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Friends of Tunisia Newsletter
Friends of Tunisia Newsletter
Friends of Tunisia
(An Affiliate of the National Peace Corps Association)
P.O. Box 25245
Washington, DC 20007
Tel. (202) 526-0897
May 2002 Newsletter
FOT PICNIC AT NPCA CELEBRATION IN WASHINGTON
Friends of Tunisia will (unofficially) join the National Peace Corps Association's picnic being held at noon, Sunday, June 23 on the national mall in Washington. This picnic will be the final event at the NPCA's conference/celebration of the Peace Corps' 40th anniversary. That morning there will be a march across the Memorial Bridge to John Kennedy's grave and a return to the Lincoln Memorial for a closing ceremony. Anyone, not just those attending the conference, may participate in these open-air events as well as the picnic, which will begin immediately after the closing ceremony.
The picnic will be held at the "baseball fields" immediately north of the Lincoln Memorial. FOT will try to locate as close as possible to Field 10, which is at the corner of Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street. Please bring your own food and drink because, since this is a big NPCA event, FOT will not be supplying anything. At present, about 1,300 RPCVs are registered for the conference, but only about a dozen who served in Tunisia. FOT members in the DC area are invited to drop by the picnic to say hello.
For the first time in FOT's almost ten-year history, this newsletter is being distributed to most members via e-mail. Furthermore, those who have signed up for e-mail delivery have already received several news flashes plus notices about events related to Tunisia. (If that sounds like encouragement to get on the e-mail list, that's exactly what it is. Sending out info via the US mails is time-consuming, tedious, expensive, and, therefore, infrequent. Those who aren't on the e-mail list will, regrettably, miss a lot.)
If you want to get on FOT's e-mail list, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you send the message from the e-mail address you wish FOT to use. Make your name the subject of the message. Include your street address and telephone number in the body of the text.
Because it is so easy to send information via e-mail, FOT is very willing to forward any e-mail communication it receives to the membership. Simply send the info via e-mail to email@example.com and FOT will happily forward it to members. However, we will not forward any and all messages. The first new policy is: FOT will forward only information that relates to Tunisia, the Peace Corps, or the activities of our members. Thus, if you live in Los Angeles and hear of, say, a Tunisian film that is about to be shown locally, notify FOT and we will forward that information to all FOT members in California. (We have five distribution lists: (1) California, (2) the rest of the west, (3) the DC metro area, (4) the rest of the east, (5) abroad. The Mississippi River divides the east from the west.)
Because of this policy, we will NOT forward articles about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict unless there is a specific Tunisian connection. (See following article about Ambassador Mejdoub.)
The second policy: Because there is such a dearth of information about Tunisia in the general media, FOT will distribute as much info as it can about anything related to the country. This means you may receive items that don't interest you or possibly even upset you. If so, please just disregard those items because it is impossible to tailor information to suit everyone. However, if you find something objectionable, please let FOT know. We're always open to criticism and suggestions (except those that create a lot of extra work).
TUNISIAN AMBASSADOR RECALLS EISENHOWER'S DEMAND IN MIDDLE EAST.
When Israel made it clear in April that it would pursue its military incursion into the West Bank despite US calls for withdrawal, Tunisian ambassador to the UN Noureddine Mejdoub called on President Bush to emulate President Eisenhower. In 1956, France, Britain, and Israel invaded Egypt when President Nasser took control of the Suez Canal. Eisenhower, the former general, was not a president who could be ignored. When he told all three countries to withdraw, they did so. UN troops took over and supervised the evacuation, which was completed within five weeks of the outbreak of hostilities.
EXPLOSION IN DJERBA CAUSES HIGH LEVEL DISMISSALS.
The Tunisian government initially characterized the April explosion at the synagogue in Djerba as a tragic accident. The driver of the truck carrying propane tanks, it was claimed, simply hit a fence, the tanks exploded, and 19 people were killed, 14 of them German tourists. Subsequent investigation, however, revealed that 25-year-old Nizar Nawar speeded up when ordered to stop by a policeman. Then the Islamic Army for the Liberation of Holy Sites, a group with connections to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack, making it the first al-Qaeda operation outside central Asia since the September 11 attack on the United States. President Ben Ali later sacked his minister of interior and at least one other high ranking police official. No reason for the dismissals was given, but the assumption has been that the Djerba incident was the cause.
FIRST FATALITY AMONG HUNGER STRIKERS
In April, 2000, Tunisian journalist Taoufik Ben Brik used a hunger strike to persuade the Tunisian government to return his passport. Since then, a number of imprisoned Tunisians have attempted hunger strikes for various purposes. As reported in an earlier FOT newsletter, the government has not been sympathetic or responsive to these strikes. In some cases, according to government critics, there have even been forced feedings, although the usual response seems to be indifference.
That policy has now resulted in a fatality, but the circumstances are somewhat bizarre. On March 23, after a hunger strike of two, possibly three, months, 34-year-old Abdelwahab Bousaa died. Bousaa had been a student at the theology faculty in Tunis who was sentenced in 1991 to 16 years in prison for belonging to An-Nahda, the outlawed fundamentalist political party. Yet the event that precipitated the hunger strike was the transfer of Bousaa from a cell block used for political prisoners to a cell block known for homosexuals. Bousaa was on strike to be returned to his former cell block. At the last minute, authorities transferred him to a hospital but it was too late. Mean-while, at least a dozen others in various prisons around the country are continuing various kinds of hunger strikes. The one whose health seems most endangered is 40-year-old Abdelwahab Mabrouk, a prisoner in Sfax, sentenced to 21 years for belonging to An-Nahda.
SHOULD THE PEACE CORPS BE AWARDED THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE?
Ten members of congress, including four who served in the Peace Corps, have nominated the Peace Corps and the National Peace Corps Association for the Nobel Peace Prize. Usually, there are about 120 nominations each year. The announcement is made in October, the award in December. To read the nomination letter, go to http://wwww.rpcv.org/pages/sitepage.cfm?id=503
****TUNISIAN NEWS******NEWS FROM TUNISIA******TUNISIAN NEWS****
- Tunisia is predicted to come in last in the soccer World Cup games to be held in Japan and Korea this summer. Although the team won Africa Group 4 qualification play last year, it now seems in total chaos. In the recent past, the team has lost an Italian coach, a famous French coach, and the German coach who guided the team through the African qualification games. In the previous World Cup competition ('98), the US had the dubious distinction of coming in last. This year it seems that Tunisia, which has lost several of its best players to injury, will replace the US at the bottom. Under a Tunisian coach with little international experience, the team has failed to score even once in seven exhibition matches.
- Although tourism is down in Tunisia, a new tourism complex with 10,000 bed capacity will open in the Hergla area near Sousse "very soon." It will include a "leisure port," several luxury hotels, golf courses, and parks. Next year a similar 17,000 bed complex will open near Hammamet.
- Three Tunisians with links to al-Qaeda were found guilty by a judge in Milan, Italy, of conspiring to possess explosives. They were sentenced to four and five years in prison, followed by expulsion from Italy.
- In mid-April the president of China, Jiang Zemin, visited Tunisia and signed agreements about economic and technical co-operation, non-double taxation, maritime and air transportation, and cultural exchanges. Earlier, in February, American CIA director, George Tenet, visited Tunisia and held discussions with President Ben Ali and some of his cabinet.
- Despite vigorous protests from Tunisian human rights groups in France, President Ben Ali was awarded the first "Mediterranean Award" established this year by the Italian, Spanish, and Catalan human rights leagues and the Rome-based Institute of Parliament-ary Studies. The prize recognized Ben Ali for the "outstanding process he has initiated towards social and economic modern-ization" and "anchoring the rule of law."
- On April 3, the Chamber of Deputies adopted a major constitutional reform bill. The limit on the number of terms a president may serve was removed, but no one over the age of 75 may run for president. Presidential terms will be five years.
- Hail in Tunisia? Yup. Combined with heavy rains, it did a fair amount of damage in the Kasserine region. Tree saplings, in particular, were badly damaged. The government is responding with assistance to small farmers who were affected.
- A number of urban and inter-urban projects are part of Tunisia's Tenth Plan. New autoroutes will link Tunis-Bizerte, M'saken-Sfax, and Tunis-Medjez el Bab. About 1200 km of existing roads are to be improved. Public housing will include 2,224 units.
MEMBERSHIP: For FOT-only, send a $15 check to FOT (address on page 1).
For NPCA & FOT, send $40 to NPCA, Suite 205, 1900 L St. NW., Washington, DC 20036. Specify FOT affiliation.