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Tunisia Fact Check: Clarifying Some Points


And let's bring in another voice here. It is our colleague, Eleanor Beardsley, who has covered recent events in Tunisia. Eleanor, good morning.


GREENE: You know, just listening there to Rached Ghannouchi, he heads what he describes as a moderate Muslim party in Tunisia. Is that a fair description?

BEARDSLEY: Well, David, let's look at what some Tunisians say about that. Ghannouchi himself talked about losing votes during that period. And in fact, the party lost a third of the votes they came in on because during that time, many Tunisians began to believe that the party had a hidden agenda. And I visited the country many times during those three years when Ennahda was in power. They had virtually stopped writing the constitution. And many people thought that the democratic process itself was being abandoned because during this time when they controlled all of the ministries, there was a rise in extremist groups. There were young Salafist men who would go around burning down restaurants and bars that served alcohol, threatening artists and musicians. They even attacked art galleries. The many extremist things that were happening at that time culminated in an attack on the U.S. Embassy, which had never happened before. Western interests were never attacked in Tunisia - where young men walked out of the mosque in Tunis. They walked two hours to the embassy on the suburbs, and they attacked it. And no one even stopped them.

GREENE: Is there democracy in Tunisia, and could this be the success story of the Arab Spring?

BEARDSLEY: There is democracy in Tunisia, and it could be. But let's remember, the structures are in place. There's a strong civil society. But, David, the country is surrounded by chaos and instability. And the economy is in tatters. There were two extremist attacks on tourist sites this year, which has virtually killed the tourist industry. So the economy has to come back probably for this democracy to take hold. People need to be able to eat and live. And you cannot eat democracy.

GREENE: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley speaking to us about the future of Tunisia. Eleanor, thanks very much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.