Washington D.C. – The Tunisian authority’s decision to expel Moroccan prince Moulay Hicham, King Mohammed VI’s cousin, has drawn widespread condemnation and cast doubts on the degree of democratic advances in post-Ben Ali Tunisia.
It was not long ago that Tunisia was seen as a success story among the ruins of the Arab Spring. However, the Moulay Hicham incident has raised serious questions about the standing of the country’s judicial system and the sovereignty of this North African nation’s foreign policy.
For the many Moroccans who hailed the Tunisian experience as the model of a successful democratic transition in a region marred by violence and strife, the news came down as a shock and deep disappointment.
While it is true that Tunisia’s act to expel Moulay Hicham is a ‘sovereign decision’, the action to remove a lecturer in the country to attend an academic conference is a page straight out of former’ Dictator Ben Ali’s playbook.
According to Moulay Hicham, Tunisian police accosted him in the hotel where he was staying and asked him to leave the territory without giving reasons for this arbitrary removal. The Moroccan prince was in Tunisia to attend a conference on political and security developments in Morocco, Egypt and Yemen sponsored by Stanford University’s Center for Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law.
While Tunis remained silent about the source of the request for the removal, media outlets hypothesized that the United Arab Emirate, a country that previously expelled the Moroccan prince, had asked friendly Tunisian officials to act. Clearly, certain Tunisian officials did not want Moulay Hicham to use their country as a platform from which to discuss lack of democracy and human rights protections in the Arab world.
Images of Tunisian police officers escorting Moulay Hicham as if he was a clear and present danger to national security is a disgrace. Furthermore, Tunisian authority’s refusal to elaborate on the incident leaves the door open to rumors and innuendo about the influence of foreign governments on the current regime in Tunis.
The status of the country as a new democracy backed by rule of law took a hit by ceding to outside pressures in banning a lecturer who admires and respects Tunisia. Many Tunisians took to social media to ridicule their government over this overblown and undignified action. The decision to eject a non-threatening visiting speaker under such humiliating conditions was morally and politically wrong.
Morocco is unlikely the source of the request to force out Moulay Hicham. Even tough he has been critical of the Kingdom, Moroccan authorities do not consider him as a real threat to the stability of the regime.
In fact, Moulay Hicham’s popularity in Morocco took a nosedive after the failure of his book “Journal d’un prince banni“(Diary of a Banned Prince) to garner public interest and the publication of unflattering stories in local independent media about the identity of the manuscript’s writer.
Moulay Hicham never recovered from the damage done to his reputation after the publication of several articles written by Ali Lmrabet, Morocco’s most fervent anti-establishment journalist, exposing the Prince as a desperate intellectual looking for paid writers to do his bidding. Actually, he never answered Lmrabet accusations.
Moulay Hicham has no influence over Arab public opinion and his lectures usually target other likeminded activists and experts who are familiar with the current political and social state of affairs in the region .The “coup” to stop him from delivering a mundane lecture shows a weak Tunisian state and nervous Arab nations.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy