Soumaya Ghannoushi, daughter of Tunisian politician Rached Ghannoushi, came out with a scathing op-ed in The Guardian in late May, calling out Tunisian President Kais Saied’s blatant abuses of power and the dismal forecast for democracy in Tunisia.
The op-ed follows the arrest and month-long detainment of Rached, who was taken from his family home in April 17 and charged with conspiring against state security. He is only one of dozens of Saied’s political opponents arrested under the same chargers, in what many are calling a “politically motivated witch hunt.”
Soumaya said that her father made comments about the necessity of political diversity, and that a Tunisia without political Islam and Ennahda is a “civil war project.” These comments ultimately led to his arrest.
Over the course of his presidential term, Saied has gradually accumulated more and more power, from barricading parliament and re-writing the constitution, to dissolving the independent Supreme Judicial Council and appointing his own choices. Soumaya mourns the loss of democratic progress since his election and the absence of hope for Tunisia’s future.
Soumaya also noted Saied’s unified stance with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, displaying “Tunisia’s return to the grand old club of Arab dictatorships.”
As Saied’s presidency grows into a dictatorship on the shores of the Mediterranean, European powers look the other way. They fail to call the series of events what it is: a coup. But “what is the way out of this Arab abyss?” Soumaya asks.
Amid Tunisia’s economic crisis, Saied’s power grab threatens their chances for an IMF bailout. Faced with both economic insecurity and democratic backsliding, Tunisia’s future is grim. Soumaya wrote passionately that Saied and other Tunisian politicians are telling citizens that “democracy is not for them, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a naive idealist.”