reconstituted.

A critical approach to security requires that we unsettle underlying assumptions of dominant security narratives. One approach is to probe the naturalness of the national security response by asking: Who/what gets perceived as an existential threat to society at any moment in time? What kinds of previously unjustifiable state policies and practices become normalized as a result? Such critical reflection also requires that we think through the material inequalities of security. For example: who gets secured from whom/what? What kinds of hierarchies are (re)produced as a result of securitizing? And who benefits from such securitizing practices, in which “fear and terror” become, in the words of Joseph Masco, “domesticated as a primary national resource and projected out globally”?[29">


An expansive construction of illegality as actually or potentially linked to religious violence has been a crucial component of Tunisia’s national security state. Today’s discourse of extremist threats often includes reference to a range of proscribed activities from illegal migration, to smuggling, to unlicensed street vendors. Most recently, in the aftermath of the Sousse attack, President Essebsi attempted to link to terrorism a popular movement (winou el petrol) organized around questions of accountability and distribution in relation to the governance of Tunisia’s natural resources.

The discourse around security constructs different forms of illegality in such a way that their potential to overlap and cross-fertilize with terrorism appears to be self-evident. An excerpt from a recent International Crisis Group report is illustrative of such an approach:

“Although there may only be about 100 armed militants entrenched in the mountainous, forested areas…the number of people involved in the lucrative illegal trade networks and associated violence runs into the tens of thousands along the borders and in the suburbs of the major cities.”[30">

The borders attributed with illegality here are both material, e.g. along territorial demarcations with Tunisia’s southern (Libya) and western (Algeria) neighbors, as well as biopolitical, e.g. internal borders that are “infused through bodies” creating new fronts of “threat” and zones of “bare life” where the normal protections of the law and basic rights do not apply.[31"> The latter borders are constantly shifting, and today may be found inscribed within the closed military zones in the south and northwest of the country, or in the marginalized Tunis neighborhoods of Douer Hicher and Ettadhemen, where “security” is often experienced by young people as repression and as a form of social control.[32">

Despite its claims to objectivity, the ascription of illegality, as Junaid Rana reminds us, is “not only an actual state of legal status but also a condition of political subjectivity that places….certain individuals 'outside the law.'”[33"> Whereas the law formed a crucial component of colonial power and the hierarchies it enabled, the act of designating and legislating illegality continues as a form of productive power in the post-colonial state. Certain types of illegality reinforce hierarchies of citizenship or remove the status of citizenship altogether. Discursive constructions of illegality reinforce the spatial dimension of the national security state.

Following the 2014 elections, President Beji Caid Essebsi denounced as “extremists and terrorist sympathizers” the 1.1 million Tunisians who had voted for his opponent, the then incumbent president, Moncef Marzouki. The treatment by much of the political elite of Marzouki and his supporters (many from Tunisia’s marginalized south) as outsiders to Tunisia’s traditional Sahel/coastal political elite demonstrates that ideological and geographical “othering” remains very much a feature of Tunisia’s political landscape.


Under Ben Ali, Tunisia’s anti-terror law effectively institutionalized the “state of emergency,” criminalizing many expressions of non-violent political dissent in the name of fighting an exceptional threat. An often complacent judiciary provided national security cases with a veneer of legitimacy while also ensuring impunity for members of the security forces implicated in state violence. Such national security practices contributed to the attenuation of democratic spaces and undermined possibilities for meaningful citizenship.

The Troika government had committed to reforming the law to bring it into line with international norms and standards. A version of the reformed draft law was submitted to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), Tunisia’s constituent parliament, by the Council of Ministers in January 2014. However, voting was suspended after protracted disagreement and in light of the upcoming legislative elections. The newly elected parliament was holding hearings with military generals on the latest draft of the bill at the time of the Bardo attack, and the Sousse attack provided the context for the fast-tracking of the final version of the bill, which was passed on July 25, 2015.[34">

The newly adopted anti-terror legislation contains many of the “flaws” found both in the 2003 law and the 2014 revision draft. Some of the most pressing issues identified by rights organizations include prolonged incommunicado detention and limits to the due process rights of terrorism suspects, capital punishment for terrorist acts that lead to death, as well as a “broad and ambiguous” definition of terrorism that would continue to criminalize a wide range of political dissent and forms of social protest—including acts “prejudicing private and public property, vital resources, infrastructures, means of transport and communication, IT systems or public services.”[35"> Freedom of expression activists have warned against provisions that may criminalize whistleblowers and facilitate mass surveillance.[36">

With unreconstructed military and penal codes, a newly declared state of emergency and a currently yet to be enacted Constitutional Court as the legal-institutional backdrop for the new legislation, many activists fear that the scope for political activism will narrow. These fears have been exacerbated in light of attacks on journalists,[37"> as well as the recent charging of a journalist under the 2003 anti-terror law for publishing an article that diverged from the official narrative of the Sousse attack.[38">


Thousands of political activists from a range of independent opposition movements were imprisoned and tortured under both Bourguiba and Ben Ali. So prevalent was the use of torture by security forces in the pre-uprising period that it may be best understood as a “state policy,” or mode of governance.[39"> The NCA sought to address the systematic use of torture through the promulgation of Organic Law 23, which prohibits any form of psychological or physical torture. Yet such recognition remains abstract and has yet to be translated into change at the level of practice.

Despite pressure from civil society activists, the government has yet to establish a National Forum for the Prevention of Torture in accordance with Organic Law 23. There are hundreds of post-uprising cases of torture at the hands of both the police and the National Guard. According to human rights reports, close to twenty people have been “tortured between July and early August 2015 in prisons, detention centers and even on the street,” with several cases resulting in death.[40"> Much of the torture occurs in cases of alleged terrorism where there is less public and institutional sympathy for the rights of suspects. Detainees often lack access to legal assistance and are pressured into confessions.

That torture remains widespread in the country’s police stations and prisons is a reflection not only of the failure to achieve structural change within the security apparatuses, but also of the institutionalized impunity that persists for security officials. A recent study by ACAT and the association Freedom Without Borders, demonstrates the duality of violence to which torture victims are subjected. This includes the physical violence they experience in custody, as well as the structural violence that results from victims’ limited access to lawyers and the failure of courts to register complaints, affirming what many assume to be the judiciary’s role in reinforcing impunity.[41"> Activists also point to police pressure to withdraw complaints, as well as the refusal on the part of the accused to respond to judicial summons.[42"> Further reinforcing perceptions of impunity, investigations into torture continue to be carried out by the Ministry of the Interior and “are often held in the same facilities where the offences were committed.”[43">


After a slow start, the transitional justice process appeared to be gaining traction.[44"> In November 2013, the NCA passed new legislation, including provisions for accountability and redress for past state crimes and the establishment of the Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC). More than 12,000 files have been deposited with the Commission, detailing the torture and wrongful imprisonment of a range of activists, in addition to extensive economic crimes as well as the casualties of the 2011 uprising (with 338 dead and 2,147 wounded).[45"> The Commission began public hearings last month, with the aim of “exposing the violations, making reparations and holding the abusers accountable in a search for national reconciliation.”[46">

However, the transitional justice process has come up against numerous obstacles. There are the depoliticizing and demobilizing effects of global governance involvement, in which the radicalism of the uprising is shepherded into rational bureaucratic procedures and “technical” solutions.[47"> Yet some of the most formidable obstructions to transitional justice have come from within the Tunisian government. In the absence of a “lustration law,” the country witnessed a recycling of several politicians from the Bourguiba and Ben Ali eras (including President Essebsi). Many in the political elite have maintained the types of “relations with big business, the media and the police”[48"> that undermine the potential for transitional justice to produce meaningful structural change. Essebsi has suggested that the Transitional Justice Law should be amended, that Tunisians no longer “talk of the past,” and that they need to “turn the page” in the name of “economic development.”[49">

Most recently, an “Economic Reconciliation” bill was sent by the government to the Assembly of Representatives of the People for consideration. The legislation would circumvent the TDC’s jurisdiction over embezzlement and financial crimes through the establishment of an “arbitration and reconciliation commission.” Such a development would render further remote the possibility that funds accumulated during Tunisia’s era of economic “liberalization” might be redistributed through the transitional justice process. Though a majority of Tunisian MPs have expressed support for the proposed bill, the opposition has called for its “withdrawal” on the basis of its “unconstitutionality.”[50"> Meanwhile, the government has responded by attempting to securitize the opposition, describing planned protests against the bill as “irresponsible” and evoking the state of emergency as a potential pretext for their banning.[51"> A stand-off seems likely as wide-range of organizations have expressed their rejection, and polls show that a majority of Tunisians are opposed to such legislation.[52">

In addition, as well as linked, to its implications for social and economic justice concerns, a stalled transitional justice process does not augur well for the “black box” of Tunisia’s national security state being opened one day. To date, only a handful of security agents have been held accountable for state violence committed during the uprising. Ben Ali himself was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison for complicity to murder, yet the political will has been lacking to demand his extradition from Saudi Arabia, where he currently resides. Activists have expressed concern regarding the stealthy return of former security officers to the Interior Ministry, a process many feel has been facilitated by the highly influential “police unions” that were established in the aftermath of the uprising. Emblematic of the affective dimension of their discursive interventions, union members attending the trial of a police officer charged in the death of two young women held up a banner that read, “A security officer in jail=support for terrorism.”[53">

Further reinforcing activist fears of continued impunity, several former security officers have formed the “council of wise men” to provide “technical support” and “advice” on security matters to the government.[54"> Recently, Prime Minister Habib Essid, stated that several of Ben Ali's top security chiefs may be "reintegrated" into the state’s security apparatuses.[55"> Expressing a widely held sentiment regarding the negative ramifications of Tunisia’s “war on terror” on the transitional justice process, Sihem Ben Sedrine, President of the TDC, stated: “The argument of security and the fight against terrorism is the pretext to close access to everything."[56">


Due to Tunisia’s limited resources and structural location as a post-colonial state within the international system, systemic change is difficult to imagine, even with the requisite political will. The “war on terror” years featured the direct as well as tacit support of many Western states with a focus on Tunisia’s “liberal” economy and cooperation on security and intelligence matters. Tunisia continues to be embedded within a transnational web of power relations that has contributed to the militarization of the region. Armed with extensive funds, equipment and alluring discourses of “stability” and “development,” a range of global governance actors have seized the opportunity posed by the current security “crisis.” These include powerful states, international financial institutions, as well as regional and international political, economic, and military “partnerships,” such as the EU, the Deauville Partnership (which includes the EU, G-8, as well as Gulf states), AFRICOM, and NATO.

The current government has adopted several measures that would reinforce and, in some instances, deepen existent geopolitical alliances and enhance economic, intelligence, and security cooperation therein. As Dhouha Ben Youssef notes, many aspects of this cooperation are now statutory requirements, enshrined in Tunisia’s new anti-terror law.[57"> The United States in particular has increased its military aid by 200% and there are reports that it seeks to open a drone base in the country.[58"> In a recently signed memorandum of understanding between the two countries, the United States allocated $30 million in "foreign military financing" to strengthen Tunisia’s capacities in “counter-terrorism, border security, and joint security cooperation.”[59"> It also has offered to guarantee up to $500 million in future loans for the country (this is on top of the close to $1 billion in loans it has already guaranteed in the post-uprising period) to facilitate access to “international capital markets,” focused, among other areas, on “advancing Tunisia’s reform agenda and expanding the private sector.”[60"> In the past, loans have contributed to increased public debt, rendering the country more susceptible to both internal and external pressure.[61">

Adding yet another important layer to the transnational web of alliances, Tunisia has announced its new status as a “major non-NATO ally of the US.” In addition to procedural concerns,[62"> this announcement has prompted political apprehensions regarding the region’s further militarization. As one exasperated Tunisian activist-journalist put it, this joining of the “neoconservative current” represented by NATO occurs at a time when alternative geopolitical power arrangements are emerging, enabling other parts of the world to “free themselves from the West.”[63"> Indeed, Colombia’s Constitutional Court recently nullified the country’s major non-NATO ally status for reasons including “gaps in relation to its magnitude and implications.”[64"> Such alliances are often perceived to facilitate the integration of regional states into a militarized political and economic order made “stable” for the free movement of capital and people, though not of (non-European) human bodies.[65"> By further consolidating the development-security nexus, these alliances may also contribute to the depoliticization and denationalization of both economic and security concerns.

Similarly, the EU, a long-standing economic and security actor in the region, including during the most repressive years of dictatorship, has focused its “support” for the Tunisian transition on “deepening pro-market policies” and “stabilis[ing"> the region” to counter “terrorist threats” and fight “illegal migration.”[66"> The EU, in addition to other international actors, has also been instrumental in promoting the “Security Sector Reform” (SSR) agenda in Tunisia. SSR claims to promote the “establishment of democratic control over armed and security forces” often as part of broader “democratization” or “state-building” efforts. Yet frequently its effects are to further militarize rather than democratize security apparatuses, with the added result of further incorporating participating states into a globalized (neo)colonial security architecture.[67">

Often well-intentioned proponents of SSR view it as a means of rendering more effective the Tunisian state’s coercive power, both domestically and along its borders. In this sense, SSR is considered an antidote for both the insecurity caused by terrorism and the authoritarian tendencies of the security apparatuses tasked with addressing the terrorist threat.[68"> Stressing a break with past security discourses and practices, such analyses highlight the importance of human rights and democratic oversight, for both strategic and normative purposes. They are often coupled with calls on global governance actors to support Tunisia’s “economic development," teleologically linked to the country’s increasing security and stability. A focus on the economy is certainly understandable given the ongoing centrality of socio-economic concerns in Tunisia today. However, by securitizing “development,” such an approach, even if inadvertently, contributes to the penetration of national security prerogatives into ever more domains of life. In both its discursive orientation and material effects, SSR contributes to threat construction in “accordance with the perceptions of the SSR project’s foreign donors,” with the aim, as Tahani Mustafa argues, of “population control and surveillance of ‘at risk’ or ‘risky’ populations.”[69">

As governments increasingly subcontract out their “capacity building” and “technical assistance” to private firms, SSR further opens the way for the marketization of security, (re)enforcing the notion that insecurity is profitable.[70"> Through his examination of the case of the United States and the “oligarchs of 9/11” who have benefited from the burgeoning national security state, James Risen has demonstrated how costly and “ineffective” this approach has been.[71"> There are several signs pointing towards Tunisia’s further integration into a globalized security-industrial-complex, including Tunisia’s draft Loi Complementaire de Finance 2015, which calls for an increase in state spending on military and security apparatuses, including the national guard.[72"> Tunisia’s private security industry has also expanded in recent years, to 86 companies and over 5,000 employees today.[73"> There are also several international private security companies operating in Tunisia, perhaps the most notorious of which is the British firm Aktis, which was paid £1.4 million by the Foreign Office “to combat Islamic extremism in Tunisia” in the months leading up to the Sousse attack.[74">

Though many of the externally sponsored national security programs and policies the Tunisian government has and will adopt in the coming months and years will boast democracy and human rights components, past experience demonstrates that they often function to reinforce structural inequalities, both domestically and internationally.


In the context of the national security state, the evoked “existential threat” functions as an “ideological barrier” to addressing a “vast set of everyday forms of suffering and vulnerability.”[75"> The Tunisian uprising demonstrated how contestation, on the other hand, demands a refocusing of the state’s energy and resources by foregrounding questions of social and economic justice within the political and public spheres. Concerns around unemployment, labor conditions, inequality, redress for past crimes, the (re)distribution of wealth, the protection of rights, and the governance of natural resources and public funds continue to be expressed in a variety of institutionalized and non-institutionalized settings. Many of these struggles take the form of calls for the resolution of persistent tensions between competing juridical and institutional frameworks, with the constitution itself held up as the standard-bearer for legal and policy change.

The question of whether Tunisia’s “nascent democracy” can withstand the current “terrorist threat,” is a limiting frame for analysis. Such an approach overlooks the dialectical entanglement of global systems of power with local agency in shaping the national security state, in both its “authoritarian” and “democratic” forms. More critical reflection would de-exceptionalize Tunisia’s experience, placing its “transition” instead within a broader context of a global neoliberal economic order and a corresponding global security law.

It is important to remember that it was in the face of similar global-local assemblages of power that the Tunisian uprising ruptured the symbolic and material power of the Tunisian national security state. In doing so, it managed to present an alternative vision of what the state and society might look like if community, meaningful pluralism, and questions of social and economic justice would replace narrowly defined notions of “security” and “public order” as the organizing principles of the state. The fact that there were 272 protest movements during the month of July 2015 alone, despite the declared state of emergency, is an indication that this struggle is ongoing.[76">

* Corinna Mullin is a Visiting Assistant Professor in International Relations at the University of Tunis and a Research Associate at the School or Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Her current work focuses on the themes of politics, political economy and genealogies of globalized national security and governance; resistance and justice struggles; the politics of knowledge.This article appears in POMEAS.


1 See Karim Malal and Sara Salem’s critique of the “failed state” thesis as Orientalist, “Reorientalizing the Middle East: The Power Agenda Setting Post-Arab Uprisings,” Middle East Topics and Arguments 4, (2015), accessed May 25, 2015,
2 Including the Ḥarakat an-Nahḍah, Congrès pour la République (CPR), as well as the Parti communiste des ouvriers de Tunisi (PCOT).
3 Nadia Marzouki, “Tunisia's Rotten Compromise,” MERIP, accessed on July 10, 2015,
4 Associated Press, “Tunisia Passes Antiterror Law After 2 Deadly Attacks,” AP, July 25, 2015, accessed July 25, 2015,
5 Huffington Post, “Tunisie: Environ 100.000 arrestations en sept mois, selon le ministère de l'Intérieur,” July 29, 2015, accessed on August 5, 2015.
6 AFP, “Tunisie: Cinq terroristes présumés abattus par les forces de l'ordre, les circonstances de leur mort restent floues,” Huffington Post Maghreb, accessed July 10, 2015,
7 Avaneesh Pandey, “Tunisia Hotel Attack: Prime Minister Vows To Close 80 Mosques Spreading 'Venom' In The Country,” IB Times, June 27, 2015, accessed on July 15, 2015,
8 Shems FM, “Gabes : la police disperse par la force un sitin sur la voie ferrée, ” Shems FM, accessed 22 July, 2015, POLICE
9 Pallister-Wilkins, “Bridging the Divide: Middle Eastern Walls and Fences and the Spatial Governance of Problem Populations,” Geopolitics 2 (2015): 438-459.
10 Selima Karoui, “Le Mur…,” Nawaat, July 22, 2015, accessed July 22,
11 Henda Channaoui, “Impunité et bavures de l’antiterrorisme en Tunisie,” Nawaat, July 21, 2015, accessed 21 July 2015,
12 Karoui, “Le Mur…”
13 Frédéric Bobin, “A Troubling New Wall Rises At The Tunisia-Libya Border,” Constitute Project, August 31, 2015, accessed on August 31, 2015,
14 Nadia Marzouki and Hamza Meddeb, “Tunisia: Democratic Miracle or Mirage?” Jadaliyya, June 11, 2015, accessed June 10, 2015,
15 Pfiefer, Karen, “How Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Even Egypt Became IMF "Success Stories" in the 1990s,” Middle East Research and Informational Project 210(2010): 23-27.
16 Mullin, Corinna and Patel, Ian “Governing Revolt: EU-North African Relations after the Uprisings,” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding (2015):; Adam Hanieh, “Shifting Priorities or Business as Usual? Continuity and Change in the post-2011 IMF and World Bank Engagement with Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 1(2015): 119-134.
17 Ananya Rao-Middleton, “Private firms are profiting from the collective-punishment and surveillance of Muslims in the UK,” Media Diversified, June 15, 2015, accessed on September 1, 2015,
18 Patrick Wintour, and Emma Graham-Harrison, “Tunisia attack: David Cameron pledges 'full spectrum' response to massacre,” The Guardian, June 29, 2015, accessed September 1, 2015,
19 Bogaert Koenraad, “Contextualizing the Arab Revolts: The Politics behind Three Decades of Neoliberalism in the Arab World,’ Middle East Critique 3(2013): 213-234.
20 Junaid Rana and Gilberto Rosas, "Managing Crisis: Post-9/11 Policing and Empire," Cultural Dynamics 3 (2006): 219-234.
21 Kim Lane Scheppele, “From a War on Terrorism to Global Security Law,” IAS, Fall 2012, accessed 22 July, 2015,
22 Ibid.
23 See for example: Arun Kundnan, “Race, surveillance, and empire,” International Socialist Review 95 (2015). Samar Al-Balushi, “The Politics of Spectacular Violence,” Africa is a Country, September 24, 2013 accessed on 1 September 2015,; Junaid Rana, Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora (North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2011).
24 Ian Patel, “Why ‘national security’ is a fallacy,” Middle East Eye, June 5, 2015, accessed June 10, 2015,
25 Human Rights Watch, “An Analysis of Tunisia’s Draft Counterterrorism Law,” July 7, 2014, accessed May 25, 2015
26 Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, A Metahistory of the Clash of Civilisations: Us and Them Beyond Orientalism, (London: Hurst & Company, 2011).
27 Salwa Ismail, “The Egyptian Revolution against the Police,” Social Research 2 (2014):435-462.
28 Querine Hanlon, “Security Sector Reform in Tunisia,” The United States Institute of Peace, May 2012, accessed May 25, 2015, http:
29 Joseph Masco, The Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), 176.
30 International Crisis Group, “Tunisia’s Borders (II): Terrorism and Regional Polarisation,” Crisis Group Middle East and North Africa Briefing, 41( October 2014): 1-19.
31 Nick Vaughan-Williams, “The Generalised Biopolitical Border? Re-conceptualising the Limits of Sovereign Power,” Review of International Studies 4(2009): 729-749; Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Atell (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005).
32 Olfa Lamloum, “Les jeunes des quartiers populaires face à la police en Tunisie,” Orient XXI Magazine, May 20, 2015, accessed July 23, 2015,,0845
33 Junaid Rana, Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), 14.
34 Steve Robson, “Tunisia Parliament attack: RECAP,” Daily Mirror, March 18, 2015, accessed June 10, 2015,
35 Human Rights NGO Statement, “Tunisia: Counterterror Law Endangers Right,” HRW, July 31, 2015, accessed August 1, 2015,
36 Dhouha Ben Youssef, “Terrorisme et TIC: Carte blanche à Ammar404!,” Nawaat, Aug 25, 2015, accessed September 1, 2015,
37 Marzouki, “Tunisia's Rotten Compromise.”
38 Committee to Protect Journalists, “Tunisia charges editor with complicity in terrorist attack,” CPJ, July 23, 2015, accessed on July 25, 2015,
39 See Aida Seif al-Dawla’s discussion of torture as a “state policy” in Egypt: Lina Attalah, "A Beast That Took a Break and Came Back: Prison Torture in Egypt," MERIP, 275(2015), accessed July 25, 2015,
40 Henda Chennaoui,“Tunisie: Vers la normalisation de la torture au nom de la lutte-antiterroriste,” Nawaat, August 15, 2015, accessed on August 15, 2015,
41 Channaoui, “Impunité et bavures de l’antiterrorisme en Tunisie.”
42 ACAT-France and Freedom without Borders, “Justice, année zero,” FWB, January 12, 2015, accessed May 25, 2015,.
43 Zeineb Marzouk, “Back to Ben Ali: Tunisian Cops Love Torture,” Tunisia Live, June 5, 2015, accessed June 10, 2015,.
44 Ian Patel and Corinna Mullin, “Contesting Transitional Justice as Liberal Governance in Revolutionary Tunisia,” Conflict and Society: Advances in Research (2016- forthcoming).
45 Carlotta Gall, “Torture Claims in Tunisia Await Truth Commission,” New York Times, May 19, 2015, accessed May 25, 2015,
46 Carlotta Gall, “Women in Tunisia Tell of Decades of Police Cruelty, Violence and Rape,” New York Times, May 29, 2015, accessed May 29, 2015,
47 Patel and Mullin, “Contesting Transitional Justice as Liberal Governance.”
48 Marzouki, “Tunisia's Rotten Compromise.”
49 Ian Patel and Corinna Mullin, “Contesting Transitional Justice as Liberal Governance.”
50 Lilia Blaise, “L’IVD : Une instance face aux défis de la justice transitionnelle,” Inkyfada, July 22, 2015, accessed August 1, 2015,
51 Shems FM, “Mohsen Marzouk : il serait irresponsable d’organiser des protestions contre le projet de loi de réconciliation économique,” August 12, 2015, accessed August 12, 2015,
52 Shems FM, “Êtes-vous pour ou contre le projet de loi de réconciliation économique ?,”Shems sondage, September 1, 2015, accessed September 1, 2015,
53 Omar Belhadj, “Tunisia: A democracy and a police state?” Middle East Eye, February 24, 2015, accessed May 29, 2015,
54 Henda Chennaoui, “Les sage bourreaux et tortionnaires de Ben Ali reviennent pour “couriger” la révolution,” Nawaat, April 27, 2015, accessed May 28, 2015,
55 Jawhara FM, “I’adat idmadj qiyadat amniyya sabiqa min bayniha Ali Siriati: Sid yuwadhih,” Jawhara FM, July 7, 2015, accessed September 1, 2015,إعادة-إدماج-قيادات-أمنية-سابقة-من-بينها-علي-السرياطي--الصيد-يوضح/92/32506
56 Ibid.
57 Dhouha Ben Youssef, “Terrorisme et TIC.”
58 Tarek Amara, “U.S. to triple military aid to Tunisia,” Reuters, 10 April 2015, accessed May 25, 2015,
59 State Department, “Fact Sheet: Enduring US-Tunisian Relations”, May 21, 2014, accessed on May 28, 2015,
60 The White House, “FACT SHEET: Enduring U.S.-Tunisian Relations,” Office of the Press Secretary, May 21, 2105, accessed 5 August 2015,
61 Corinna Mullin, “Tunisia’s Revolution and the Domestic-International Nexus,” in Larbi Sadiki (ed.), Routledge Handbook of the Arab Spring, (London: Routledge, 2015).
62 Fadil Alireza, “Old Political Habits in Tunisia,” Sada, June 16, 2015, accessed 30 August 2015,
63 Seif Soudani, “Aux Etats-Unis, la ‘doctrine Essebsi’ se Precise,” Nawaat, May 24, 2015, accessed May 28, 2015,
64 NAM New Network, “Lawmakers Back Colombia-NATO Accord Annulment,” NNN, June 6, 2015, accessed on July 24, 2015,
65 Hamza Hamouchene, “The wretched of the sea: an Algerian perspective, ” Open Democracy, May 19, 2015, accessed May 28, 2015,
66 Hanieh “Remarks by President Donald Tusk during his visit to Tunisia,” European Council Press, March 31, 2015, accessed May 28, 2015,
67 Graham Ellison and Georgina Sinclair, “Entrepreneurial Policing? International Policing Challenges,” Open Security, August 8, 2013, accessed May 28, 2015,
68 See for example: Haykel Ben Mahfoudh, “Security Sector Reform in Tunisia Three Years into the Democratic Transition,”Arab Reform Initiative, July 2014, accessed May 25, 2015, transition#sthash.KVapDBaY.dpuf; Yezid Sayegh, “Missed Opportunity: The Politics of Police Reform in Egypt and Tunisia,” Carnegie Middle East Paper, March 17, 2015, accessed May 25, 2015,
69 Tahani Mustafa, “The Damning of the Palestinian Spring: Security Sector Reform and Entrenched Repression,” Journal of Intervention and State Building 2(2015): 213.
70 Rhiannon Smith, “Supply and demand: the paradox of private security companies,” Open Democracy, March 24, 2013, accessed on May 28, 2015,
71 James Risen, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).
72 La Presse, “Projet de loi de finances complémentaire examiné en CMR,” La Presse, July 10, 2015.
73 La Presse, “Comment assurer la sécurité des entreprises,” La Presse, April, 9 2015.
74 Michael Powell In Sousse, Tunisia and Barbara Jones, “What DID firm paid £1.4million by UK to fight terrorism in Tunisia do for its money? Foreign Office facing serious question over £1.4m payment to security firm run by former advisers,” The Daily Mail, July 4, 2015, accessed on July 25, 2015,
75 Masco, The Theater of Operations,157.
76 Huffington Post, “Tunisie: Les mouvements de protestations ont légèrement baissé en juillet, selon le FTDES,” Huffington Post, August 18, 2015, accessed August 25, 2015,



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