Did Tunisia’s success provoke attack?
Tunisian IS volunteers are people who are evidently not persuaded by the success of the Jasmine Revolution, says Peter Fabricius.
Pretoria - Tunisia’s ambassador to South Africa Mohamed Ayari lamented last week that “they hit us where it hurts most – tourism is almost the backbone of the economy” .
Arayi was sure the terrorists who had attacked the Bardo Museum last week, killing 23 people – 20 of them foreign tourists – had timed the attack to coincide with the eve of the tourist season which begins in May.
And he noted that they had succeeded in part, because MSC and Costa cruise ship operators have cancelled summer stops in Tunis.
A day later Ayari was more hopeful because his government had announced that, apart from one Polish tour group, there had been no further cancellations of foreign tourist excursions.
And he was also pleased by the large demonstration in sympathy with the victims which took place in Tunis a day after the attacks.
Ayari made the point that the attackers seemed to be aiming at undermining Tunisia, precisely because it is the only success story of the Arab Spring which started right there over four years ago.
Tunisians toppled the corrupt dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, as the Egyptians were to topple Hosni Mubarak and the Libyans Muammar Gaddafi, among others.
But whereas the other revolutions were bloody and the outcomes chaotic, as in Libya, or entirely uncertain, as in Syria, or were reversed, as in Egypt, Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution was largely peaceful and it has achieved democracy and stability.
It seems to have reconciled the competing demands of liberalism and Islamism which have torn other Arab countries apart.
That accommodation is not without its tensions and problems though, and there can never be an absolute guarantee of ultimate success.
But so far, so good.
Yet, in the view of the Tunisian government, this very success appears to have provoked whoever was behind Thursday’s machine gun attack on Bardo Museum – perhaps IS, perhaps al-Qaeda or Ansar el Sharia or some combination.
Because it belies their narrative that the only way of getting rid of corrupt and oppressive governments is by violence.
That narrative took a knock when the Arab Spring began.
Then the failure of the popular uprisings everywhere else heartened the jihadists.
Now only Tunisia continues to defy their logic and so mayhem must be sewn to ensure the prophecy fulfils itself.
Or so that argument goes. One wonders though.
The large numbers, perhaps majorities, of those who participated in popular uprisings in Tunisia and elsewhere did not share the ultimate objectives of the jihadists.
For most of the peaceful revolutionaries, the aim was to replace corrupt and oppressive dictators with freedom and good, honest governance.
Not another form of oppression in the form of sharia authoritarianism.
At the start of the Arab Spring, there were alliances of convenience, perhaps naïve beliefs in compromises and a common objective.
By now, four years later, the democrats have surely become wary of revolutionary alliances with the jihadists.
As they have seen in Syria, with the rise of the barbaric IS, erstwhile allies can be worse than common enemies.
That might explain why, according to Western intelligence sources, Tunisia has become the single largest source of IS foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, reports Africa Confidential.
And the Guardian has written that most of those Tunisian IS volunteers come from middle class rather than working class or poor families.
These are people who are evidently not persuaded by the success of the Jasmine Revolution, presumably because its outcome, democracy and a better material life, is not what they ever had in mind anyway.
What they had in mind was sharia law, an Islamist state, a caliphate.
Jihadism, this all suggests, should be treated as an ideology, not a sociological phenomenon, not a reaction to or a method for eradicating oppression and corruption but an end in itself.
To be fought not so much politically and economically but, ultimately, militarily.
* Peter Fabricius is Independent Media’s foreign editor.