Durbin, Murphy, Welch, Coons Introduce Resolution Recognizing Tunisia’s Leadership In The Arab Spring & Calling Out Recent Democratic Backsliding

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Chris Coons (D-DE) today introduced a resolution recognizing Tunisia’s leadership in the Arab Spring and expressing support for upholding its democratic principles and norms.  Under the country’s current President Kais Saied, Tunisia has seen a recent backslide of the democratic gains made in the years following the Arab Spring.  This includes a notable increase in arrests of political opponents and critics of his Administration.  

Specifically, the Senators’ resolution:

1)      Recognizes Tunisia as the symbolic birthplace of the historic Arab Spring movement and the country’s notable democratic reforms that emerged during the Arab Spring period;

2)      Commends the Tunisian people for their courage and democratic achievements made in the immediate years following the Arab Spring;

3)      Expresses deep concern for more recent reversals of such democratic gains, including the erosion of judicial independence; political repression and arrests; and the undemocratic consolidation of power; and, 

4)      Urges the Government of Tunisia to release all political prisoners; to respect the rights of the people to free exercise of peaceful assembly, expression, and the press; and calls on the Government of Tunisia to support a transparent and open 2024 presidential election process. 

“Tunisia emerged from the Arab Spring as one of the most hopeful and promising reformed democracies in the region.  But since the summer of 2021, President Saied has capitalized on unrest and economic challenges to unilaterally seize power—undermining and threatening Tunisia’s democratic institutions,” Durbin said.  “Our resolution shows that the U.S. Senate stands firmly behind the Tunisian people and their democratic aspirations.”

“Over the past two years, President Saied has taken every opportunity to consolidate his power and undo a decade of progress in Tunisia.  A once-promising democracy has now all but collapsed into an autocracy.  Other countries notice when we don’t walk the walk on human rights and democracy, and this resolution makes clear that the leadership in Tunisianeeds to course correct and commit to restoring democracy,” said Murphy. 

“Building a democracy is a long, arduous, and fragile undertaking. Tunisia, once the inspiration for the Arab Spring and a source of hope for millions around the world striving for democracy, is at risk of backsliding. The country’s democratic aspirations must be nurtured with robust civil dialogue and a genuine national political process,” said Welch.  “With this resolution, we affirm our support for the Tunisian people as they work to restore their democratic institutions and reiterate our commitment protecting democracy around the world.” 

“The strength and bravery of the Tunisian people paved the way for democratic reforms during the Arab Spring.  Unfortunately, President Saied’s attacks on Tunisia’s civil society, democratic institutions, and judicial independence have eroded the hard-fought progress and values of the Jasmine Revolution.  I’m glad to join my colleagues to reaffirm America’s commitment to the people of Tunisia and their continued fight for a better future, and call on the government to cease its attacks on Tunisia’s democracy and support a transparent and open 2024 presidential election process,” said Coons.   

Full text of the resolution is available here