Customs and traditions
According to Abbreviationfinder, Tunisia is known as one of the most liberal, Muslim countries. There are several reasons for this. One is the Western attire that is now commonplace, especially in the cities. Another is that Tunisian women are more equal to men compared to large parts of the rest of the Arab world.
Women have not been allowed to wear veils in public settings such as at school or at universities and men have been urged not to let the beard grow. However, many older Tunisians and people in the countryside have continued to dress traditionally: men then wear an often brown or red headdress and a long tunic over puffy trousers, while the women wear a mantle-like outer garment, sipsari, which also covers their heads. As Islamic currents have been allowed to gain more influence in society after the fall of the Ben Ali regime in 2011, conflicts related to women’s attire have become more common. Female students have demonstrated and demanded the right to wear a face veil, niqab, in classrooms, while Islamists have organized protests, for example, that female employees in foreign companies dress, as it was thought, too challenging.
- Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Tunisia, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Another reason for Tunisia’s reputation as relatively liberal and tolerant in some respects is the position of women. Tunisia has long been at the forefront of Muslim countries. The country’s first president Bourguiba did much to improve the situation of Tunisian women. For example, efforts were made on family planning and women were encouraged to educate themselves and enter the labor market, while prohibiting polygamy and forced marriage. It is mandatory by law that men and women should have equal pay for equal work.
There are still fixed roles in the family, which include mother, father and children. Much of the community revolves around the nuclear family. It is the man who is the head of the family. Especially in rural areas, women have a more traditional position adapted to the home, and women rarely show up at local cafes, where male guests are totally overwhelmed. The individual’s interests are often seen as inferior to the best interests of the family and the group. Meals play an important role as a meeting place for the family. As a guest you should taste a little of all the dishes offered.
There are restrictions on serving alcohol, and it is mostly at more expensive restaurants and tourist establishments that it is served. However, representatives of the Islamist party Ennahda, which has had a great influence since the 2011 revolution, have stated that alcohol is not considered to be banned, mainly because tourism is so important to the country.
It is common for both men and women to shake hands when they meet. Men can kiss other men on the cheek if they have not been seen for a long time, while the same goes for women when they meet. Men and women, however, often maintain a respectful distance in accordance with Islamic custom. It is considered polite and a sign of respect for younger people to avoid eye contact with older people or managers.
Football is by far the most popular sport. Women have been encouraged to participate in sports competitions, unlike what is customary in many other Arab countries.
According to Countryaah, holidays are celebrated in accordance with traditions within Islam. In addition, non-religious celebrations such as Independence Day (March 20) and Women’s Day (August 13) were also noted (see Calendar).
The unrest continues
Faithful Islamists attack members of the national organization UGTT as they gather for new demonstrations against unemployment. The Islamists accuse the UGTT of upsetting people against the government. When President Marzouki visits Sidi Bouzid in connection with the two-year anniversary of the commencement of the uprising and the entire Arab Spring (see December 2010), protesters throw stones and tomatoes at him.
The dissatisfaction grows over that little change after the revolution. All the loudest demands are heard that Prime Minister Jebali should resign, but he rejects the demands. In the city of Siliana, a strike begins in protest against high unemployment, and over 200 are injured in clashes with police.
Attacks against police stations
Shotgun breaks out when salafists attack a police station in a suburb of Tunis. An Islamist is killed and two members of the security force are seriously injured. Similar clashes have occurred repeatedly.
Attack on US Embassy
Violent protests are erupting in Tunisia, as in many other Muslim countries, due to a movie clip circulating on the Internet that mocks the Prophet Muhammad. Four people are killed in connection with a crowd invading the US Embassy in Tunis, as well as at an American school nearby. The United States calls on all US citizens who do not have key positions to leave the country.
Thousands of women are protesting against a draft new constitution where women are described “as a complement to men”.
President Marzouki opposes the government hastily extraditing Libya’s former prime minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmud to his home country.
New convictions against Ben Ali
A military court sentenced the ex-president, still in exile in Saudi Arabia, to life imprisonment and another court sentenced to 20 years in prison. In both cases, it is about the deadly violence during the Jasmine Revolution.
Attacks by extremist Islamists
Extreme Islamists attack an art gallery, a courthouse and police stations in protest of an exhibition they find blasphemous. During several days of unrest, buildings were set on fire and up to 200 people were arrested. Night time curfews are introduced in Tunis and in seven other places after the violence.
Protests around women’s clothing
Salafists are demonstrating in Manouba that female students have the right to wear a veil (niqab).