Last week, while my computer was in the shop, I received a couple of interesting emails from Melanie Jones of watchdog.net. Here is the one she sent expressing her enthusiasm for Tunisia’s new constitution.
Dear David Hoffman,
Here’s just some of what these brave elected representatives agreed upon in the face of strong pressure from the more extreme factions of their parties:
- Guaranteed equality between men and women
- A constitutional mandate for environmental protection, only the third country in the world to do so
- A declaration that health care is a human right, with preventative care and treatment for every citizen
- A democracywith civil laws that respects freedom of religion
- An established right to due process and protection from torture
This is a revolution of democracy and a great victory for human rights — and the more we recognize that, the more Tunisia can shine as an example for the Western and the Arab world!
MESSAGE FOR TUNISIAN LEGISLATORS: We , the citizens of the world, applaud your bravery in making a strong commitment to universal human values in your constitution. People deprived of democracy around the world look to you to set the example of human rights and democratic principle — hold true to the promises made in this revolutionary document!
— The folks at Watchdog.net
P.S. If the other links aren’t working for you, please go here to sign: http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4238?n=55842607.pQX7mf
Melanie Jones is more easily impressed than I am. A constitution is only a piece of paper. You can write in any rights or protections you might want, but if the governing class of a country is not willing to abide by the rules in the constitution, that constitution is worthless. The Soviet constitution promised freedom of expression, religion, assembly and others, but no one in the Soviet Union enjoyed such freedoms. The leaders of the Communist Party had no intention of ever allowing themselves to be restrained by the sentiments expressed by their own constitution. It is likely the same might be the case in Tunisia.
I know that Tunisia is one of the more “liberal” countries of the Middle East, but I have to wonder how well a constitutional guarantee of equality between men and women is going to work in a country that is 98% Muslim. Tunisia’s former government was aggressively secular and their law code is more influenced by the French Napoleonic Code than Islamic Sharia law. Unfortunately, enforced secularism by dictators in the Arab world often causes more radical Islamic movements to form, and since they are often the ones who most opposed the oppressive government, they are often the faction of the opposition with the most credibility with the people. This has happened in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood, and it is possible something similar will happen in Tunisia, although so far the Islamists have not gained much influence and the leaders of the new government have rejected any proposal to make Sharia the basis for legislation.
It remains to be seen whether Tunisia will be able to fulfill the promises made regarding environmental protection and health care for its citizens. Such thing are usually luxuries enjoyed by wealthy countries and Tunisia is not a wealthy country, although the Tunisian economy has been growing at a steady rate. We will have to wait and see.
- Tunisia assembly prepares last vote on new charter (kansas.com)
- Good News from Tunisia (steakandabible.com)
- Tunisia: Tunisia a ‘Model’ With New Constitution – Ban (allafrica.com)
- New Constitution Tunisia omits Sharia Law, may protect religious minorities (theglobaldispatch.com)
- Tunisia – Egypt: who won? (newmeast.wordpress.com)