Dashed Hopes and Extremism in Tunisia

Issue Date January 2018
Volume 29
Issue 1
Page Numbers 126-40
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Since 2011, the Tunisian government has carried out the most successful democratic transition of the Arab Spring. Yet during this same period, acts of domestic terrorism grew significantly. This development contradicts a prominent belief that democratization should produce declining levels of radicalization. This paper argues that Tunisia’s 2011 revolution created a combustible combination of unmanaged social expectations, declining institutional capability, and persistent socioeconomic grievances. Within a governance vacuum and amid regional turmoil, the violent religious extremism propagated by ISIS and other jihadist groups has, for some Tunisians, replaced hopelessness with a sense of identity and purpose.

About the Authors

Geoffrey Macdonald

Geoffrey Macdonald, the principal researcher for democracy and governance at the International Republican Institute (IRI), lectures on political science at George Washington University.

View all work by Geoffrey Macdonald

Luke Waggoner

Luke Waggoner, a senior governance specialist at the International Republican Institute (IRI), has served as an IRI program officer in Tunisia.

View all work by Luke Waggoner