Corruption is a destabilizing force in Tunisia, infecting all levels of its economy, security, and political system. Once tightly controlled under former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, corruption has now become endemic, with everyday citizens engaging in and benefitting from corrupt practices. Numerous legal measures and civil society initiatives have been working to fight corruption, but it is perceived to be even more pervasive today than it was under Ben Ali. For the democratic transition to survive, Tunisia must fight a two-front war to simultaneously address the former kleptocracy and the emergence of widespread petty corruption. And to be successful, government and civil society must first agree on a framework for understanding and implementing the war. The international community should then support this framework with targeted funding and assistance.

Sarah Yerkes
Sarah Yerkes is a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program, where her research focuses on Tunisia’s political, economic, and security developments as well as state-society relations in the Middle East and North Africa.
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Effective Measures

Government mechanisms to address corruption are failing for two primary reasons. First, the government is focused largely on enacting legislation to sideline the bad actors of the postrevolutionary environment and to deter individuals from engaging in corrupt practices. Meanwhile, conversely, civil society is focused on transitional justice and reconciling with the past. Second, the government’s top-down method of addressing corruption, evident by the economic reconciliation bill, has led to mistrust and a lack of public buy-in. To address the most damaging forms of corruption, the Tunisian government should:

  • Implement and enforce existing laws, beginning with the enforcement of the law requiring Tunisian officials to publicly declare their assets.
  • Involve civil society in the creation and implementation of anticorruption measures to ensure public buy-in of reforms.
  • Prioritize the establishment of the constitutional court and ensure the independence of the Financial Judiciary Pole, charged with investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating financial corruption cases.
  • Digitize government processes by reinvigorating the Tunisia Digital 2020 initiative and using the proposed national identification system to help capture the informal sector.
  • Invest heavily in the border regions to provide exit options from the informal sector, such as education and private sector jobs.

Targeted Support

If left unaddressed, corruption will remain a central roadblock to Tunisia’s democratic consolidation and increasingly add to the region’s serious economic and security challenges. To help reduce corruption, the international community should:

  • Prioritize funding of Tunisia’s anticorruption bodies, including the National Anti-Corruption Authority and the Financial Judiciary Pole, as well as civil society watchdog groups, such as Al Bawsala and I Watch.
  • Continue to strengthen civil society and ensure that Tunisia maintains a free media.
  • Call out the government when it backtracks on anticorruption efforts.


Over the past few years, Tunisia has made remarkable progress—from establishing democratic political institutions and processes to professionalizing the security services to revitalizing the tourism industry. Nevertheless, corruption continues to be a contagion, putting this and further progress at risk. Now decentralized, corruption plagues every aspect of Tunisia’s economic, political, and security reform process, undermining faith in institutions and promising prospective instability.

“Corruption is a contagious disease that invades the whole country.”
Male, age 35–65, Tunis

From the start, there has been widespread recognition among the government and public that corruption must be addressed. It was one of the first issues that Tunisia took on during the postrevolutionary period. On January 15, 2011, only a day after the departure of former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the provisional government established the Commission of Inquiry into Misappropriation and Corruption under the leadership of Abdelfattah Amor. And since then, numerous other legal or official mechanisms have been established. Yet, nearly seven years later, corruption is more widespread today than it was under Ben Ali. Numerous factors contributing to this problem have been documented, but two warrant further exploration and attention.1 First, various stakeholders view corruption and how to address it differently. Tunisia is facing a two-front battle against corruption—reconciling with past corruption and eradicating ongoing corruption. The government has been primarily focused on the latter, enacting legislation to both sideline the bad actors taking advantage of the postrevolutionary environment and to deter future acts of embezzlement, fraud, and nepotism. Many civil society actors, however, are not ready to close the book on the Ben Ali regime and are still seeking justice for past crimes. Civil society has been a prime driver in pushing for a comprehensive transitional justice process that addresses both physical crimes, such as torture, and economic crimes, such as embezzlement and favoritism. Thus, when civil society and government actors speak about corruption, they often speak past each other, leading to public anger over even the most well-meaning official anticorruption measures.

Second, the government’s more recent anticorruption efforts have been developed through top-down, rather than bottom-up, processes. Tunisia’s initial major anticorruption efforts—the National Anti-Corruption Authority and the Truth and Dignity Body—grew out of an inclusive, consultative process among the government, civil society, and general public. By contrast, later efforts—the Law on Administrative Reconciliation and the “war on corruption”—have largely circumvented or marginalized the earlier consensus-based mechanisms. These initiatives are lacking public buy-in that is integral for reforms to succeed.2

“Corruption is so many things, but if we had to define it in a sentence, corruption is the experience of the Tunisian almost daily.”
Female, age 35-65, Tunis

Bridging the gap between different viewpoints and preventing backsliding in the country’s democratic transition will require reaching a shared understanding of corruption and the related implications and priorities. This understanding should result in an effort to reinvigorate initiatives focused on justice for past corruption and to simultaneously move forward those focused on deterrence. Failing to fight this two-front battle could undermine Tunisia’s democratic transition.

What Does Corruption Look Like in Tunisia?

Academic and policy literature are generally in agreement that corruption refers to “the abuse of public office for private gain.”3 This is a broad term that encompasses many types of activities and interactions—from small bribes to grand, systemic corruption—and can occur in any government sector and at any level. Tunisian law (Article 2 of Decree Law 2011-120) takes the definition a step further to include the private sector. The law defines corruption as the “bad use of authority or power or function for personal interest.”4 Here, corruption encompasses all forms of bribery in the public and private sectors; embezzlement; waste, fraud, and the misappropriation of public funds; the abuse of power; and money laundering.5

Marwan Muasher
Muasher is vice president for studies at Carnegie, where he oversees research in Washington and Beirut on the Middle East.

While some degree of corruption exists in every country, under the Ben Ali regime, corruption was so centralized that it made the regime’s inner circle, particularly first lady Leila Trabelsi and her family, globally infamous.6 Trabelsi and her ten siblings held controlling interests in numerous Tunisian businesses, including airlines, car dealerships, internet providers, radio and television stations, and large retailers.7 A World Bank study on state capture in Tunisia identified 662 firms owned by the Ben Ali family that were confiscated in the first anticorruption efforts after the revolution.8 These firms represented only 0.2 percent of private firms but accounted for 5 percent of private sector output and 16 percent of all net private sector profits. Tunisia’s National Commission to Investigate Corruption and Embezzlement, created shortly after the revolution to investigate corruption under Ben Ali and recover stolen funds and assets, discovered billions of dollars housed in shell companies and foreign bank accounts held by Trabelsi family members and their close associates.9

Unsurprisingly, corruption in pre-revolutionary Tunisia was the most tangible symbol of the regime’s indifference to the interests of the people. In recognition, immediately following the revolution, the government focused on addressing past corruption through a series of transitional justice and legal mechanisms. But while the country focused on tackling grand corruption, petty corruption flourished. Thus, today, the government has shifted its attention toward (1) catching those who are benefitting most from the chaos of the postrevolutionary period and (2) addressing smuggling—one of the most dangerous yet common forms of corruption.

From Systemic to Endemic

Counterintuitively, according to external measures, the overall level of corruption in Tunisia is perceived to have risen since the revolution. In 2010, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Tunisia 59 out of 178 countries (1 being the least corrupt), with a score of 4.3 (10 being the least corrupt). In 2016, Tunisia’s ranking dropped to 75 out of 176 countries (1 being the least corrupt), with a score of 41 (100 being the least corrupt).10 Internal measures indicate a similar trend: in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s survey of 391 Tunisians in July and August 2017, 76 percent of respondents said there is more corruption in Tunisia today than there was under Ben Ali (see Box 1 for the key findings).

“The war on corruption is not likely to succeed because the main parties do not want it to.”
Male, age 35–65, Sousse

These perceptions stem from several shifts in the awareness and nature of corruption. First, corruption is no longer a taboo topic. As one civil society actor explained it, people started to “wake up” in 2011 in regard to corruption. A “collective awareness [developed] of the need to deal with corruption.”11 The revolution made it possible for Tunisians to talk about the Trabelsi clan as well as everyday petty corruption. This explains, in part, why the Corruption Perceptions Index numbers have gone up, not down. During the Ben Ali period, no Tunisians dared to speak about corruption, making studies on the problem challenging. Today, corruption is a regular topic of conversation, and daily accusations of corruption are lobbied at government officials, parliamentarians, business leaders, and civil society activists.

Second, since the revolution, corruption has been “democratized,” according to the head of the National Anti-Corruption Authority (INLUCC), Chawki Tabib.12 Under Ben Ali, Tunisia had “a diabolically intrusive system of state corruption.”13 That is, corruption permeated every sector, and embezzlement and nepotism were the norms that guided his rule. The Trabelsi family operated a mafia of sorts, using tax audits to control people and exploiting customs agents as their personal enforcers.14 A Tunisian who worked for the Ben Ali household for nearly two decades said Ben Ali and Trabelsi saw Tunisia as “a vast personal enterprise that they could tap at any moment.”15 Thus, corruption under Ben Ali primarily benefited his small inner circle and their representatives at the local level (who were closely monitored for compliance with the boss’s orders). Today, however, the tools of corruption are available to anyone. An August 2017 survey by the International Republican Institute (IRI) found that 17 percent of Tunisians have personally experienced corruption by hospitals, 13 percent by traffic police, 8 percent by the courts, 8 percent by public schools, and 6 percent by private businesses.16 According to the same survey, more Tunisians (64 percent) believe that “being well-connected” is “very likely to lead to personal wealth” than “intelligence” (61 percent), “being born into a wealthy family” (60 percent), “hard work” (38 percent), or “a high education level” (37 percent).17 As one civil society actor said, corruption is “becoming part of the culture.”18

Key Findings

Between July and August 2017, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace conducted a survey of 391 Tunisians to understand how they perceive corruption in their country. The survey was mostly qualitative in nature, but their responses offer some indication of the pervasiveness and impact of corruption. Overall, respondents are skeptical of the government’s anticorruption efforts and believe corruption has increased since the revolution, greatly affecting both the country and their daily lives. The pull quotes throughout the paper are sourced from the survey responses.

Note: While the survey was open to any Tunisian through a public link and was advertised on Carnegie’s Tunisia Monitor Facebook page (, respondents were not randomly selected, and the results are not necessarily representative of the broader Tunisian public.

During a Carnegie workshop in September 2017, some civil society actors argued that Tunisia’s general public has a “tolerant attitude toward corruption.”19 This is partly due to the bloated and complicated Tunisian bureaucracy. For citizens to meet their basic needs, they must interact with an opaque and complex system where it is easier to pay a bribe than to go through official channels. As one civil society actor said, “The problem lies with the administration, not the Tunisian personality.” He explained that Tunisians have developed a forgiving attitude toward petty corruption out of necessity, noting that if a Tunisian were to live in a more developed country with a more transparent bureaucracy, “he would give up this attitude.” He also noted that foreigners, including those from countries with very low levels of corruption, end up paying bribes in Tunisia because they are necessary to efficiently carry out everyday tasks.20

“Corruption is a general state of mind because no one has confidence in the application of the law.”
Male, age 35–65, Tunis

Corruption is now particularly bad along Tunisia’s border with Libya, where smugglers have taken advantage of the removal of authoritarian control in both countries to dramatically expand their business to include arms and other illicit goods. Under Ben Ali, smuggling was rampant, but his security officials knew the smugglers by name and only allowed certain goods to cross the border. Essentially, Ben Ali’s network controlled the type and amount of corruption taking place and could therefore punish anyone, including local officials, who stepped out of line.21 Much like Tunisia’s neighbors across North Africa, the pre-revolutionary regime kept tight control over dangerous smuggling practices to safeguard Tunisia’s security. Today, there is no tacit agreement that prevents the smuggling of arms and drugs over the border.22

What Are the Impacts of Corruption?

Corruption has both clear and less obvious impacts. It has a direct economic impact on citizens’ lives—by taking money away from the state coffers and putting it into the hands of corrupt individuals—and on foreign investment. It also has an impact on political systems, eroding trust between the government and the governed. Finally, it can breed instability and indirectly assist terrorist groups with achieving their goals.

Economic Implications

The economic implications of corruption are perhaps the most obvious. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) “regard corruption as a major obstacle to achieving sustainable economic growth and equitable development.”23 And several academic studies have found an inverse relationship between levels of corruption and economic growth.24 The cost of corruption is also very high. Some studies estimated that in the decade before the revolution, Tunisia lost, on average, an amount equivalent to about 2 percent of its gross domestic product per year.25 And Tunisia’s complex bureaucracy and heavy regulation cost firms about 13 percent of revenues and incentivize corruption.26

“There are politicians who themselves are corrupt . . . and who put a stick in the wheels [of anti-corruption measures].”
Female, age 35–65, Sfax

Because transaction costs are greater than in noncorrupt markets, every economic transaction in a corrupt economy has a “corruption tax,” which harms the overall economic situation of a country or industry. Specifically, consumers pay higher prices than in a noncorrupt country. Further, “firms have no incentive to improve product quality, and the productivity gains and innovation that would come from new firms is halted. In other words, [corruption] undermines the competitiveness of the economy, hampering investment and the creation of jobs.”27

Corruption also hinders socioeconomic development, particularly in the interior and south. According to some Tunisian entrepreneurs, this is due to the centrally controlled decisionmaking process.28 As former Carnegie nonresident scholar Hamza Meddeb argues, “state officials, bankers, and business owners participate in networks that bind them together and facilitate corrupt practices. . . . These networks exercise control over state resources, especially bank credit and licenses, and are influential within the public administration.”29 While Tunisia is preparing to embark on a decentralization process, beginning with local elections,30 Meddeb argues that repeatedly postponing the local elections31 has created a “sense of impunity” among the local actors, “which in turn creates a sort of systemic and decentralized corruption.”32 And according to a National Democratic Institute (NDI) study, some people worry that the local elections are corrupt and the “wrong people” may be elected. A twenty-five-year-old Tunisian student put it this way, “I think corruption could be decentralized: I think it could move from corruption in one place to so many places.”33

A high level of corruption also deters investment by undermining the trust of potential foreign and domestic investors, as well as creating unnecessary risks. Corruption regularly ranks as one of the top constraints to doing business in Tunisia.34 Corruption affects both the level of foreign direct investment (FDI) and its country of origin. Countries with higher corruption generally attract lower FDI from countries that have signed anticorruption measures (globally) and higher FDI from countries with more corruption.35 This reality is problematic for Tunisia, given that it seeks more investment from Europe and the United States, which are rated as less corrupt by most indices.

Additionally, corruption has second-order effects on the Tunisian economy. There is some evidence that corruption globally may impact the poor to a greater degree than the wealthy or middle class.36 For example, the poor may be unable to afford bribes to receive services. And “when corruption results in shoddy public services, the poor lack the resources to pursue ‘exit’ options such as private schooling, health care, or power generation.” 37

“To fight corruption, the Tunisian government must break free from lobbies and enforce the laws.”
Male, 35–65, Sfax

According to Tabib, the parallel economy (in other words, the black market) now constitutes about half of the Tunisian economy: “While the Tunisian economy is actually doing fairly well, the state is impoverished because half of all transactions are taking place outside the official economy.”38 This problem is highly complex, however. While there is consensus on the need to crack down on the smuggling of illicit goods (weapons, drugs, people), many in Tunisia’s marginalized south rely on the smuggling of legal goods (oil, foodstuffs) for their livelihood. An anticorruption policy that shuts off the smuggling pipeline without providing alternative sources of long-term, sustainable income for smugglers will lead to further poverty and mistrust, along with continued social unrest. Adequately addressing the problem will require “an economic infrastructure that creates jobs rather than asking people to create their own employment” and “an educational strategy for the high rate of young people who have quit school at an early age to join the contraband trade.”39

Political Implications

Widespread corruption can have a negative impact on a country’s image on the world stage. But more directly, corruption erodes trust between citizens and their government and contributes to the decline of public services. In Tunisia, this erosion of trust is clear. While not solely due to corruption, trust in government fell in Tunisia from 62 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2014.40 In IRI’s August 2017 survey, 31 percent and 41 percent of respondents gave President Beji Caid Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, respectively, either a “favorable” or “somewhat favorable” rating.41 That is down from 43 percent for Caid Essebsi and 44 percent for Chahed in December 2016.42

Furthermore, according to an Arab Barometer survey, younger citizens (ages eighteen to twenty-nine) are more likely to say nepotism or favoritismis prevalent than those age fifty and older.43 Similarly, protesters and younger Tunisians show lower levels of trust in the Tunisian government.44 This demographic divide is important for several reasons. Young people constituted the bulk of the revolutionaries, so for them to lose faith in the institutions they fought to put in place could be potentially destabilizing for Tunisia’s democratic transition.45 And, relatedly, extremist groups targeting the Tunisian state and its institutions could seek to recruit youths disenchanted with their political system and economic situation.

“To fight corruption the Tunisian government should sanction the corrupt publicly without complacency and without exception.”
Male, 18–35, Tunis

Widespread corruption typically reduces the quality of government institutions, particularly the bureaucracy. When bureaucrats become accustomed to engaging in corrupt practices, it becomes harder to implement public policies that are in the best interest of the state and citizenry. The quality of administrative services also deteriorates. According to a 2015 study by the Tunisian Association of Public Auditors, 70 percent of Tunisians think that corruption is a means of facilitating daily transactions.46 This makes it more difficult to implement anticorruption efforts at the administrative level and to recruit strong candidates for government positions.

Security Implications

Corruption directly threatens security by providing opportunities for traffickers—of weapons, drugs, and humans—to bring illicit goods into the country. Lax border controls resulting from a system of bribery can make money laundering easier and can assist in the spread of terrorism.47 Tunisians can cross over into Libya to train with the self-proclaimed Islamic State or other terrorist groups and go on to Iraq and Syria. Tunisians can also cross into Libya to prepare for attacks on Tunisian soil. As one Tunisian security analyst said of the Tunisian-Libyan border, “as long as there are corrupt customs officials working with the smugglers, border fences are useless.”48 Chahed has used the connection between smuggling and terrorist financing as the primary justification for his war on corruption: “We are persuaded there is a link between smuggling, terrorism financing, cross-border activities, and also capital flight.”49

According to a 2015 Transparency International report, there is a high risk of corruption in Tunisia’s defense and security sector due to a lack of transparency and scrutiny in “procurement, budgeting, institutional oversight, and accountability.”50 There is also little public debate regarding the defense industry, which has the potential to erode trust between the Tunisian security forces and the citizenry.51 In an April 2017 IRI survey, when asked which government institution they trust most to provide services to their family, 31 percent of Tunisians said “no one.”52 And while 87 percent of Tunisians said they trust the army to protect them “a great deal,” only 53 percent said the same of the national police and 61 percent of the national guard.53

Ultimately, this mistrust can serve as a tool for extremist recruitment. Political scientists Jessica C. Teets and Erica Chenoweth argue that terrorists might be motivated by the presence of corruption and can recruit based on the idea that they are fighting corrupt leaders.54 Terrorist groups “may develop within or attack corrupt states because they resent the government’s inconsistent application of the rule of law.”55 While there is no evidence directly linking corruption and terrorism in Tunisia, groups and individuals continue to target Tunisia’s economic infrastructure and political institutions, such as the Bardo Museum and Sousse resort in March and June 2015, respectively.

“Corruption has led to unemployment and the poverty of the honest people.”
Female, over age 65, Tunis

Many factors motivate individuals to join extremist groups, but, as noted earlier, there is a clear opportunity for terrorist recruiters to exploit the growing sense of discontentment among many Tunisian youth. And when those youth encounter corruption—whether through everyday bribery, nepotism, favoritism, or other means—they have a tangible example of the inequality that persists.

For instance, Tunisians fear that corruption is influencing hiring processes.56 With more than half of university graduates under age thirty-five unemployed, this is troubling.57 Some people feel that they “have invested time and money in education and training only to be overlooked for a position that they feel went to someone much less qualified.”58 This feeling is perfect fuel for extremist recruitment. And other research has shown that higher levels of corruption make it less likely that someone will report a crime, which, in turn, leads to impunity and higher levels of crime.59

What Are the Priorities for Addressing Corruption?

Based on interviews with civil society actors and government officials, it is clear that the two groups—and even subgroups within each—approach corruption from a different vantage point. Government officials are focused on fighting the corruption that has sprung up since the revolution, while civil society is more focused on addressing past crimes and institutionalizing anticorruption measures. The government seeks to address Tunisia’s economic challenges and attract foreign investment by creating short- and long-term stability. In this view, rehashing the past is not useful and could lead to greater friction rather than stability.

Conversely, civil society has served as the watchdog of Tunisia’s democratic transition since the beginning and therefore desires to complete the process of reckoning with the past in order to create the most stable future. The young people who play a major role in civil society feel a personal responsibility to defend the goals of the revolution. As one civil society actor explained, the government’s efforts at turning a new page are “insulting to the families and the friends of the martyrs of the revolution”—the young people who gave their lives fighting for justice and dignity.60

“Our mental health is very affected by corruption.”
Female, age 35–65, Nabeul

Chahed, who made corruption a top priority upon taking office in August 2016, stated that “corruption in our country [Tunisia] is widespread. It is rampant. . . . Our goal is to tear apart the systems of corruption and the [three part system of] terrorism-corruption-smuggling and tax evasion. It is observable everywhere. Especially in the regions.”61 And in a speech to the parliament, he asserted that “corruption threatens fledgling democracies.”62

Chahed’s remarks and actions indicate that he is most concerned with rooting out corrupt officials and institutions that continue to profit at the expense of the people. In May 2017, his government embarked on a war on corruption, which, so far, has mostly consisted of arresting high-profile figures who have enriched themselves since the revolution and shaking up some of the most corrupt customs houses.63

Caid Essebsi, similarly, is focused on moving forward and has pushed Tunisian society to stop dwelling on the past. His primary concern is attracting foreign investment. In an interview with Channel 1 on Tunisia’s 2017 Independence Day, he said, “Without [the economic reconciliation law,] we cannot find the investment.”64 Former foreign minister Rafik Abdessalem echoed this point, noting that the entire system was to blame under Ben Ali and it is not helpful to blame individual businessmen; rather, “we are in need of quick measures to get the economy going.”65

While Chahed and Caid Essebsi’s views are generally in line with one another, Caid Essebsi’s approach directly contradicts that of many civil society activists, who place a high premium on reconciling with past corruption and gaining justice for victims. In a speech during July 2017, Caid Essebsi asked for the public’s solidarity with the state in fighting corruption (and terrorism), clearly addressing the protesters who repeatedly flooded the streets in opposition to the proposed economic reconciliation bill.66 But it is not surprising that civil society has been vocally critical of this and other recent government’s anticorruption measures; many citizens emphasize the need to address corruption through Tunisia’s transitional justice mechanism, which, itself, was a product of public consultation. The Law on Administrative Reconciliation—a revised version of the economic reconciliation bill that passed on September 13, 2017—is rather a product of two years of fighting among political parties and between civil society and the parliament and circumvents the official transitional justice process by providing amnesty to some civil servants who committed economic crimes under Ben Ali. Reflecting the public dissatisfaction with the way government has handled the corruption file, when asked which political party is best placed to fight corruption, the majority of respondents in IRI’s August 2017 survey (54 percent) said “no one.”67

Passage of the law has drawn widespread criticism from civil society, as well as some opposition parties in the parliament. The Tunisian branch of Transparency International, I Watch, organized demonstrations following the law’s passage, calling for it to be overturned. Transparency International Secretariat also released a statement: “The Tunisian Parliament voted against holding the corrupt to account; the very reason the people took to the streets in 2011. Providing amnesty for the corrupt in the newly adopted reconciliation law sends a negative message that the corrupt anywhere can get away with it.”68 Notably, a member of parliament, Nadhir Ben Ammou, recently resigned to demonstrate his dissatisfaction with the Ennahda party’s support of the law.69

Chahed’s war on corruption has won both supporters and detractors. His initial rhetoric, as well as his willingness to take on several powerful figures, convinced many Tunisians that the government was finally taking corruption seriously. And this attitudinal shift is notable, as it is essential to “curing corruption” in the long term: Robert I. Rotberg has argued, “Leaders can provide the kinds of behavioral integrity and behavioral bright lights that, over time, shift prevailing political cultures from acceptance of corruption to rejection of corruption.”70

“Corruption greatly reduces our purchasing power.”
Female, age 35–65, L’Ariana

Yet some Tunisians do not think Chahed has gone far enough; 64 percent of Tunisians surveyed by Carnegie think the war on corruption will not be successful. During a civil society roundtable discussion on corruption, participants expressed frustration with the war on corruption, noting that the Tunisian public and international community do not understand what it is about. One participant said that the war “needs to define the enemy and be equipped with the proper tools.”71 Another said it should be called a “war on smugglers” instead of a war on corruption, because it has largely focused on the smuggling sector and stayed away from the business, security, and customs sectors—traditionally some of the most corrupt.72 One Tunisian civil society activist noted that the two most problematic groups are customs officials and representatives of the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade, and Handicrafts, known as UTICA. According to the activist, UTICA is working with petroleum companies and international companies to “extract resources out of Tunisia without paying a fair wage.”73

The war on corruption has begun to tackle the customs sector. In June 2017, in the first weeks of the war on corruption, Chahed conducted a surprise visit to the Port of Rades. Days later, Tunisian authorities arrested twenty-one customs officials and referred an additional thirty-five to a disciplinary tribunal.74 But while UTICA seems to be committed to fighting corruption within the private sector, so far, the government has shown little interest in dismantling the decades-old contracts between the foreign oil companies and the Tunisian government that triggered the 2017 Kamour protests.75 The perception that foreign businesses are exploiting local Tunisian land and workers for their own benefit has led to repeated protests in Tunisia’s southeastern region. While the protesters are not explicitly accusing the oil and gas companies of corruption, they have accused the Tunisian government of “stealing their natural resources without recompense.”76

“Corruption creates anarchy in the urban landscape. It slows down the economy. It is a grave injustice.”
Female, age 35–65, Tunis

Chahed has also been criticized for the way he has carried out the war. Authorities have employed the emergency law to arrest high-profile Tunisian businessmen and charged some of them with security, rather than economic, crimes. Corruption is difficult to prove, so it is common for authorities to use other crimes to bring down corrupt officials, but the manner in which the war has so far progressed has led some in the human rights community to speak out against Chahed’s efforts. Human Rights Watch criticized the Tunisian authorities for carrying out the arrests under Tunisia’s emergency law, referring those arrested to the military court, and holding them incommunicado in undisclosed locations.77 One civil society actor said, “Even the worst criminal has rights.”78

How Is Corruption Being Addressed?

The Tunisian government and civil society have undertaken many initiatives aimed at combatting corruption (see Box 2 for a summary). Several official and nonofficial bodies have been created since 2011 to both address past transgressions and prevent future ones, and several laws have been passed to prevent corruption or punish corrupt individuals. However, the primary anticorruption bodies are lacking the financial and human resources to carry out their mandates. And many of the laws have either not been implemented or do not provide adequate accountability mechanisms to effectively deter corrupt behavior.

Legal Measures

Tunisia has been using various legislative tools to address past corruption and deter future activity. While not directly tied to corruption, the 2011 electoral law (Decree 1089) banned some former officials of the Ben Ali regime and his party from running for public office.79  Many of them made up the vast web of Tunisia’s kleptocracy under Ben Ali. After the revolution, more than thirty members of the Ben Ali and Trabelsi families were arrested for corruption-related crimes.80 Ben Ali and his wife were sentenced to thirty-five years in jail on June 20, 2011, after being found guilty in absentia of theft and unlawful possession of foreign currency, jewelry, archaeological artifacts, drugs, and weapons. They were also charged a fine of about $65 million. And in 2012, eighty-one judges were arrested on accusations of corruption.81 Since the revolution, between 7,000 and 9,000 civil servants have been prosecuted and 600 imprisoned, mostly for corruption.82

DECEMBER 17, 2010 The self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi sets off a series of protests across Tunisia, with protesters speaking out against the corruption of president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s regime.
JANUARY 13, 2011 Ben Ali announces the creation of two independent commissions of inquiry: one on corruption and the other on deaths and injuries during the protests.
JANUARY 14, 2011 Ben Ali resigns.
JANUARY 15, 2011 The provisional government establishes the Amor Commission to deal with corruption and embezzlement.
FEBRUARY 18, 2011 Decree Law 2011-7 formally creates the National Commission to Investigate Corruption and Embezzlement.
MARCH 14, 2011 Decree Law 2011-13 permits the confiscation of assets from the Ben Ali regime, covering 1987 to 2011.
MARCH 26, 2011 Decree Law 2011-15 establishes a national committee of recovery of the ill-gotten assets existing abroad.
JUNE 20, 2011 Ben Ali and first lady Leila Trabelsi are sentenced in absentia to thirty-five years in jail for theft and unlawful possession of foreign currency, jewelry, archaeological artifacts, drugs, and weapons. They are also fined about $65 million.
JULY 14, 2011 Decree Law 2011-68 establishes a National Commission of Management of Assets and Funds Subject to Confiscation or Recovery in Favor of the State.
AUGUST 3, 2011 Decree 1089 determines who is eligible to stand in the October 2011 National Constituent Assembly elections, prohibiting certain individuals from the Ben Ali regime and his ruling party.
NOVEMBER 14, 2011 Decree Law 2011-120 defines corruption and establishes the National Anti-Corruption Authority (INLUCC) to facilitate anticorruption work, gather data on corruption, and spread an anticorruption culture.
NOVEMBER 24, 2011 The INLUCC is officially set up.
MARCH 27, 2012 A good governance cell is created in every public institution, administration, and ministry to promote integrity and fight corruption.
APRIL 14, 2012 A National Dialogue on Transitional Justice is held.
AUGUST 3, 2012 The Financial Judiciary Pole is created by a ministerial memorandum to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate corruption cases.
SEPTEMBER 16 TO OCTOBER 7, 2012 The National Commission for Dialogue on Transitional Justice holds twenty-four meetings across the country.
DECEMBER 9, 2012 The National Anti-Corruption Strategy is launched by prime minister Hamadi Jebali and Abderrahman Ladgham, the minister of governance and the fight against corruption.
DECEMBER 24, 2013 Organic Law 2013-53 creates the Truth and Dignity Body to investigate economic crimes and human rights violations committed between 1955 and 2013.
JANUARY 14, 2014 Tunisia joins the Open Government Partnership.
MARCH 20, 2015 President Beji Caid Essebsi introduces an economic reconciliation bill in his Independence Day speech.
MARCH 11, 2016 The parliament passes the law on access to information.
NOVEMBER 23, 2016 Basic Law 57 of 2016 formalizes the creation of the Financial Judiciary Pole to oversee complex financial and economic crimes.
FEBRUARY 22, 2017 The parliament passes the law on reporting corruption cases and protecting whistleblowers.
MAY 24, 2017 Prime Minister Youssef Chahed declares a “war on corruption.”
SEPTEMBER 13, 2017 The Law on Administrative Reconciliation (a revised version of the economic reconciliation bill) is passed by the parliament as Organic Bill 49-2015 Pertaining to Reconciliation in the Administrative Field.

One of the most important government measures, economically, is the confiscation committee, created by Decree Law 2011-13 on March 14, 2011. The law addresses 114 people—Ben Ali, his family, his in-laws (the Trabelsi family), and others close to him. It covers the period from 1987 until the revolution and has seized 550 properties, 48 boats and yachts, 40 stock portfolios, 367 bank accounts, and 400 enterprises at an estimated value of $13 billion (the equivalent of 25 percent of the 2011 Tunisian gross domestic product), as well as $28.8 million held in a Lebanese bank account by the former first lady.83

Tunisia also created a semi-independent asset recovery committee on July 14, 2011—including representatives from relevant ministries (foreign affairs, justice, and human rights), the central bank, and lawyers—to investigate and identify stolen assets. Additionally, in March 2012, anticorruption officials (through a “good governance cell”) were placed in every public institution, including every ministry, to ensure that anticorruption measures are embedded across the government.

Numerous laws to address specific aspects of corruption have also been passed (or are being developed), including laws on bribery, access to information, and corruption reporting and whistleblower protection. Of particular note is a draft law that requires public disclosure of income and assets and criminalizes illicit gains and conflicts of interest.

“Because of corruption, young people cannot emancipate themselves.”
Male, age 35–65, Monastir

While most of the legal measures to address corruption have been largely popular, the economic reconciliation bill, passed as the Law on Administrative Reconciliation, has been highly controversial. Caid Essebsi first proposed the bill during his Independence Day speech on March 20, 2015. In introducing it, he said it would “improve the environment for investment” and recover assets from businessmen that Tunisia could use for development.84 The law, in its original form, would have removed all financial cases from the jurisdiction of the Truth and Dignity Body (IVD) and provided anonymity as well as amnesty to both public and private individuals accused of financial crimes under the Ben Ali regime (as long as they returned their stolen funds and paid a fine). Caid Essebsi attempted to get the economic reconciliation bill through the parliament in 2015 and 2016 but ultimately failed due to tremendous civil society pressure.

Many within Tunisia’s civil society and the international community were unhappy with the draft law. The European Commission for Democracy Through Law said the bill would be unconstitutional because it would “create a two-tier transitional justice process, which would be incompatible with Article 148 of the constitution.”85 One Tunisian said the bill “gives the impression that what matters to the palace in Carthage is saving the corrupt among its friends; the Tunisian people’s struggles do not matter as much.”86

When the bill was first announced in 2015, more than twenty civil society groups came together under the campaign Manish Msemah (I will not forgive) to launch a large social media operation, lobby officials, draft letters, and organize protests in downtown Tunis against the bill.87 The primary criticism was that the bill would allow those who stole from the state to evade prosecution and remain anonymous.

The law just passed provides amnesty for civil servants only, with the arguments that they had no choice but to obey their superiors’ orders for fear of retribution and that this category of people were not involved in large-scale corruption, unlike senior officials. While the law is more palatable to some Tunisians—one civil society activist said the law, in its revised form, is one “most Tunisians could live with”88—opposition parties in the Assembly of Representatives of the People boycotted the vote, with the Harak Tounes Al Irada party describing it as an “institutionalization of corruption.”89 Because mechanisms already exist to address economic crimes through the IVD, the law is seen as a way to circumvent the official transitional justice process. This is particularly troubling for civil society actors, who champion the IVD process as one that was developed through genuine consultation and consensus. By contrast, the reconciliation bill was created by the president and pushed through the parliament on to the people. One civil society actor said the law “aims at whitewashing corruption because it overlooks accountability, undermines equality of citizens before the law . . . and it does not provide any safeguards on non-recurrence of financial crimes.”90

“Because of corruption, all of the virtues of a good society (love, respect, patriotism, etc.) were flouted.”
Male, age 35–65, Tunis

The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) noted that the group of civil servants who would be granted amnesty are not required to undertake any procedure to do so. Rather, they are automatically granted amnesty by virtue of their position. Furthermore, “it does not offer the state or the Tunisian people anything in exchange for the impunity that this group is being given.”91 The bill also provides amnesty for those civil servants who have already been convicted by the Tunisian court system, undermining the justice system.

In response to the law, the National Council of the Bar Association issued a statement on September 26, 2017, rejecting the law and calling on members of parliament to reverse it.92 Separately, the INLUCC, the High Commission for Human Rights, and the Commission to Combat Torture have issued a joint statement against the law, noting that they are independent of the government. And forty members of parliament have reportedly drafted a petition questioning the law’s constitutionality.93

Tunisia has also adopted various electronic measures to prevent corruption, both officially and through civil society, including the Open Budget portal and an online tool called Marsoum 41, which was created to enable citizens to directly request public documents.94 In 2014, Tunisia also joined the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Fiscal information is live-tweeted from parliamentary debates and validated by independent watchdog organizations such as Marsad Budget.95

On the whole, Tunisia’s legal measures provide a strong framework to combat corruption, but many of them are not fully implemented or enforced. And it is still too early to assess whether the laws, once implemented, will be effective at deterring corruption. Some Tunisians question the government’s sincerity in fighting the war. One Carnegie survey respondent from Tunis stated, “No one has confidence in the application of the law.”96 Several respondents suggested creating an independent judiciary and constitutional court system.97 On August 3, 2012, the Financial Judiciary Pole was set up through a ministerial memorandum to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate corruption cases. But it only became empowered in November 2016 as a judicial body through Basic Law 57 of 2016. The law grants the court jurisdiction over complex economic and financial crimes.

“Corruption harms the future of our children who are easy prey from the malicious on all sides.”
Male, age 35–65, Bizerte

The judiciary pole is part of the High Judicial Council but is lacking the necessary resources to deal with the thousands of corruption cases that have arisen since the revolution. To address the volume of cases, additional human resources and training in investigating complex corruption issues are needed. Additionally, the constitutional court has not yet been established. Constitutional cases currently go in front of a provisional court, but during Carnegie’s workshop, people argued that establishing this court and building the capacity of the judiciary pole will help move corruption cases through the legal system more efficiently and will show that the government is serious about addressing corruption.

National Anti-Corruption Authority (INLUCC)

The official body with the largest anticorruption mandate is the INLUCC. It is a constitutionally mandated body established originally in November 2011, tasked with investigating all forms of corruption from waste, fraud, and abuse to money laundering and misuse of public funds. The INLUCC cannot prosecute cases itself but rather transmits investigated cases to the public prosecutor’s office.

The INLUCC has long suffered from a lack of sufficient financial resources and personnel. Its first president, Samir Annabi, criticized the government for giving him an insufficient budget, which affected his ability to investigate cases.98 Between 2014 and 2015, the INLUCC only investigated 400 cases out of 9,000 on its docket. Annabi’s successor, Tabib, who took over the INLUCC in January 2016, has tried to expand its work. Upon taking office in 2016, he requested an increase of about $2.6 million to open four regional offices. He has also secured significant foreign assistance for 2017, including grants from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Council of Europe, the United Kingdom, and South Korea.99

Despite Tabib’s efforts, the government does not seem to prioritize the INLUCC’s work and has failed to provide adequate budgetary or personnel resources to address the thousands of cases presented to it. Furthermore, there is little political will to assist the body. As one civil society actor said, “If you want to kill something, create a commission.”100 Another person noted that despite constitutional obligations, other institutions do not want to work with the INLUCC.  

Truth and Dignity Body (IVD)

The effort to provide justice for victims of corruption during the pre-revolutionary period has been carried out through Tunisia’s official transitional justice process. The process was unique in that it was the “first to formally recognize socio-economic harms as violations warranting justice and material reparation.”101 The Commission of Inquiry into Misappropriation and Corruption, established to deal with corruption and embezzlement under Ben Ali, received about 10,000 complaints between February and August 2011, which it referred to the courts.102

“People forgot about corruption between 2013 and 2014. They forgot that one of the incentives of the revolution was to fight corruption.”
Civil society activist

To create a formal legal process, the National Commission for Dialogue on Transitional Justice held twenty-four meetings across the country from September 16 to October 7, 2012.103 Prior to that, the government had launched a National Dialogue on Transitional Justice in cooperation with the UNDP on April 14, 2012, to gather input from a range of groups and individuals across the country on how to address the crucial yet controversial topic of dealing with the legacy of the Ben Ali regime.

Key outcomes of this consultative process were Organic Law 2013-53—passed on December 24, 2013, and later enshrined in the 2014 constitution—and the IVD. Legally, the IVD covers violations committed between 1955 and 2013 and includes financial corruption and the misuse of public funds. It is financially and administratively independent, comprising fifteen members selected by a parliamentary committee. It can arbitrate, conduct criminal investigations, and employ specialized courts to investigate serious violations of human, political, and social and economic rights. One primary goal of the transitional justice process is to “reflect on what happened in order to put in place strong guarantees of non-repetition [measures to prevent past crimes and rights violations from recurring].”104

The IVD has been relatively well funded, with a budget of about $5 million for 2014–2015 and assistance from a variety of international organizations, including the UNDP, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the ICTJ, Swisspeace, and York University.105 It has served as a repository for numerous cases of alleged financial crimes (for example, corruption and socioeconomic marginalization, such as accusations that the Ben Ali government deliberately underdeveloped certain regions). Since its inception, it has received 2,700 requests for arbitration in financial cases, including 685 by the government, 16 by those responsible for financial violations, and the rest by individual victims.106 One of the most powerful IVD testimonies came from Imad Trabelsi, a nephew of the former first lady Leila Trabelsi. He testified about corruption, noting the role of customs officials, senior officials, and government ministers in enriching himself and his family. In prison on a 108-year sentence for corruption-related crimes, including embezzlement and fraud, he described paying bribes of as much as $12,000.107

“Tunisia has been dealing with corruption emotionally, instead of legally, which has made us lose a lot.”
Civil society activist

While the transitional justice process has not been without controversy,108 the consultative manner in which it was formed was crucial to making it “a reflection of a diversity of voices in Tunisia on how best to address past abuses,” according to Rim El Gantri, former head of ICTJ’s office in Tunisia.109 And while it has operated in what some describe as an “unfriendly political environment,” it remains the primary vehicle through which Tunisians can seek retribution for past economic crimes.110 The Tunisian public has a sense of ownership over the IVD and a general level of trust in its outcomes. Thus, attempts to circumvent the IVD process, such as with the Law on Administrative Reconciliation, have received significant pushback from the public.

War on Corruption

Chahed came to power in August 2016 with the goal of fighting corruption. In May 2017, he formally launched what he called a war on corruption. The effort aims to both root out the remaining forces from the old regime that continue to plague Tunisian society and to catch those who have taken advantage of the postrevolutionary chaos to enrich themselves. As he said, “Our slogan today is no immunity for corruption to anyone, no to hiding behind political cover. Corruption crimes will not pass.”111

The effort began with the arrest of fifteen high-profile Tunisians and the confiscation of their property and freezing of their bank accounts. Those arrested include the businessman Chafik Jarraya (whose name was synonymous with postrevolutionary corruption),112 former presidential candidate Yassine Chennoufi, general director of the Tourist Police Saber Laajili, and controversial television host Samer El Wafi. Authorities also froze the assets of former presidential candidate and founder of the Free Patriotic Union party Slim Riahi. Both Jarraya and Chennoufi were charged with endangering state security alongside financial crimes. Jarraya has also been charged with treason and having intelligence links to a neighboring country (which most suspect is Libya).113 The arrests were carried out under Tunisia’s emergency law.

Chahed’s campaign has also targeted the customs authority. After a surprise visit to the Port of Rades, which is known for smuggling, the government dismissed some employees and transferred others suspected of being involved. During a speech on the war on corruption, Chahed stated that the government had “confiscated about 700 million dinars [$286 million] in foreign currency and about one billion dinars [$407 million] of smuggled goods.”114

“Civil society has been weak and ineffective in countering corruption. There are great organizations, but they lack the commitment and persistence necessary to counter corruption.”
Civil society activist

During his visit to Washington in July 2017, Chahed noted repeatedly that his anticorruption efforts are “very popular” and have received tremendous public support.115 But not everyone has been pleased with the government’s efforts. Human Rights Watch pointed out that the anticorruption sweep was conducted in a highly undemocratic manner.116 Several of those arrested were held incommunicado and without access to a lawyer. Jarraya is being charged with threatening Tunisia’s national security through his dealings with Libya and will be tried in front of a military court instead of through the regular, civilian justice system.

This all begs the question: if anticorruption efforts are conducted in a top-down manner outside of the regular judicial process, will they succeed? It is also not clear what the government’s next steps are regarding corruption. In Chahed’s speech on July 21, 2017, in front of the parliament, he focused on the connection between smuggling and terrorism. He was clear that this campaign is not targeting specific people but rather the whole system/apparatus. He added that the government’s priorities include improving the country’s economic indicators and the return of investment and fighting unemployment. But despite these lofty goals, it is not clear what, specifically, he intends to do outside of the legislative measures already in train.

Civil Society Campaigns

Civil society has played a crucial role in informing the official anticorruption process. Several anticorruption laws were drafted in consultation with domestic civil society groups and international organizations such as the UNDP. Salwa El Gantri, head of the ICTJ in Tunisia, argued that victims’ associations were “the main actors that helped bring transitional justice into the discussion at that time in the democratic transition.”117 These groups also “engaged with the Truth Commission, especially during the stage of collecting files to work on. . . . For example, in March 2015, the Truth Commission announced that it only received 5 percent of all files expected to come from women, so civil society and victims’ associations worked very actively to raise this to 23 percent by the deadline of June 15, 2016.”118

Tabib, head of the INLUCC, noted that one of the first steps he took was “to forge a coalition with civil society, which was formalized with a signed document. The mission is to have more coordinated efforts, joint planning, and integration, which allows us to save time and money.”119 

“The judiciary is the weakest link in the fight against corruption because it is not independent—it is selective, slow, and lacking resources.”
Civil society activist

Civil society has also served as a watchdog of government efforts. As mentioned earlier, the Manish Msemah campaign succeeded in pushing back against the economic reconciliation bill for two years. Through protests, public statements, workshops, and interactions with parliamentarians, the campaign raised awareness of the law and pressured the parliament to amend it. While the law ultimately passed on September 13, 2017, the final version was far more palatable to the Tunisian public than earlier iterations. As one civil society activist explained, the campaign succeeded in large part because it had a clear vision and a succinct message.120 And while Manish Msemah remains a publically driven effort, the campaign has been so successful and popular that several political parties have joined as supporters.121

Separately, several Tunisian nongovernmental organizations have shed light on corruption. I Watch, the Tunisian branch of Transparency International, has carried out various initiatives to inform the public about corruption-related issues. I Watch conducts investigations of corruption, reports on government activities, and organizes conferences and roundtables with civil society and government actors. It has a particular interest in working with Tunisian youth and protecting the principles of the revolution. The two goals of I Watch are to ensure transparency of political events and electoral processes and to fight corruption. The organization believes that “corruption is one of the causes of the outbreak of the revolution.”122

Civil society has also successfully utilized social media and digital tools to raise awareness and hold the government more accountable. A local nongovernmental organization, Al Bawsala, runs an online monitoring platform, Marsad, that provides the public and international community easy access to information on a range of government activity. The Marsad Majles project monitored the National Constituent Assembly and continues to monitor the parliament, giving the public access to voting history, contact information, biographies of members of parliament, and text of the constitution. The Marsad Baladia project monitors municipal activity, and the Marsad Budget provides clear and simple information on Tunisia’s budget. Al Bawsala members also regularly live-tweet parliamentary sessions.

International Assistance

The international community has played an important role in pressuring the Tunisian government to undertake serious anticorruption measures and in assisting local civil society efforts to combat corruption. Overall, between 2011 and 2015, the European Union provided Tunisia with €1.3 billion (about $1.5 billion) in bilateral support.123 During the same period, the United States provided $281.4 million.124 Initially, during Ben Ali’s presidency, international financial institutions (IFIs) mistakenly held up Tunisia as a model of economic growth, failing to address rampant corruption under his dictatorship. Today, however, the IFIs are more candid in their assessment of Tunisia, acknowledging that fighting corruption is crucial to the long-term stability of Tunisia’s economic system. The IMF’s Extended Fund Facility Arrangement with Tunisia, approved in June 2017, listed the government’s commitment to fighting corruption as a key criterion in helping the country to promote inclusive growth and promote macroeconomic stability. Several World Bank studies have illuminated how corruption worked under the Ben Ali regime in order to prevent postrevolutionary governments from falling back into past patterns of behavior.125

The UNDP has also taken on corruption in Tunisia, assisting both the INLUCC and civil society with their efforts. Since 2011, the UNDP’s projects have included supporting a political dialogue to develop a national vision and consensus against corruption; conducting a series of studies on the institutional and legal framework for the fight against corruption, the role of civil society, and the instruments and mechanisms to combat corruption; establishing a coalition of civil society organizations; and holding regional conferences to push toward implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption.

The U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation, currently developing a compact with Tunisia, includes “control of corruption” as one of its eligibility criteria. To receive a compact, a country has to only meet ten of the twenty indicators that fall within one of three categories: economic freedom, ruling justly, and investing in people. But meeting the control of corruption indicator must be one of those ten. Tunisia has met all of the required criteria, but projects under the compact are unlikely to start for another two to three years, after specifics and the budget are determined.

Conclusion: Why Does Corruption Matter for Tunisia’s Transition?

In an April 2016 report, Carnegie authors noted, “Tunisia’s transition is stalling.”126 And, today, this is largely due to the pervasiveness of corruption. Jump-starting the transition will require economic growth, political stability, and public trust—all of which are negatively impacted by the failure to adequately address past and current corruption.

Corruption directly harms economic growth by fueling frustration and disillusionment as the promises of the revolution go unfulfilled. It takes money away from the state coffers and puts it into the hands of corrupt individuals; and it deters foreign investment, a tangible, symbolic ingredient for long-term stability. Corruption also disproportionately harms the poorest Tunisians, particularly those in the interior and south where the informal economy flourishes. And these are the very people whose sense of injustice and marginalization brought about the revolution in the first place.

Corruption also has security implications. The continuation of cross-border smuggling to and from Libya allows weapons and illicit goods to enter Tunisia. While the Tunisian security services have made tremendous strides in training and capacity, the country remains under threat of attack by extremist groups seeking to undermine the democratic transition. Simultaneously, Tunisia faces the return of potentially thousands of individuals who went to Iraq, Libya, or Syria to train with the Islamic State and are now trying to come home127—a problem that extends far beyond any corruption concerns. Porous borders and corrupt customs agents and border officials are all making Tunisia less safe.

“The war on corruption was a wake-up call for a lot of the openly corrupt people. It forced them to think twice about committing corrupt acts.”
Civil society activist

And corruption—whether real or perceived—leads to the erosion of trust between the government and the people. The first years of Tunisia’s transition were successful because of a genuine attempt to inform top-down decisions with bottom-up input. But while the Tunisian government and civil society have undertaken many measures to address past and current corruption, some have been ineffective. The major bodies designated to fight corruption—the IVD and the INLUCC—are both the product of a serious, inclusive public dialogue, but are politically and financially underresourced. The reconciliation law and war on corruption are awash with political will but were developed without public input and contain some antidemocratic provisions that could cause more harm than good.

To jump-start the transition and prevent instability, government and civil society must develop a shared understanding of the problem and how to address it. This does not mean holding a national dialogue on corruption, as some others have suggested. Rather, it means ensuring that a real and serious public input mechanism exists for all anticorruption measures. It means acknowledging that Tunisia’s two-front battle against corruption—reconciling with the past and preventing future corruption—must be pursued simultaneously. It means implementing the existing strategies and legislative mechanisms to combat corruption. It means shoring up financial, political, and public support for existing anticorruption bodies. And it means providing—with the international community’s help—a means of exit for individuals mired in corrupt industries and practices and shining a bright light on bureaucratic and administrative procedures to disinfect them and dissuade future corruption.

However, there are some serious challenges to the implementation of effective anticorruption efforts. First, the recent cabinet reshuffle brought some individuals with direct ties to the Ben Ali regime into government. Even before the cabinet changes, civil society actors argued that the government contained corrupt individuals, making it impossible to objectively address past corruption.128 This challenge is illustrated by the Law on Administrative Reconciliation, which provides amnesty for some civil servants who committed corrupt acts under the Ben Ali regime and overturns the sentences of those who have already been found guilty through the transitional justice process, paying back any sort of fines they have already paid. This law creates a culture of impunity and discredits the earlier anticorruption attempts, such as the IVD. It also feeds speculation that the official anticorruption bodies (the IVD and the INLUCC) are a smokescreen—there to make it seem like the government is addressing corruption, when in fact it is trying to whitewash it.

Another challenge is the idea that Tunisia needs to move forward in order to best attract foreign investment. There is an assumption that foreign investors are prioritizing stability over transparency. Thus, some officials—including Caid Essebsi, who has been highly critical of the transitional justice process—believe that Tunisia must close the book on the past using any means necessary. This line of thinking contradicts civil society and much of the Tunisian public, who believe that without adequately addressing the past, Tunisia’s stability is threatened.


Despite these constraints, the Tunisian government can take several actions to address corruption that do not require tremendous effort or resources, such as implementing and enforcing existing laws and depersonalizing anticorruption processes. Other tasks—such as digitizing government processes, streamlining the bureaucracy, and creating sustainable exit strategies from the informal economy—are long-term endeavors that will require significant financial resources and a large assist from the international community. All of these recommendations require real political will—something that the Tunisian public feels is lacking, particularly after the cabinet reshuffle. Nevertheless, Chahed has expressed his commitment to fighting corruption. And Caid Essebsi should have the tools he needs to push through the initiatives he chooses. With a clear and comprehensive legal framework in place, the Tunisian government has an opportunity to show the public that it is seriously dedicated to fighting corruption—by dealing with the past, as well as addressing the present in a way that will benefit all Tunisians and help revitalize the democratic transition.

“How can we ask the state institutions to fight corruption while they, themselves, are corrupt?”
Civil society activist

One of the most effective ways to prevent both short- and long-term corruption is for the government to engage with civil society. Civil society has proven that it is dedicated to this fight. With proper funding from the international community, civil society can push the government to enforce and implement the existing legal framework and work with the private sector to develop tools to digitize government processes and create more transparency.

Specifically, the Tunisian government should:

  • Implement and enforce existing laws. The legal framework currently in place is adequate to fight the proliferation of corruption since the revolution. However, many of the laws have not been implemented or enforced.
    • Enforce the asset declaration law. The public declaration of assets is constitutionally mandated, yet, like many other issues, it is not enforced. While public officials and parliamentarians are required to declare their assets when they take office, only twenty-six out of 217 members of parliament and no ministers have made their assets public.129 Theoretically, Tunisians could request to see an official’s form and publicize it through the new freedom of information law, but it is not clear if the resources exist to make that happen. The Tunisian government should require public officials to annually publicize their asset declaration forms in an online database.
    • Expedite reforms to ensure a fully independent judiciary. To help enforce existing laws, the Tunisian government should prioritize the establishment of the constitutional court and ensure the independence of the Financial Judiciary Pole.
    • Depersonalize the fight against corruption. The government should focus its anticorruption efforts on processes, not individuals, to ensure that anticorruption measures are long lasting and sustainable. While the initial arrests under the war on corruption were important to send a signal to other bad actors that corruption will not be tolerated in Tunisia, a sustainable anticorruption strategy must dismantle the structures that enabled corruption under the prior regime.
  • Digitize government processes. With the help of the private sector and international community, the government should provide digital access to public services at the local and national levels. This will help streamline the bureaucracy and remove opportunities for bribery at all levels of government.
    • Reinvigorate the Tunisia Digital 2020 initiative. The previous minister of communication technologies and the digital economy, Noomane Fehri, began a nationwide initiative to digitize Tunisia’s public and private sectors, provide internet access for every home, and create 50,000 information, communication, and technology jobs. The Chahed government should revive and revise this initiative to focus on combatting corruption and connecting all of Tunisia (especially the south and the interior) to digital services. In particular, the initiative should include a way to track fraud.
    • Use the proposed national identification system to help capture the informal sector. Bringing all Tunisians into the national system can both help the government recoup lost tax revenue and help marginalized Tunisians receive social services. As one Tunisian politician noted, people do not pay taxes because they do not understand what they are getting for their money.130 Combining a national identification system with the digitization of government services can create a more transparent process and show Tunisians the benefits of paying taxes.
  • Invest heavily in combatting corruption in the border regions. With significant help from the international community, the Tunisian government should move past simply funneling 70 percent of the budget to the interior to providing short- and long-term exit options for those engaged in smuggling and the informal economy. This involves creating and implementing measures to improve education, create job opportunities outside of the public sector, and incentivize entry into the formal economy.

The international community also has an important role to play in funding Tunisia’s anticorruption bodies and strengthening civil society. While Tunisia continues to receive significant assistance, particularly from the European Union, most of it is focused either on security or political processes. These are both important, and should not be neglected, but without a proper strategy and the proper tools to fight corruption, Tunisia’s security situation, economic performance, and political system will suffer. Thus, an international assistance program that integrates anticorruption mechanisms into economic, political, and security assistance programs will be the most effective at keeping Tunisia’s transition on track.

Specifically, the international community should:

  • Prioritize funding of Tunisia’s anticorruption bodies. The international community should provide financial and diplomatic support for Tunisia’s anticorruption bodies, particularly the INLUCC and its successor and the Financial Judiciary Pole. The lack of human and financial resources is a serious impediment to investigating and prosecuting a large volume of corruption-related cases. By supporting these bodies, international actors will send a loud signal to the Tunisian government that this is an issue they are taking seriously—and the government should too.
  • Continue to strengthen civil society and ensure Tunisia maintains a free media. According to the February 2017 report by NDI, while people have generally lost faith in the government to combat corruption, they still trust civil society.131 Some people have suggested that civil society can be more active in raising awareness of corruption and educating Tunisians on how to both prevent and fight corruption.132 The international community should support the expansion of watchdog organizations at the local level to combat corruption as the decentralization process begins. It can also assist civil society in educating the public on existing laws and how to access the judicial system to report corruption and protect whistleblowers. Tunisia’s media has been providing crucial information to the public about corruption. Both international actors and the media must continue to call out the government when it passes measures that undo progress in fighting corruption and put Tunisia’s transition at risk.


The authors would like to thank the following individuals for their valuable contributions to this report: Kareem Asfari, Sam Brase, Sarah Chayes, Michele Dunne, Amine Ghali, Houda Mzioudet, Lori Merritt, John Polcari, Blair Scott, and Maha Yahya. They would also like to thank the participants of Carnegie’s September 2017 workshop in Tunis, those individuals whom the authors interviewed in May and September 2017, and the 391 Tunisians who responded to Carnegie’s survey. Finally, they are deeply grateful to the Open Society Foundations for its generous support of this report and the larger Tunisia Monitor project.


1 See, for example, “Blocked Transition: Corruption and Regionalism in Tunisia,” International Crisis Group, May 10, 2017,; Max Gallien and Mohamed Dhia Hammami, “Corruption and Reform in Tunisia: The Dangers of an Elitist Analysis,” Jadaliyaa, May 30, 2017,; Fatim-Zohra El Malki, “The War on Corruption Held Back,” Sada (blog), Carnegie Endowment of International Peace, July 26, 2017,; Youssef Cherif, “Tunisia’s Risky War on Corruption,” Sada (blog), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 18, 2017,

2 Marwan Muasher, Marc Pierini, and Fadil Aliriza, “Capitalizing on Tunisia’s Transition: The Role of Broad-Based Reform,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, November 15, 2016,

3 Corruption Action Plan Working Group, “Helping Countries Combat Corruption: The Role of the World Bank,” Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network, World Bank, September 1997,

4 “La Petite Corruption: Le Danger Banalisé. Etude exploratoire sur la perception de la petite corruption en Tunisie” [Petty corruption: The danger. Exploratory study on the perception of petty corruption in Tunisia], Tunisian Association of Public Controllers (ATCP),July 2017,

5 “La Petite Corruption,” ATCP (emphasis added).

6 For more on the role of corruption under Ben Ali, see Bob Rijkers, Caroline Freund, and Antonio Nucifora, “All in the Family: State Capture in Tunisia,” World Bank, March 2014; and Sarah Chayes, “Variation 2: The Bureaucratic Kleptocracy: Tunisia, ca. 2010,” in Thieves of State (New York: W.W. Norton, 2015), 91–100.

7 “‘The Family’ Tunisians Hate Most,” Al Jazeera, January 18, 2011,

8 Rijkers, Freund, and Nucifora, “All in the Family.”

9 Tunis Afrique Presse, “Tunisia: Belhassen Trabelsi Has Diverted Millions of Dinars Through Offshore and Shell Companies,” All Africa, October 25, 2015,

10 “Corruption Perceptions Index 2016,” Transparency International, January 25, 2017,

11 Author’s discussion with a Tunisian civil society actor, Tunis, September 2017.

12 “Tunisia’s Fight Against Corruption: An Interview With Chawki Tabib,” interview by Intissar Fakir, Sada (blog), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 11, 2017,

13 Sarah Chayes, “Corruption is Still Tunisia’s Challenge,” Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2012.

14 Chayes, Thieves of State.

15 Quoted in ibid., 92.

16 “Public Opinion Survey of Tunisians: August 11-August 17, 2017,” Center for Insights in Survey Research, International Republic Institute (IRI), August 2017.

17 Ibid.

18 Author’s interview with civil society actor, Tunis, May 2017.

19 Roundtable discussion with civil society actors, Tunis, September 2017.

20 Ibid.

21 Chayes, Thieves of State.

22 Author’s interview with Tunisian security analyst, Tunis, May 2017.

23 Giorleny D. Altamirano, “The Impact of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption,” University of Miami Inter-American Law Review 38, no. 3 (Spring 2007): 487–547.

24 For a review of the literature, see ibid.

25 Antonio Nucifora and Bob Rijkers, “The Unfinished Revolution: Bringing Opportunity, Good Jobs and Greater Wealth to All Tunisians,” Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Department, World Bank, May 24, 2014.

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid.

28 Hamza Meddeb, “Peripheral Vision: How Europe Can Help Preserve Tunisia’s Fragile Democracy,” European Council on Foreign Relations, January 13, 2017,

29 Ibid.

30 On September 18, 2017, the local elections were postponed from December 17, 2017, until early 2018. While Anwar Ben Hassan, the interim head of the Independent High Electoral Commission (ISIE), proposed a date of March 25, 2018, no official date had been agreed upon as of this writing.

31 The elections have been postponed several times both because of logistical issues in carrying out the first-ever democratic vote at the local level and because of disagreements over the decentralization law.

32 Meddeb, “Peripheral Vision.”

33 Rick Nadeau and Assil Kedissi, “Seeking ‘Tangible Change’: Tunisians Express Views on the Transition and Expectation for Elected Representatives,” National Democratic Institute, March 2017.

34 See, for example, “Tunisia 2013,” Enterprise Surveys, World Bank Group,; and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report ranks corruption as the number three impediment to doing business in Tunisia: Klaus Schwab, The Global Competitiveness Report 2016–2017 (Geneva: World Economic Forum, 2016),

35 Alvaro Cuervo-Cazurra, “Who Cares About Corruption?,” Journal of International Business Studies 37, no. 6 (2006): 807–22.

36 “Helping Countries Combat Corruption: The Role of the World Bank,” Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, World Bank, September 1997,

37 Ibid.

38 “Tunisia’s Fight Against Corruption,” Sada (blog), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

39 Gallien and Hammami, “Corruption and Reform in Tunisia.”

40 Pamela Abbott and Andrea Teti, “Building Decent Societies: Economics and Political Cohesion in Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia,” European Policy Brief, European Commission, August 2016.

41 “Public Opinion Survey of Tunisians,” IRI.

42 Ibid.

43 Michael Robbins and Amaney Jamal, “The State of Social Justice in the Arab World: The Arab Uprisings of 2011 and Beyond,” Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 8, no. 1 (2016): 127–57.

44 Sarah Yerkes, “Where Have All the Revolutionaries Gone?,” Brookings Institution, March 2017,

45 For more on the relationship between Tunisian youth and their government, see ibid.

46 “La Petite Corruption,” ATCP.

47 Robert I. Rotberg, ed., Corruption, Global Security, and World Order (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2009).

48 Author’s interview with Tunisian analyst, Tunis, May 2017.

49 Carlotta Gall, “Corruption Crackdown Intensifies in Tunisia, and the People Cheer,” New York Times,June 25, 2017,

50 Christine Petre, “Anti-Corruption: Tunisia Tops Transparency in Military Spending but Still ‘High Risk’ of Corruption in Defense,” Arab Voices and Views: Middle East and North Africa (blog), World Bank, December 9, 2015,

51 Ibid.

52 “Public Opinion Survey of Tunisia,” IRI.

53 Ibid.

54 Rotberg, ed., Corruption, Global Security, and World Order.

55 Ibid., 167.

56 Nadeau and Kedissi, “Seeking ‘Tangible Change.’”

57 Omer Karasapan, “Toward a New Social Contract in Tunisia,” Future Development (blog), October 27, 2015,

58 Nadeau and Kedissi, “Seeking ‘Tangible Change.’”

59 “La Petite Corruption,” ATCP.

60 Author’s interview with Tunisian civil society actor, Tunis, May 2017.

61 Youssef Chahed, “Nous irons jusqu’au bout de la lutte anticorruption, sans exception”  [We will go till the end in the fight against corruption, with no exception], La Presse, June 4, 2017,

62Assembly of the Representatives of the People (@ARPtn), “[Chief of government: corruption threatens emerging democracies]” (in Arabic), Twitter, July 20, 2017, 3:03 p.m.

63 El Malki, “The War on Corruption Held Back.”

64 Mourad Zeghrebi, “L’interview de Béji Caïd Essebi” [Interview with Beji Caid Essebsi], Television Nationale 1, March 20, 2017,

65 “Cooperation and Economic Dialogue: Interview With Rafik Abdessalem,” interview by Mariam Ali, Nawa (blog), openDemocracy, December 11, 2015,

66 “Beji Caïd Essebi appelle les Tunisiens à faire preuve de solidarité avec l’Etat dans sa bataille déclarée sur plusiers fronts” [Beji Caid Essebsi calls on Tunisians to show solidarity with the state in its declared battle on several fronts, in particular that against terrorism and corruption], Radio Tunis Chaîne Internationale, May 27, 2017,

67 “Public Opinion Survey of Tunisians,” IRI.

68 Transparency International Secretariat, “Tunisia: New Law Granting the Corrupt Amnesty Must Be Rescinded,” Transparency International, September 14, 2017,

69 “Tunisian MP Resigns Over Adoption of Reconciliation Bill,” BBC Monitoring,September 14, 2017.

70 Robert I. Rotberg, The Corruption Cure: How Citizens and Leaders Can Combat Graft (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017) 291.

71 Civil society roundtable discussion, Tunis, September 2017.

72 Civil society roundtable discussion, Tunis, September 2017.

73 Author’s interview with a Tunisian civil society actor, Washington, DC, July 2017.

74 Yassine Bellamine, “Port de Radès: 21 douaniers de rangs divers écartés, 35 autres devant le conseil de discipline” [Port of Radès: 21 customs officers of various ranks dismissed, 35 others go before the disciplinary council], HuffPost Tunisie, June 14, 2017,

75 Author’s interview with Tunisian civil society activist, Washington, DC, July 2017.

76 Youssef Cherif, “The Kamour Movement and Civic Protests in Tunisia,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,August 8, 2017,

77 “Tunisia: Secret Detentions Mar Anti-Corruption Effort,” Human Rights Watch, June 9, 2017,

78 Civil society roundtable discussion, Tunis, September 2017.

79  Decree 1089 prohibited people “who held responsibilities in the previous governments of Ben Ali and those who had responsibilities within the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD)” from standing for the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) elections. It also prevented individuals “who signed petitions for Ben Ali to run for president in 2014” from running for the NCA. “Elections in Tunisia: The 23 October Constituent Assembly,” International Foundation for Electoral Systems, October 19, 2011,

80 Jo Adetunji, “Ben Ali Sentenced to 35 Years in Jail,” Guardian, June 20, 2011.

81 Mathieu Olivier, “Tunisie : 81 magistrats révoqués pour des soupçons de “corruption” sous le régime Ben Ali” [Tunisia: 81 magistrates dismissed for suspicion of “corruption” under Ben Ali regime], Jeune Afrique,May 28, 2018,

82 “Tunisia: Transitional Justice and the Fight Against Corruption,” International Crisis Group, May 3, 2016,  

83 “Lost Billions: Recovering Public Money in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen,” Transparency International, May 17, 2016,; see also: Rijkers, Freund, and Nucifora, “All in the Family.”

84 Amna Guellali, “The Law That Could Be the Final Blow to Tunisia’s Transition,” Middle East Eye, May 23, 2017,

85 “Tunisia: Transitional Justice and the Fight Against Corruption,” International Crisis Group.

86 Amy Hawthorne, “Notes From Tunis: A Recent Trip Report,” Project on Middle East Democracy,May 10, 2017.

87 For more on the effectiveness of the Manish Msemah campaign see, Yerkes, “Where Have All the Revolutionaries Gone?”

88 Author’s interview with a Tunisian civil society activist, Washington, DC, July 2017.

89   “Movement Tounes Al Irada Calls for the Scrapping/Defeating of the Draft Law on Administrative Reconciliation” (in Arabic), Assabah,July 25, 2017,

90 Civil society roundtable, Tunis, September 2017.

91 “ICTJ Comments on Draft Organic Bill Number 49/2015 Pertaining to Reconciliation in the Administrative Field,” International Center for Transitional Justice, September 14, 2017,

92 “Tunisia - The Bar Association Rejects the Reconciliation Act,” Arab 24, September 26, 2017,

93 “Maghzaoui: Prochainement un recours contre la loi de reconciliation” [Maghzaoui: Coming soon against the reconciliation law], Mosaique FM, September 13, 2017:

94 The portal is available at: “Portail Mizaniatouna du Ministere des Finances de la Tunisie,”

95 “Tunisia,” Freedom in the World, Freedom House, 2015,

96 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace survey of 391 Tunisians in July and August 2017.

97 Ibid.

98 Frida Dahmani, “Tunisie: corruption et népotisme à tous les étages” [Tunisia: corruption and nepotism on all floors], Jeune Afrique, April 5, 2016,

99 Ibid.

100 Civil society roundtable, Tunis, September 2017.

101 Roslyn Warren et al., “Inclusive Justice: How Women Shape Transitional Justice in Tunisia and Colombia,” Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, June 2017.

102 Nourredine Hlaoui, “La Commission Abdelfattah Amor répond à l’Instance Ben Achour et à Ezzeddine Mhedhbi” [The Abdelfattah Amor Commission responds to Instance Ben Achour and Ezzeddine Mhedhbi],,August 27, 2011,,519,26345,1

103 “Tunisia: Transitional Justice and the Fight Against Corruption,” International Crisis Group. 

104 “Talking Policy: Salwa El Gantri on Transitional Justice in Tunisia,” World Policy (blog), World Policy Institute, July 21, 2017.

105 “Annual Report 2015,” Tunisian Republic Truth and Dignity Commission, 2016,

106 Guellali, “The Law That Could Be the Final Blow to Tunisia’s Transition.”

107 “An Unprecedented Testimony About Corruption Under Ben Ali” (in Arabic), Maghrebia Voices, May 20, 2017.

108 The head of the IVD, Sihem Bensedrine, has been a highly controversial figure and was accused of corruption herself by sixty-two members of parliament in summer 2015. Ennahda has avoided aligning with the IVD, and Nidaa Tounes has been critical of its work; see “Tunisia: Transitional Justice and the Fight Against Corruption,” International Crisis Group.

109 “ICTJ Welcomes Tunisia’s Historical Transnational Justice Law,” International Center for Transitional Justice,December 16, 2013,’s-historic-transitional-justice-law.

110 “Tunisia: Transitional Justice and the Fight Against Corruption,” International Crisis Group.

111 Tarek Amara, “Tunisian Premier Seeks to Restore Trust With Anti-Corruption Push,” U.S. News & World Report, July 20, 2017,

112 In repeated interviews in the days prior to Jarraya’s arrest, Tunisians cited him as a symbol of the government’s inability to control corruption; author’s interviews, Tunis, May 2017.

113 Gall, “Corruption Crackdown Intensifies.”

114 Amara, “Tunisian Premier Seeks to Restore Trust.”

115 Youssef Chahed, “Keeping Tunisia Relevant,” interview by Sarah Yerkes, Diwan (blog),Carnegie Middle East Center, July 17, 2017,

116 “Tunisia: Secret Detentions Mar Anti-Corruption Effort,” Human Rights Watch, June 9, 2017,

117 “Talking Policy,” World Policy Institute.

118 Ibid.

119 “Tunisia’s Fight Against Corruption,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

120 Author’s interview with Tunisian civil society activist, Tunis, May 2017.

121 Author’s interview with Tunisian civil society activist, Tunis, May 2017.

122 I Watch official website: “About,” I Watch,

123 “Special Report: EU Assistance to Tunisia,” European Court of Auditors, 2017, This figure includes European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument programs, the European Neighborhood Instrument thematic instruments and programs humanitarian aid, the Neighborhood Investment Facility, and one MFA agreement signed in 2014.

124 Stephen McInerney and Cole Bockenfeld, “The Foreign Affairs Budget: Democracy, Governance, and Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa,” Project on Middle East Democracy, July 2017,

125 See, for example, Rijkers, Freund, and Nucifora, “All in the Family.”

126 Marwan Muasher, Marc Pierini, and Alexander Djerassi, “Between Peril and Promise: A New Framework for Partnership With Tunisia,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 14, 2016,

127 Carlotta Gall, “Tunisia Fears the Return of Thousands of Young Jihadists,” New York Times, February 25, 2017,

128 Roundtable discussion with civil society actors, Tunis, September 2017.

129 Roundtable discussion with civil society actors, Tunis, September 2017.

130 Interview with Tunisian politician, September 2017.

131 Nadeau and Kedissi, “Seeking ‘Tangible Change.’”

132 Ibid.