In a public address at the Atlantic Council, Tunisian President Mohamed Moncef Marzouki urgently called on the United States and its Western partners to support his country’s fight against terrorism. He warned that without their help to secure the country in the run-up to elections, terrorists will seek to destabilize the country, and thereby threaten Tunisia’s transition to democracy. 

Marzouki cautioned that without international support against terrorism in Tunisia, “you can say goodbye to democracy in the Arab world for a century.”

The Tunisian president acknowledged that Tunisia faces significant crises despite the progress of its democratic transition, the most urgent being threats to its security. 

He specified that in order to crush the threat of terrorism, Tunisia would need twelve Black Hawk helicopters as well as military and communications equipment such as night vision goggles. Marzouki emphasized the importance of training support from the West, because autocratic ruler Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali kept Tunisia’s military ill-trained and under-equipped for decades.

Marzouki lamented lukewarm support from the West to address the rising terrorist threat.

“We did not have the support that we expected from the West. We expected more because the West gave more support to the Ben Ali dictatorship because of so-called stability.”

He pointed to instability beyond Tunisia’s borders that threatens its own transition, namely crises in Libya, Mali, and Syria, which have given rise to terrorist activity in Tunisia.

“We are targeted by terrorists , we are targeted as a model, we are targeted as a pre-democratic country. [Terrorists] do not want Tunisia to become a success story.” 

Marzouki’s remarks came at the Atlantic Council on the sidelines of the US-Africa Leaders Summit hosted in Washington this week.

Atlantic Council Chairman Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. introduced Marzouki, recognizing his contribution to Tunisia’s transition.

“The post-revolutionary journey has not been easy. President Marzouki has played a critical role in all of these processes, and has been instrumental to Tunisia’s current success.”

Marzouki has served as president of the Republic of Tunisia since December 2011. He was elected by the National Constituent Assembly after the protests that sparked the removal of autocratic ruler Ben Ali and uprisings across the region.

For full event video, click here.

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