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Key findings
  • Crime and security ranks fourth among the most important problems that Tunisians want their government to address, but the proportion of citizens who see it as a priority problem has dropped by half since 2015, from 43% to 21%.
  • Four in 10 Tunisians (42%) say they felt unsafe in their neighbourhood at least “several times” during the previous year, a slight increase from 2013 (38%). One in seven (14%) say they feared crime in their home, a significant improvement compared to 2013 (37%).
  • Most Tunisians say the armed forces “often” or “always” keep the country safe from security threats (83%) and are professional and respectful of the rights of all citizens (78%). A far smaller majority (57%) say they get the training and equipment they need to be effective.
  • To protect public security, a majority of Tunisians say the government should be able to impose curfews and set up special roadblocks (79%), regulate what is said in places of worship (74%), and monitor private communications (53%).
  • Almost two-thirds of Tunisians say citizens who fought alongside ISIL should face legal consequences such as a trial (34%), execution (20%), or jail (11%), while about onefourth (27%) say they should be rehabilitated.

Since its democratic revolution in 2010/2011, a number of violent attacks have disrupted Tunisia’s traditional tranquillity. Two political assassinations in 2013 (Al Jazeera, 2013) were followed in 2015 by Islamic State (ISIL) attacks at the Bardo Museum, a Sousse beach resort, and downtown Tunis, killing 72 people (BBC News, 2017). In 2016, ISIL fighters seeking to establish an “emirate” in southern Tunisia killed 18 security-service members and civilians before being repulsed (Arab Weekly, 2019).

A period of relative calm ended last October with a suicide bombing that injured 15 people, mainly police officers (BBC News, 2018). The country remains under a state of emergency imposed in 2015 and extended again in April 2019 (Business News, 2019) amid political tensions ahead of elections late this year and intermittent protests against government economic policies (Middle East Monitor, 2019a, 2019b). An additional security concern is posed by Tunisians who left to fight with ISIL and have since returned (Meko, 2018).

Against this background, how do ordinary Tunisians perceive their personal safety and public security?

Findings from the most recent Afrobarometer survey show that while security is an important issue for Tunisians, far fewer citizens consider it a top priority than did in 2015. Few Tunisians think their personal safety from crime and violence has improved, and most say the government is doing a poor job of reducing crime. But most trust the army to protect the country against external and internal security threats, and most are willing to sacrifice some personal freedoms in the name of security.

A majority of citizens want Tunisians who fought alongside ISIL to face legal consequences.

Youssef Meddeb

Youssef is the national investigator for Tunisia and francophone national partner representative in the management team