Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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The Brothers of Tunisia in the Diaspora: Mechanisms and Strategies of Control

Tuesday 30/July/2019 - 01:42 PM
The Reference
Walid Mansour
The Arab Spring came to represent a political breakthrough in front of the forces of political Islam to achieve its political rise, which it has always sought since its establishment. In all the Arab countries that witnessed the events of the Arab Spring, political Islam groups managed to achieve a rapid political rise that enabled them to take power as happened in Egypt, or even participate in it, as happened in the Tunisian experience.

Tunisia was like any other country in the Middle East. The Islamic trend was a difficult figure in the general political scene. For example, the Renaissance movement played a big role in drawing the political map, and it was distinct from the rest of the Islamic groups in their extreme flexibility and adaptation to the changes. It was more cautious than their counterparts in the pursuit of power, often preferring to be an active player in Tunisian political life rather than retaining power.

The study aims to monitor the developments and role of the Renaissance Movement in the West until it returns to Tunisia following the "Jasmine Revolution" and seeks to show its effectiveness in supporting the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood through the institutions established by the Muslim Brotherhood to serve this organization.

The study's entrance is to monitor the Tunisian brothers in the Diaspora, how they work with the organization of the global community, and their role in exploiting the circumstances surrounding them to lead to new entities, so we will go a little bit into the experiences of some elements associated with working in Europe.

They created a kind of similarity to the generation and creation of other new elements, sided with the collective work, and was able to serve the project of Rashid Ghannouchi later, and therefore these papers may be suitable for access to the philosophy and methodology of the work of the Renaissance immigrants

(2) Leaders of the Renaissance from Tunisia to the Diaspora

With the clash between the Renaissance movement and the ruling authority in Tunisia, especially during the reign of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a large number of the movement's leaders and cadres were forced to live outside the country in exile because of the trials and prosecutions.

In early 1990, when the PA suspended the Fajr newspaper in December 1990 and withdrew the license of the Tunisian General Union of Students, the movement's student arm, the government announced the cancellation of what it described as a plot to overthrow the regime and the assassination of President Ben Ali accusing the movement of planning to topple the president's plane by a Stinger missile brought from Afghanistan.

Then, the security forces launched a crackdown on members of the movement and its supporters until the number of those arrested stood at 8,000 people. In the following years, the Authority continued to pursue the movement's members. In August 1992, the Military Court handed down sentences to 256 leaders and a member of Al Nahda with sentences amounting to life imprisonment and the execution of others.

Despite the release of some elements of the renaissance imprisoned, the activities of the movement remained totally banned in Tunisia. Its activities were limited to a number of European and North American countries, among Tunisians there, and among others who were stranded in Asia and Australia.

Most of the Renaissance immigrants were refugees, especially in the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where the testimony of the Muslim affiliation of the asylum seeker, signed by the President of Al Nahda, was a basic document in accepting his demand.

Among the leaders who left to live outside Tunisia: Rashed Ghannouchi, Latifi Zaitoun, Rafik Abdul Salam, Hussein Al Jaziri, Saleh Karkar, Amer Al Arrayed, Abdul Majeed Al Najjar, Reza Idris, Khamis Al Majri, Walid Al Banani and Sheikh Abdul Qader Alounisi.

Many formed what was known by the media at the time as "the movement of the renaissance of the Diaspora." With the exception of some of the movement's leaders abroad, the majority of those who came to European capitals were young Renaissance students and their popular base found a way to escape.

The head of the movement Rashid Ghannouchi left Tunisia in April 1989, where he went to Algeria and then moved to Sudan, to settle in the outskirts of the British capital London. When he was sentenced by the military court in Tunis in absentia (28 August 1992) and other leaders of the movement to life imprisonment for conspiring against the head of state, he obtained asylum in Britain in August 1993.

During the departure of Ghannouchi from Tunisia, several countries prevented him from entering it, such as the United States, Egypt and Lebanon. In March 1995, he was expelled from Spain while attending an international symposium in Cordoba on Islam and its relationship to modernity.

Rashed Ghannouchi remained in exile for about 22 years, and was only able to return home on January 30, 2011 following the uprising that toppled President Ben Ali.

Following the general amnesty decree of February 19, 2011, exiles and fledgling evangelicals began to return to the country. In relatively short time, the movement managed to rebuild its structures and announce a new constituent body. The leader, Abdelfattah Moro, who was harassed during the reign of President Habib Bourguiba, took refuge in France where he met with President Francois Mitterrand in a private meeting. A few days later, he traveled to Germany and met with German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

In both meetings, the two presidents said they could not bypass the judiciary and he finally traveled to Saudi Arabia in June 1986 where he obtained a residence there and a Saudi passport, and spent years, until he was summoned by Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after he took power in Tunisia.

The leader, Lutfi Zeitoun, began his exile in December 1990 to Algeria, where he worked as a correspondent for some Arab newspapers. After Tunisian pressure on the Algerian authorities to extradite him and his comrades, he left for Britain on March 20, 1992. There he continued his journalism work, and earned a master's degree in the theories of international relations from the University of Canterbury.

Zaytoun served as the director of the office of the head of the Nahdha movement from 1993 until 2006, and was a member of the movement's media and political bureau. In 2000, he joined the Executive Office and the Movement's Shura Council in the Diaspora and served as co-editor of the historic Marasid Quarter. Since 2006, he has been the editor-in-chief of the London-based Al-Hiwar television channel.

(3) Renaissance and the task of preserving the organization abroad

The Renaissance movement benefited from the experience of exile and was able to withstand the storms that were almost shaking. Among the questions that occupied the minds of the movement's refugee groups: How can we keep the organization out of the country? And how to keep communicating with the inside? What are the priorities of the stage? The youth base in the diaspora, composed mainly of university students who were active in the Tunisian General Union of Students (PUJ), was suddenly questioned and suddenly found itself facing the greatest responsibility in the history of the movement: to rescue the organization and to ensure continued contact with expatriates.

Five years after the Nahdha movement in exile, the student wing and its leaders in Europe succeeded in completing the movement's sixth conference in 1995, during which Rashid Ghannouchi was elected as the successor to President Sadiq Chourou, who was elected by the movement's last conference in 1988.

In this sixth conference, the movement achieved the first conditions of its institutional survival through what was then called the "demand for the rescue of the organization." This conference also took the leadership of the movement from the inside out, a path faced by some opposition. This was further emphasized by the two other conferences held by Al Nahdha abroad: the Seventh Congress in 2001 and the Eighth Congress held in London in 2007, until the Movement became a similar organizational dichotomy between the Diaspora Wing and the Home Wing, but without dissent.

Al-Nahdha established a number of organizations in the diaspora to release its political prisoners. It was formed in almost every European capital - an organization made up of youth and their families to organize demonstrations and sit-ins in front of Tunisian embassies abroad, collect signatures, issue statements in order to highlight the human rights issue in Tunisia and to create media, rights and political pressure on it.

Indeed, all these continuous efforts exerted great pressure on the Tunisian regime, which sought more than once to link the renaissance and violence of international actors, exploiting the consequences of the events of September 11, 2001, but the majority of international organizations and European capitals were not convinced by the arguments of power in Tunisia, and continued to host elements and leaders of the Renaissance on its territory.