She is a teacher by profession, and she is still doing this job. But she is also very active in the Islamic movement and politics. In addition to her role as co-founder, she is also the party’s social affairs representative in Bizerte. Al Hijri is a total volunteer. Despite the fact she is one of the 40 founding members of the party, she uses her private mobile phone to make calls about party affairs and pays for it using prepaid cards, just like a teenager. The statement in the title was made by Kawthar al Hijri; I was very impressed by this statement, which was made during one of these calls.
As soon as I heard this remark in Tunisia, I noted it in my book. But sadly, I did not have the opportunity to meet this noble person who represents her cause so sincerely in person. Al Hijri did not take the position of co-founder of the party to make her party look good or modern. She stayed in jail for five years during the dictatorial rule of Bin Ali, when it was impossible to walk on the streets wearing a headscarf. She spent most of her time in jail in solitude and was only given a Koran following a hunger strike. Perhaps there are many other people like Kawthar al Hijri, not only in Tunisia but also across the entire Islamic world. Undoubtedly, these people will do great deeds as long as they preserve their sincerity and commitment.
In my previous columns, I made references to some positive aspects of Tunisian politics that could set an example for Turkey during the process of writing a civilian constitution. But the empty half of the glass should also be considered. Considering the disappointment associated with the end of the honeymoon period in the early 1990s in Tunisia and Algeria, the current risks in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and other countries in the region should be analyzed without relying on patriotic rhetoric.
For instance, those who were against the former regime in Tunisia are now eager to join an-Nahda. But because the leading names of the movement -- including their leader Rashid Ghannushi -- have been in exile or in prison for so many years, it is not easy to find people to govern the state, offer lasting solutions to overcome chronic issues -- including a worsening economy -- and, most importantly, to survive against provocations by the institutions controlled by the former regime. Even though a sudden change was observed because of the revolution in part of Tunisia, the socio-economic foundations are too weak for a stable change. Egypt, Yemen and Syria are no different.
On the day I was in Tunisia as part of President Abdullah Gül’s delegation. While there, I observed a mild disagreement between the dean of a university and a student who completely covered her head and face while at university. In addition, the papers published reports on their front pages that a marginal group removed the Tunisian flag and replaced it with one with a black background bearing the “kalima-i tawhid” -- declaration in the oneness of Allah -- at the university. The crisis extended to Parliament, where Gül was set to make a speech. We realized that there was something wrong when we saw that the seats of the opposition deputies were adorned with Tunisian flags. But, shortly after, an-Nahda deputies did the same, and they were also displaying flags on their seats.
Does this not look familiar to you? It is easy to detect similarities between what happened in the past in our country and what is happening in Tunisia, but the response to the question of whether there are democratic media outlets that would stop the plots and games against an-Nahda and reveal the truth was not satisfactory. The presence of an-Nahda in the media world was limited to one radio station, even if it did acquire political power. There are no media outlets like Zaman, Taraf, Yeni Şafak, Bugün and Samanyolu that would support democracy in Tunisia. The overall outlook in civil society, the business world, education, universities, the judiciary and the security bureaucracy is no different to the situation in the media in Tunisia and other similar countries.
After examining the activities of the grassroots movements in Turkey during her visit, Kawthar al Hijri realized they had to focus on such activities and works even if their party comes to power; in consideration of this, she also started thinking about how to initiate such projects. This was an unusual approach, because in many countries, relevant parties and stakeholders decided to copy and imitate the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the excitement associated with the Arab Spring. However, they ignored the fact that the party was an end, rather than a means, and that what really mattered was extensive experience of social change and gradual processes.
Political administration is clearly very important but, as Algerian thinker Malik bin Nabi warned many years ago, acquiring power is significant as long as you are able to resist the erosive impact of power. Otherwise, there is great risk that political administrations with no socio-economic grounds for legitimacy would do harm rather than good to people in these countries.