Tunisian Group Wins Nobel Peace Prize

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Tunisian group wins Nobel Peace PrizeThe Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 9, "for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy." (AP)

ByAnthony Faiola-October 9 atBERLIN The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday bestowed the Nobel Peace Prize on an alliance of four Tunisian civil society groups for their efforts to foster democracy in the nation that gave birth to the Arab Spring.The quartet of groups, including a labor union with more than 1 million members, has worked toadvance democracyin Tunisia, which still struggles with unrest but has made relative strides toward reforms even as other Arab Spring nations face greater violence, instability and the re-emergence of dictatorships.The civil society groups provided a critical bridge for dialogue and political compromises between the Islamists in the government and Tunisias opposition and secular activists. The channels opened helped ease the deep polarization and mistrust have torn apart other countries in the wake of the Arab Spring upheavals.The Tunisian groups, the committee said, made a decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011 the name given the uprising that sparked the wider Arab Spring.More than anything, the prize is intended as encouragement for the Tunisian people who have laid the groundwork for a national fraternity which the committee hopes will be followed by other countries," the committee said.The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet awarded Nobel Peace PrizeThe Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet wins the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.The National Dialogue Quartet comprises four key organizations in Tunisian civil society, including the Tunisian General Labor Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers.But the award also seemed to more broadly honor a nation where the Arab Spring began after street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on Dec. 17, 2010 to protest his helplessness after his wares were confiscated by local authorities.[Why the Nobel peace prize was awarded to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, in one map]Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi called the award a sign of hope only a day after a high-profile assassination attempt of a secular politician.I know the situation is currently very difficult in Tunisia," he said in a video posted on Facebook. "And despite all the rumors circulating about yesterdays incident [the attempted assassination], we have received happy news. Not everything is dark and grim."For the winners, too, the Nobel was a stunning acknowledgment of one of the Arab Springs promising fronts, which is often overshadowed by the highjacked hopes in other countries such as Libya, Egypt and Syria.Tunisia has been spared the sweeping bloodshed that has plagued the rest of the Arab world since uprisings swept the region four years ago. But the political openness that followed the revolt also allowed extremists to organize and challenge the countrys secular traditions.

I am astonished, so happy. There are calls coming in from all over the world. I can barely believe this is happening, a breathless Ali Zeddini, vice president of the Tunisian Human Rights League, told the Washington Post.He acknowledged, however, that the Nobel decision comes at a time of great stress and tension in Tunisia.It has reminded us of our accomplishments, and places great responsibility on us to maintain peace and our democracy through dialogue, he said.[Militants seek to roll back Tunisias progress]Critics, however, suggested the Nobel committee had failed to fully acknowledge the extent of the political violence still gripping Tunisia.As recently as Thursday, for instance, a secular legislator and soccer king Ridha Charfeddine escaped an assassination attempt after gunmen opened fire on him in the coastal city of Sousse.This decision hit me like a rock, said the Berlin-based Tunisian political scientist Hamdadi El-Aouni, referring to the Nobel. I do not know what these people of the committee where thinking. Ive just come back from Tunisia. There is not state, just total chaos. And there is certainly no peace there.But the Nobel was widely hailed as a nod toward the ability of Tunisias political and civil groups to seek dialogue while other Arab Spring neighbors have stumbled back to bloody power struggles or tighter rule.In a congratulatory Twitter post, Tunisias Islamist Ennahdha party hailed the award as a victory for all Tunisians, who showed strength, patience & commitment to peace & democracy in face of countless challenges.A message on the Facebook page of the General Labor Union celebrated: Alf mabrooooouk kul al Tuniseeeeeeen. (A thousand congratulations to all Tunisians.)[Tunisia still recruiting hotbed for the Islamic State]The groups general secretary, Houcine Abassi, told The Associated Press, the group was overwhelmed by the Nobel selection.Its a prize that crowns more than two years of efforts deployed by the quartet when the country was in danger on all fronts, he said.Michael Ayari, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group who lives in Tunis, said the Nobel decision allows people to maintain hope.The international community still believes in Tunisian democracy, he said. And we know that with dialogue we can solve our conflicts.Today, Tunisia political transition that remains far from complete and tenuous. But the progress made thus far came about because of the ability of civil society groups to reach a landmark compromise between the government and opposition groups, according to Mohamed Kerrou, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center.Tunisias consensus was only possible thanks to an inclusive national dialogue brokered by the Quartet, Kerrou wrote.[Viewpoint: Now is time for U.S. to back Tunisia]Following the fall of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisias democracy emerged as the strongest in the Arab world even as it confronts still deep divisions and challenges.After a dialogue between Islamist and secularist lawmakers, Tunisia last year passed a constitution seen as one of the most liberal in the Arab world and winning praise from human rights groups. Last year, Tunisia also held its first democratic presidential elections, voting in PresidentBeji Caid Essebsi, an 88-year-old who formerly served under the repressive regime of Habib Bourguiba.Yet the nation has since struggled to find a lasting peace, and fears have reemerged about the threat to democracy following a crackdown against rising Islamic extremism.

After a Tunisian gunman believed to have received training from Islamists in Libya slew 38 people at the beach resort of Sousse last June, the government vowed to shut down extremist mosques and take other steps to curb terror.As often in the Nobel Peace Prize, the announcement amounted to a stunner. The Tunisian alliance had not been mentioned as a leading contender. As is tradition, the winner was kept secret until 11 a.m. local time in Oslo, when the name was divulged by Kaci Kullmann Five, chairwoman of the five-member prize committee appointed by the Norwegian Parliament.The peace prize, first awarded in 1901, is seen by many as the most influential and political of the awards established by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel.The decision marked the second consecutive peace prize to honor a recipient in the Muslim world. Last year, the award went to Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai. She shared the prize with Indian Kailash Satyarthi, a champion for childhood education.Erin Cunningham in Beirut, Heba Habib in Cairo, Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin and Brian Murphy, Kevin Sullivan and Mary Beth Sheridan in Washington contributed to this report.Read more:Why the Nobel peace prize was awarded to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, in one mapIn birthplace of Arab Spring, Tunisias Islamists get sobering lesson in governingTunisias president sets out goalsTourist in museum massacre: Hoping just to surviveAnthony Faiola is The Post's Berlin bureau chief. Faiola joined the Post in 1994, since then reporting for the paper from six continents and serving as bureau chief in Tokyo, Buenos Aires, New York and London.Posted byThavam