The Arab Spring, which sparked off in a small city in Tunisia, was ill-fated in most of the countries it spread to. Tunisia has become the one fledgling democracy to emerge in North Africa.[1] They have since made positive steps including the creation of a constitution through a much celebrated dialogue process.

TunisiaThe government is moving to decentralize power away from the executive branch and the capitol. Yet the democratic gains have not been without trouble and remain fragile. While Tunisia has avoided the turmoil of neighbors like Libya, fending off a potential influx of ISIS fighters trying to cross the border, it has not been able to stem the radicalization of its own population of young men. Tunisia holds the dubious position as the number one exporter of foreign born fighters to Syria. Nearly 3,000 Tunisians are estimated to be fighting in Syria with ISIL and associated terror groups.[2]  A confluence of social, economic, and political conditions have contributed to the susceptibility of Tunisians to radicalization.

Legacy’s Professional Fellows from Tunisia are working on addressing these conditions to foster resilience in Tunisians and Tunisia society as a whole. While people across demographics can be radicalized, uneducated young men are most susceptible. PFP Fellow Safouen Rezgoui is working to foster resilience to radicalization in youth. He is using his talents as a teacher to build the critical thinking skills of youth by creating a debate club and teaching debating skills. Students will learn critical thinking skills that could allow them to see through the hollow ideologies of extremists. Through these debates they will come to better understand the issues facing their country and community and will develop perspectives on how to best address pressing issues. As well informed citizens with critical thinking skills these young people will be more resilient and able to resist indoctrination and radicalization. Moreover, these youth will be better prepared to take an active civic role in their young democracy and help it as it matures into a stable democracy.

[1] Arch Puddington and Tyler Roylance, ”Freedom in the World 2016” Freedom House, 2016: 12-13, accessed August 2, 2016 https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FH_FITW_Report_2016.pdf

[1] Richard Barret, “Foreign Fighters in Syria” The Soufan Group (2014): 13.