By Yasmine Raouf
Tunisian Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Faycal Gouia
In early October of this year, ABPA was honored to join the University of Maryland’s Organization of Arab Students in organizing a talk with His Excellency Faycal Gouia, Tunisia’s Ambassador to the United States. Hosted on the beautiful University of Maryland, College Park campus, UMD students and guests of ABPA came together to discuss topics such as Tunisia’s unique experience with the ‘Arab Spring,’ the importance of education to Tunisians, as well as the country’s relationship with the United States. On these subjects and more, Ambassador Gouia shared his deep knowledge of Tunisia with the room of participants, in what was both an engaging and insightful dialogue.
In his opening address, Ambassador Gouia proudly shared his perspective on his home country’s deeply ingrained respect for, and investment in, free education for all Tunisians. He noted that with many generations of educated Tunisians living in the country and being active citizens, the population of Tunisia was empowered to enact political change and move away from dictatorship. Ambassador Gouia also touched on women’s rights during his opening address. There are currently more female students in Tunisia than male students, the Ambassador noted—adding that the country is very proud to have passed women’s emancipation shortly after gaining independence, and proud of Tunisia’s progressive history of ensuring that women and men are paid equally.
When discussing the process of Tunisia’s democratic transition, Ambassador Gouia proudly described the country’s new constitution and its progressive accomplishments in the realm of human rights. The Ambassador described the constitution’s language surrounding freedom of conscience, which is aimed at protecting the country’s democratic ideals.
Like the United States, Tunisia has a long historical commitment to such freedoms, Ambassador Gouia emphasized that official relations between the US and Tunisia are one of the oldest, dating back to 1797.
Following Ambassador Gouia’s address was, there was a lively dialogue with attendees who were eager to gain a detailed understanding of the issues raised in the address. As a student deeply curious about what the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ means for the future — and as someone of North African descent who follows political developments in the region — I found Ambassador Gouia’s genuine and honest analysis of Tunisia’s challenges very rewarding. Many questions were raised by the audience on the topic of Tunisia’s relationship to the ‘Arab Spring,’ which Ambassador Gouia was uniquely qualified to answer. Conversation between Ambassador Gouia and the attendees of the event lasted well into the late evening, and the event ended with ABPA and the UMD Organization of Arab Students graciously thanking the Ambassador for his time.
About the Author
Yasmine Raouf is ABPA’s PR Fellow and Student Ambassador to American University for the Fall 2018 term. Yasmine Raouf is in her third year studying International Studies and Transcultural Literature at American University in Washington, D.C.