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Tunisia is often heralded as the sole success story to come out of the 2011 Arab uprisings, insomuch as it is the only country that established a democratic government in their wake. In a 2017 study conducted by Freedom House, Tunisia was the only country in the Middle East and North Africa ranked as “free.” But the relative success of Tunisia’s transition does not mean that the process has been an easy one. The country’s seven-year-long transition to democracy has been excruciatingly difficult, marked by several terrorist attacks, ongoing economic crisis, political stalemate, and tenuous compromises between Islamists and secularists. At several points since the overthrow of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians have been forced to question whether their democratic experiment will survive the pressure.
If you ask many Tunisians what has made the difference in holding together the fabric of their democracy, they will say civil society.