Tunisia Report: The Smiling Oppressor: What Congress Says

Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali enjoys strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress. Members cite the country’s friendship with the United States, often without casting a critical eye on the country’s press freedom and human rights record. Here is a sampling of remarks by members of Congress.

“Mr. President, I rise today to congratulate the people of Tunisia on the 45th anniversary of their nation’s independence. Throughout our long friendship, the United States and Tunisia have shared a mutual commitment to freedom, democracy, and the peaceful resolution of conflict.”
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.
March 19, 2001
Congressional Record

“As a friend of Tunisia, I again congratulate the Tunisian people on 47 years of independence and would like to share with my colleagues the insightful words of President Ben Ali, describing the reasons for Tunisia’s success in building a democratic society: ‘Tolerance is at the heart of our social traditions as well as a characteristic of Tunisia’s history. Pluralism, whether religious, cultural, or political, is ingrained in our society.'”
U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.
March 20, 2003
Congressional Record

“President Ben Ali has worked tirelessly to ensure a free society, greater democratic openness, and complete respect for human rights in Tunisia. … Mr. Speaker, I hope my colleagues will join me in recognizing President Ben Ali during his visit as a critical figure in the enhancement of positive global relations with the Middle East.”
U.S. Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, R-Ill. 
MemberTunisia Caucus
February 10, 2004
Congressional Record

“Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my most heartfelt welcome to President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of Tunisia, on his visit to the U.S. on February 18, 2004. President Ben Ali has been an unstinting friend and ally in the war on terror. … It has been the hallmark of the honorable Ben Ali’s tenure as president of Tunisia to institute meaningful and lasting reforms in several spheres.”
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall II, D-W. Va.
April 21, 2004
Congressional Record

“Tunisia holds a strategic position between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and it represents the voice of moderation and wisdom in the world, a voice we must listen to.”
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn
MemberTunisia Caucus
July 2008 
Tunis Afrique Presse