Tunisia: The World Social Forum 2013 is underway
an article by Guylainmoke's Blog
The World Social Forum (WSF) 2013 Annual Meeting -
an alternative to globalization - opened Tuesday
in Tunis with a discussion on the status of women.
It marks the second anniversary of the Arab Spring
that has seen Islamists come to power in several
amid accusations of their discrimination against
Preparations for the World Social Forum in Tunis, March 23, 2013 - photo from the website of Guylainmoke
click on photo to enlarge
Some 30,000 people and 4,500 organizations are
expected to attend the twelfth edition of the WSF.
It is the first to beheld in the Arab world. It
presents an alternative to the annual Davos Forum
which brings together the world's political and
economic elite. The forum began Tuesday in a
festive atmosphere on the campus of the University
of Manar with a "meeting of women in struggle"
Tunisian feminists in particular have strongly
criticized the Islamist Ennahda party, who lead
the Tunisian government, accusing them of wanting
to reverse the gains that have been made, unique
in the Arab world, instead of promoting gender
equality. "Ennahda wants to establish Sharia law
and deprive women of their liberty. It is the
same project as in Egypt" where the Muslim
Brotherhood has held power since the revolution of
2011, emphasized Zeineb Chihi a university
participant in a meeting that brought together
hundreds of people.
Addressing the crowd, Ahlem Belhadj, president of
the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, in
turn denounced "violence directed against women to
keep them out of politics."
Tunisian media associations have repeatedly
accused Ennahda of intending to limit the rights
of women, although the Islamist party has denied
that they will base the Constitution on Sharia-
Islamic law. However, in the eyes of many
organizations, an aborted attempt by Ennahda in
2012 to introduce the concept of "complementarity"
of the sexes instead of equality in the future
Basic Law, indicates the real intentions of
The role of women is at the heart of the WSF with
dozens of workshops to be held in Tunis until 30
March. They concern not the economic and political
issues but also very sensitive topics in the Muslim
world such as sexuality.
The opening of the World Social Forum will also be
marked Tuesday by a large demonstration through the
city center from 1500 GMT.
The following days some 1,000 workshops are
planned on a myriad of topics. "The revolutionary
process, revolts, uprisings, civil wars and
disputes" will be the central theme according to
organizers. These themes emphasize the
convergence of the demands of the Arab Spring,
motivated by poverty and unemployment, as well as
protest movements in the West, particularly in
Europe in response to economic austerity and
costly rescue plans for over-leveraged financial
The Tunisian authorities have deployed important
security measures to ensure the smooth running of
the WSF, since the country has been shaken by
successive waves of social violence and bloody
unrest orchestrated by the radical Islamist
movement. Tunisian Minister of Social Affairs,
Khalil Zawiya, a secular ally of Ennahda, said
that the Forum demonstrates the commitment of his
country to democracy. "The choice of Tunisia to
host the Forum proves that this is a country where
there is a wide range of freedoms," he said on
national television. With regard to economics,
the Minister said he hoped that the WSF will
"usher in early the tourist season," which is a
strategic economic sector, but which has been
undermined by the instability caused by the
revolution of January 2011.
(Click here for a French version of this article)
Question(s) related to this article:
World Social Forums, Advancing the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace?
* * * * *
Latest reader comment:
At the Forum, almost everything touched on the culture of peace, although only a few speakers linked their talks to the UN initiative, prompting a leader of the French Peace movement to remark he was disappointed that the culture of peace was not better represented at the Forum. The response to CPNN was positive, but most people were unaware of its existence. Next time there should be culture of peace events, pins and t-shirts, as well as the CPNN cards and flyers that we gave out.