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Arab Citizenship Reviews

This series of policy briefs provides a regular update of debates concerning key rights issues in three Arab states, Morocco, Egypt
Arab Citizenship review n17

Social Rights in Post-revolutionary Tunisia: Is Consensus Policy Still on The table?

Today, the ’political’ debate is stirring about the nature of the regime and the question of whether the constitution needs to be revised, or more powers assigned to the President. This is a debate in which the two major parties, Nidaa Tounes and the Ennahda Movement, viewed institutional change as a priority, considering it as the way out of the crisis, while the country lags in stagnation.

Meanwhile, socio-economic conditions are dire, as evidenced by the "revolt of the unemployed" in January 2016. The protest movement which started from Kasserine, Tunisia’s poorest region, and spread to several regions of the Republic was triggered by the electrocution of 27-year-old Ridha Yahiaoui during a demonstration against the withdrawal of a list of employees in the public service. The slogans chanted by protesters were reminiscent of, if not replicating, the ones chanted during the revolution which took place between December 2010 and January 2011.

by Tarek Ben Chaabane 7 June, 2016
Arab Citizenship review n16  

"Where is the Wealth?" Echoing the King's 2014 speech in light of the delay in the implementation of the new Constitution

In Morocco, the new Constitution promised by King Mohammed VI in 2011 has raised high expectations regarding the improvement of socio-economic standards in the country and the possible redistribution of national wealth in a more transparent and democratic way.

Just like Tunisia and Egypt, Moroccan demonstrators of the 20 February Movement had taken to the streets to ask for more freedom and democracy, but also to call for social equality and an end to corruption. Many of the grievances and the claims raised by demonstrators fell within the domain of socio-economic rights. Even though it might still be early to take stock, five years down the road, it is possible to provide a fist assessment of the major changes in Morocco in the socio-economic area. The attempt is to analyse whether the improvements introduced by the new Constitution have met the expectations of the people standing up for their rights in the wake of the Arab Spring, or whether the Kingdom of Morocco has fallen short on its promise to undertake structural change.



De Martino






review n15  

 The socio-economic of exclusion: Re-questioning citizenship in relation to social justice in the post Arab Spring Egypt  


The most recent official statistics reveal that over a quarter of Egypt’s population still live in poverty, a third of its youth are unemployed and three out of five children are malnourished. Much of the criticism of Egypt’s human rights record, particularly after the Arab Spring, remains focused on the country’s civil and political rights, and freedoms with an intentional (or unintentional) disregard to socioeconomic rights, fuelling widespread poverty, deteriorating living standards, socioeconomic exclusion and unequal and/or degrading treatment. This paper examines the socioeconomic policies of exclusion that are still undermining the enjoyment of basic citizenship rights in Egypt.


Dina Mansour

19 February,


Arab Citizenship review n14
 Women's Political Participation in Tunisia

The collapse of the authoritarian regime in Tunisia in 2011 has given women new opportunities to participate in political life and in civil society activities, standing for elections (2011 and 2014) or becoming members of political parties and associations. Nevertheless, despite these advances and the already positive point of de- parture thanks to the legacy of Bourguiba, the “liberator of the country and the women”, participation of women remains unsatisfactory. While Tunisian women have enjoyed extended individual rights, especially compared to Arab women in general, since the country became independent in 1956, their political participation has remained controlled by the state.T

he challenge of increasing the political participation of women, even in a democratic phase of the country’s political life, remains.The new electoral laws from 2011 and 2014 endorse parity and women rights, now guaranteed by the Constitution. However, the implementation of these rights is still at stake.

by Nihel Ben Amar

19 January, 2016

Arab Citizenship review n13
Shall Tunisia Succeed in Becoming a Strong Democratic State?

Arab revolutions have sparked real hopes for democracy, but the situation varies from one state to another and change has taken various directions, with unpredictable outcomes in the future. In light of current events, most of these countries seem to have failed in their democratic transition and also face the dissolution of their state apparatus in bloody civil wars. This leaves the door open to interpretations associating democracy with chaos. In this view, preserving post-colonial states – authoritarian in most cases – is better than having no state at all. This partially justified the coup that took place in Egypt, where the ‘Deep State’ has recovered its capabilities in a dictatorial manner.
The Arab world thus faced an impasse: the state is either stable but authoritarian or democratic yet threatened with dissolution. The dilemma results in an impossible choice between stable dictatorship or freedom ending in chaos.
Tunisia seems to be the only country that managed to achieve a democratic transition while preserving the state institutions, to the extent that some observers talk about the "Tunisian exception". However, several indicators show that state weakness could be ascribed to the uncertain character of the democratic transition. Yet there seem to be more profound and serious reasons to fear for this transition. Is Tunisia really immune from the threat of state failure? How can this country take up the challenge of being a state that is at the same time powerful and democratic? From our perspective, the Tunisian state has historically been stable. It has always been a powerful state –meaning a state able to penetrate society and implement its agenda. However, a deep concern remains: how can a democratic state reinforce the fundamentals of power on the one hand and address the challenges of disintegration on the other?

By Hamadi Redissi and Afifa Ayadi December 2015
Arab Citizenship review n12
Did Egypt's Parliamentary Election just trump citizens’ rights?

Since the Muslim Brotherhood rule was toppled in July 2013, the regime of President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi has strived to consolidate his one-man rule; he painted the political opposition and civil society as traitors and foreign agents and exploited the fight against terrorism to suppress freedom of expression, justify a crackdown on the press, eclipse justice in courtrooms, throw thousands in prison, and tighten his grip on police forces. The regime has postponed parliamentary elections for some time, while it marginalised and weakened the non-Islamist political parties that helped Sisi take power. He did so by promoting electoral lists with candidates who are loyal to the president, to ensure control over the new assembly and by obstructing any political alliance that could form an opposition. At the same time, the security apparatus has been given free rein to control the public sphere and engineer the electoral process. This may ultimately lead to a parliament that includes no advocates for rights and liberties, which is particularly significant since the incoming assembly will review the huge amount of legislation that President Sisi has issued in the absence of a parliament. In addition, shortly before elections, President Sisi raised questions about the constitution, calling for it to be amended to reduce the powers of the parliament and increase those of the president. It is thus clear that Sisi seeks not only to consolidate his regime, without political opposition, but to free his rule of any effective oversight from society or parliament.

By Ragab Saad
November 2015
Arab Citizenship review n11
Arab views on democratic citizenship – and on EU support

Much has been said about the EU’s general response to the Arab spring. And much has been written about regimes’ resistance to the far-reaching reform demanded by protestors across the Arab world. We have been engaged in a project ( exploring one very specific dimension of these political trends and social debates: the question of how citizens in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) understand the concept of democratic citizenship.

Within our project, our local affiliated research organizations ran throughout 2014 a series of focus groups in Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia with a range of civic stakeholders. The aim of these meetings was to explore how citizens in the three countries understand democratic citizenship and how they view EU efforts to support political reform.

By Rosa Balfour and Richard Youngs October 2015
Arab Citizenship review n10
Morocco’s illiberal regime and fragmented political society

In February 2011, citizens in Morocco – much like their counterparts elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East – poured into the streets in protest against corruption, economic hardship and a lack of freedom. These series of ‘uprisings’ or protests were quickly categorized as a general ‘Arab awakening’, or ‘Arab Spring’, but evolved in very different directions throughout the region; from the rise of parliamentary democracy in Tunisia to the outbreak of civil wars in Syria and Yemen. In Morocco, the post-Arab Spring period can be divided into different stages, based on the regime’s response to the demands of the protesters. During the first stage, starting with the protests in February 2011 and lasting until the summer of 2013, the ruling elite in Morocco implicitly, yet officially, accepted the public’s critique on its governance practices, and promised to change public policies related to civil, political and social rights.

By Maati Monjib October 2015
Arab Citizenship review n9.
Women's Rights in the Aftermath of Egypt's Revolution

This paper will highlight different topics around women’s rights and gender issues in Egypt after 2011.

This paper will review different gender issues after 2011, including the targeting of women in public spaces, women’s representation in decision-making bodies, legal reform, economic and social rights, and sexual and reproductive rights. It will also investigate how the feminist movement has changed and evolved since 2011, and to what degree women's issues and feminism can be analysed in a multidisciplinary way.

By Mozn Hassan
Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies
August 2015
Arab Citizenship review n8.
Discussing Citizenship in Egypt: A comparative study of the post-2011 political debate

Having simultaneously evolved theoretically and in political practice over centuries, the concept of citizenship is one of the most complex in political and social sciences. It correlates and intersects with another set of concepts and values, especially the rule of the law and democracy. Its historical evolution, thanks to individuals and citizens’ movements’ struggle to gain equal rights in their political communities, needs to be captured by theory.

Citizenship is by nature a multi-dimensional concept. Legally, it refers to the equal legal status of individuals, for instance the equality between men and women. The political dimension is related to the practice of politics, joining parties, and participation in general. The religious dimension relates to the rights of all religious groups to practice their religious customs and rituals equally. The economic dimension is related to the non-marginalisation of different social categories, for instance women.

By Mohamed Elagati
Nouran Ahmed
Mahmoud Bayoumi
July 2015
Arab Citizenship review n7.
Supervising Tunisian Elections by civil society: How to improve it?

On October 26, 2014, Tunisia held its second democratic legislative elections. Participation among more than 5 million registered voters was at about 60%, a relatively good turnout for the country, compared to the 52% voters in 2011. Preliminary results for the 33 constituencies (27 within the country and 6 for expatriates) reveal that secular frontrunner Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunisia) won around 37% percent of votes while moderate Islamist party Ennahdha, winner of the 2011 elections and leader of Tunisia’s post-revolution government, received 27% of votes.

By Hamadi Redissi and Nihel Ben Amar January 2015
Arab Citizenship review n6.
The Return to Authoritatianism and the Crisis of Citizenship Rights

Political and civil rights have deteriorated since the election of Field Marshal Abd El Fattah El Sisi as president of Egypt. And there is no prospect for significant political changes any time soon in Egypt. The public space is currently more restricted than any time after the 25th of January Revolution, with increasing reprisals against pro-democracy activists and civil society.

By Moataz El Fegiery
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studie
October 2014
Arab Citizenship review n5.
The New Tunisian Constitution and Citizenship Rights

On 26 January 2014, a new constitution was adopted in Tunisia. This is the fourth fundamental law of the country's history. The new constitution represents a compromise negotiated between the Islamist party Ennahda – which has a plurality in the Constituent Assembly - and opposition forces, led by a quartet from civil society.The document enshrines important freedoms, sets up a dual executive, commits to constitutional justice and, without precedent in the Arab world, promises gender parity.

By Ahmed Driss and Fadhel Blibech
Centre for Mediterranean and International Studies
May 2014
Arab Citizenship review n4.
Egypt’s Transition in Crisis: The Decline of Citizenship Rights

Egypt’s possible transition to democracy has recently witnessed its most critical moment since the revolution of 25th January 2011. The ousting of President Mohammad Morsi in July 2013 jeopardised the democratic aspirations of many liberals, despite their joining the protest against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. On the contrary, political and civil rights have suffered a severe downturn and the prospect of establishing democratic institutions has become more distant.

By Moataz El Fegiery
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
April 2014
Arab Citizenship review

Citizenship in post-awakening Tunisia: power shifts and conflicting perceptions

With the passing of its new Constitution, Tunisia is rightly celebrated as the Arab state that has advanced the most in strengthening democratic rights provisions. The Constitution formally enshrines the progress Tunisia has made especially on women’s rights; the rights of expression and assembly; freedom of the press; the rights of political parties; and the formal recognition of social and economic rights. However, the Constitution does not definitively resolve tensions between individual and religious rights. In order to maintain consensus between the differing opinions in Tunisia, the document remains ambivalent on the state’s precise role in protecting the ‘sacred’. Tunisia has made much progress, but the Constitution is likely to perpetuate rather than close debates over different concepts of rights.

By Fadhel Blibech, Ahmed Driss and Pietro Longo

CEMI - University l'Orientale in Naples

February 2014
Arab Citizenship review

Citizenship in post-awakening Egypt: power shifts and conflicting perceptions
This report links Egypt’s shifting political phases to debates more specifically about citizenship rights. It offers a general overview of Egypt’s recent political trajectory, before unpacking the various dimensions of debates over citizenship rights. In each of the three political phases since Mubarak’s ousting, citizenship rights have been curtailed. Crucially, the reasons for their constriction have been different in each phase. Some limitations have derived from largely political power plays, others from more philosophical-theological factors. It is important to distinguish between these different forms of debate if we are better to understand prospects for the future of citizenship rights in Egypt.
By Ragab Saad and Moataz El Fegiery
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
January 2014
Arab Citizenship review n3.


Since January 2011, political developments in Tunisia have been intense. The country has experienced a first phase of the transition, during which politicians have sought, through consensus and within the framework of the High Commission for the Achievement of the Objectives of the Revolution, to convince the Tunisians of their good intentions and their desire to establish a pluralistic and participatory democracy in which rights and freedoms will be guaranteed and accessible without any obstacle. Liberalism, encouraging the freedoms of association and expression, characterized the legislation during this phase. The High Commission for the Achievement of the Objectives of the Revolution set up an independent body for the elections which, with the support of the government, organized elections for a National Constituent Assembly. The elections to the Constituent Assembly, which took place on 23 October 2011, were free and fair, and the Assembly was entrusted with a mandate to draft a new constitution and appoint a new President of the Republic and a new government.

By Ahmed Driss
Centre for Mediterranean and International Studies
August 2013
Arab Citizenship review n2.


Morocco’s reform process has passed through four phases since early 2011. In each of these phases, debates about rights have been centre-stage. Both advances and blockages have been witnessed in relation to rights, but definitions of preferred concepts of rights by local Moroccan actors remain fluid

By Ward Vloeberghs and Youssef Benkirane,
CERAM / Ecole de Gouvernance et d’Economie de Rabat, Morocco
August 2013
Arab Citizenship review n1.


The prospect of broadening the scope of citizenship rights in the new emerging political regime was high after the end of Mubarak’s reign. The systematic abuse of rights under Mubarak was among the major factors leading to the massive popular revolt in January 2011. However, the political transition in Egypt has not yet led to a significant expansion of citizenship rights. Although the respect for political rights was tentatively improved after the revolution, this improvement was fragile and it has become subjected to regression under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. The restrictions on the rights of women and the rights of religious minorities have persisted.

By Moataz El Fegiery and Ragab Saad
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
August 2013