Tunisia: Hillary Clinton's Unwelcome Visit

This post is part of our special coverage Tunisia Revolution 2011.

In the two months that have followed the ousting of former Tunisian President Ben Ali by revolutionary protests, four United States (US) officials have visited Tunisia: Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, William Burns, the US under-secretary of state for political affairs, and Senators Joseph Lieberman and John McCaine. On the night of Wednesday 15 March, 2011, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived in capital Tunis after a trip to Egypt.

In Egypt, the 25 January Revolution Youth Coalition refused an invitation to meet with Clinton,”due to her negative stance towards the revolution during its inception and the approach of the US Administration towards the Middle East Region,” as the Coalition states. The reaction to the visit of Hilary Clinton in Tunisia did not differ much from Egypt.

Protests against Clinton's visit in Tunisian capital Tunis. Image by Emir Ben Ayed, copyright Demotix (17/03/11).

Protests against Clinton's visit in Tunisian capital Tunis. Image by Emir Ben Ayed, copyright Demotix (17/03/11).

Indeed, on Wednesday and Thursday there were protests in Tunis against the visit. Protestors see Hilary Clinton's visit to Tunisia as the height of hypocrisy, considering that the US government was known to be an ally of Ben Ali's regime.

Bassem Bounenni writes:

Une centaine de Tunisiens ont manifesté hier à Tunis pour dénoncer la prochaine visite de la secrétaire d'Etat américaine Hillary Clinton. “Clinton dégage”, “non à la présence américaine en Tunisie”, scandaient les manifestants près du ministère de l'Intérieur en brandissant des banderoles anti-américaines.

About one hundred Tunisians demonstrated yesterday in Tunis to denounce the visit of the State Secretary Hillary Clinton. “Clinton Out”, “No to the American presence in Tunisia”, chanted the protestors near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, holding anti-American banners.

Kacem Jlidi says:

Not just the visit and its unknown purpose but also a media blackout on the exact day of her visit were all enough reasons to push young Tunisians to step down to the street and demonstrate in Hbib Bourghiba Avenue (main street in the capital), Next to the American Embassy in Tunis and at Tunis Carthage airport. Demonstrations were held during these past 3 days (15-16 and 17th of March).

He also reports that the police used force against peaceful protestors:

Well, what started as peaceful manifestations ended with violent attack by the police! It was reported that the police attacked and arrested couple of protesters, it was also reported that dogs were used to frighten the protesters and signs lifted by about 30 demonstrators were destroyed by the police.

Anti-American protestors also claim that there is a hidden agenda behind the visit of Hillary Clinton. Twitter user Nizar Moalla (@NIZARMO) asked the following question on March 17:

@NIZARMO: penser vous que hillary clinton a visiter l'Egypte et Tunisie pour leur faciliter d'utiliser nos base aérien contre la Libye ??

Do you think that Hillary Clinton has visited both Egypt and Tunisia to make it easier for them to use our air bases??

Kais Sellami (@kaissellamy) tweets on the same day:

@kaissellamy: je crains Ke #clinton est parmi nou pr negocier une base arriere en #Tunisie pr attaquer la #libye et de meme di coté de l’#egypte

I'm afraid that Clinton is here to negociate for a rear base in Tunisia to attack Libya and same thing for Egypt

Sami Khalifa (@S_Khal) tweets:

@S_khal: Il faut dire a H Clinton qu'on veut notre democratie et pas celle qu'elle voudra pour nous #tunisie

Hillary Clinton should know we want our own democracy and not the kind of democracy that she wants for us

Freedomtunisia (@freedomtunisia) tweets:

@freedomtunisia: clinton cherche un nouveau dictateur pour la Tunisie ou pour l'Egypt Dégage … #sidibouzid #feb17 #jan25

Clinton is looking for another dictator for Tunisia or Egypt. Get out..

On the night of Thursday March 17, Hilary Clinton appeared on a talk show on a private Tunisian network television station Nessma TV. The talk show did not satisfy viewers who considered it as too shallow and not targeting the main issues.

Iadh Jomaa (@iadh65) tweets:

@iadh65: #Tunisie #Clinton réponses plates à questions toutes aussi plates. […]

Shallow answers for shallow questions […]

Kacem Jlidi writes:

Throughout the one hour talk show, you could only notice the fake diplomatic big smiles of H. Clinton when speaking the words that she knows that we like to hear besides giving promises and asking to hear our demands so she could revise them and see what her government could give

He adds:

For those who followed the updates on twitter and facebook, you might’ve noticed that it was supposed that Clinton would speak to some Tunisian bloggers. Apparently the US embassy and Microsoft recommended to Nessma a list of bloggers that they know; also Nessma TV had already its favorite bloggers list.(…)Did they have to be strict in selecting people that they keep under control what questions to be asked? Some of the questions maybe like:

- How could Clinton explain the tear gas bombs and weapons and the live ammunition that were used against Tunisians and Egyptians AND were made in USA and Israel?

- How the American government is so hypocrite when supporting dictators and then talking about exporting their democracy

This post is part of our special coverage Tunisia Revolution 2011.


  • it is sad to me to see this current level of distrust.

  • Shrug. There are always those who oppose anything American or the like (as the inverse of course). A few hundred demonstrators of unknown affiliation isn’t terribly impressive as indicative of anything in particular.

    An expectation that a foreign dignitary is going to set herself up for embarrassing questions on TV is naive, and an adolescent approach to politics. I am quite aware that these same type of people (insofar as I work in the Maghreb, and speak the dialect) complain bitterly about any perceived slight when their favoured politicians are overseas.

    Well, it is going to take a while for mature politics to grow in Tunisia, after the enforced childhood of the Ben Ali regime, and ridiculous conspiracy theories like the Americans using Tunisia as a base to attack Libya (presumably the person complaining prefers to see The Guide of the Revolution free to massacre his own people) will take a while to die away. The reality is that the Americans barely even know where Tunisia is, and haven’t the slightest “designs” on the country. The French, well that’s quite another matter.

  • azmat

    Without the help of the US no revolution will be successful. And without democracy no system of government will be successful either.

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