Attack in Berlin

Terrorists Coming Closer To Home

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    For too long, Western nations have believed that democracy could be easily exported to the Middle East. But as the author argues, after the attack on Berlins Christmas market in December, that attitude has been proven idealistic at best and naive at worst.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The man who drove a truck into a Christmas market crowd on Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz was Anis Amri, originally from Tunisia. He had applied for refugee status in Germany but been denied it.
    • According to a report from the think tank, the International Crisis Group, between 5,000 and 6,000 Tunisians are thought to have joined the extremist Islamic State group.
    • The same report said that sources in the Tunisian Ministry of Interior have prevented a further 15,000 Tunisians from travelling to join IS.
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    Audio

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Syria Russia
Russian military drive through the streets of Aleppo, Syria, during the civil war that has torn the country apart over the past five years. Source: AP.

Anis Amri, the small-time criminal without a German residency permit who turned into a jihadist assassin in Berlin, was originally from Tunisia. Tunisia of all places! Tunisia, the country the West has praised as a model of democracy after the Arab Spring and the overthrow of the Tunisian autocrat, Ben Ali. Tunisia, the Arab country seen as an island of stability in the midst of Middle Eastern chaos. Only one of all those things is true: In Tunisia, moderate fundamentalists and forces of modern democracy were willing to cohabit in the administration.

They adopted the only Constitution in the Arab World that deserves to be called democratic. But that administration didn’t bring the country real political stability. Terrorist attacks by the extremist group known as the Islamic State on tourists saw the most important pillar of the Tunisian economy crumble. An already high unemployment rate went up even more and poverty increased further.

The result was a rapidly surging sense of desperation at the lack of prospects, particularly among Tunisian youth, who felt themselves cheated out of a future. Since democratic freedoms and constitutional rights couldn’t fill their empty stomachs, these youths became more and more susceptible to the jihadists’ radical messages of salvation.

The main beneficiary has been the Islamic State, or IS, group which to date has recruited more followers from Tunisia than from anywhere else in the Arab world. With 7,000 IS members, the ten-million-strong country has the highest rate of jihadist worldwide per capita. Tunisia proves one thing: When social inequality and abject poverty persist, even a hard-won democratic order offers no guarantee in neutralizing jihadists.

Tunisia’s chronic crisis is similar to that of many Arab states.

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