In another talk with Ennahda’s leader, Rashid Ghannouchi, Correspondents addressed the most pressing issues challenging Tunisia today: terrorism, transitional justice and national unity.

Mr. Ghannouchi, should Tunsia hold a dialogue with terrorists returning home from abroad?

This requires a general strategy by the state to contain terrorism because terrorism is a complicated issue and cannot be handled by security services and the judiciary alone.

In another talk with Ennahda’s leader, Rashid Ghannouchi, Correspondents addressed the most pressing issues challenging Tunisia today: terrorism, transitional justice and national unity.

Mr. Ghannouchi, should Tunsia hold a dialogue with terrorists returning home from abroad?

This requires a general strategy by the state to contain terrorism because terrorism is a complicated issue and cannot be handled by security services and the judiciary alone.

The strategy should cover development as well as intellectual and religious dialogue by qualified ulema (Islamic scholars). As for the security approach, which is arresting thousands of accused terrorists, it would only make prisons attract and entrench these evil ideas and also make thousands of people and families sympathize with them. This is what happened with the Ennahda Movement when tens of thousands of its members were imprisoned, causing their families to sympathize with them. Today, the Ennahda is in power. Adopting this security approach now will only make IS come to power ten or twenty years later.

Do you believe it is possible and acceptable to negotiate with terrorists and murderers?

Dialogue is a basis for addressing terrorism. There are success lessons we can learn from Morocco, for example. They addressed this issue by having a dialogue with such young people and convincing them that their religious perceptions were wrong and that Islam was not about killing or the persecution of women, but rather about justice and equality. Some of them have even become imams of mosques where King Mohammed VI prayed.

The region is not new to dialogue. It has been practiced in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Algeria. The leader of a recently formed Algerian party was previously the leader of the Islamic Salvation Front, the armed arm of the Islamic Front. His supporters fought against the state for six or seven years and killed many. Eventually and thanks to dialogue, they handed over their weapons and were re-integrated into society. It is a great experience that refutes the view that terrorism is only addressed through prison.

What is your opinion of how the Tunisian authority has dealt with those arrested in terrorism cases?

We are against any illegal practice by security services or the judiciary. This is why we participated in the parliamentarian committee that investigated cases of torture. Waging a war against terrorism should not be a pretext to override human rights and torture people. The police are facing many challenges in addressing terrorism and the lives of police officers are jeopardized because they face savage people. True, it is uneasy for them to abide by the law, but they have to, and the state should provide them with sufficient means of protection.

The draft amnesty law that exempts businessmen accused of corruption from liability has been greatly controversial? What is your position on it?

It is a proper floor to start addressing financial violations by some businessmen and government employees, in order to recover stolen national money in offshore accounts. However, the draft needs to be amended so as to make its jurisdiction different than that of transitional justice’s. We are keen to have the track of transitional justice move forward without intersecting with the track of economic reconciliation.

What do you think of the protests against this draft, which some consider to be a sign of gratitude by the Tunisian president for some businessmen who funded his electoral campaign?

I do not judge intentions. I only judge this draft, which is developable. When the president presented it through his legislative initiative, he said: “The law is between your hands. Amend it as you deem necessary.” It is not a Quranic text that we must stick to literally. It is a legislative initiative aimed at restoring national money in offshore accounts to be used in development and infrastructure.

The Ennahda Movement has long been raising the slogan of holding the corrupt accountable. What has caused Ennahda to approve the draft?

We are not against accountability, but against the dismissal of any case against those accused of corruption. Holding them accountable is the first step towards reparation and reconciliation. What is needed now is not closing the file of accountability, but opening files and restoring looted money, because it is not in the interest of Tunisians under this difficult situation to keep these funds hidden in the coffers of Switzerland or Hawaii or any other country. Their interest lies in recovering these funds, using them in development and investment in poor areas and taking care of the vulnerable groups and the unemployed. Therefore, we support the draft law and seek to introduce some amendments.

Will you seek to amend it through your parliamentarian block?

We have formed a parliamentarian committee comprised of members of the Ennahda Political Bureau and of legists to examine the draft law and find the differentiation line between economic reconciliation and political reconciliation. We are about to present draft amendments to the Ruling Coalition Party Coordination Committee – RCPCC – to agree on them before submitting them to the Parliament when the discussion of the draft law starts.

What is your opinion of the activities of the Truth and Dignity Commission – TDC – which oversees transitional justice following the war of words among its members, the dismissal of one of them and the wave of resignations?

The TDC has been, since its establishment, trying to settle its internal structure and forming its regional committees and departments without commencing its activities on the ground, regarding seeking truth and exposing previous violations. The TDC has so far received nearly 15,000 files and we urge it to address its deficiencies and unify its ranks in order to start its work and ward off any suspicions concerning its performance, because some now demand full change of its formation.

Does head of the TDC Sihem Bensedrine enjoy special protection by Ennahda?

It is the TDC rather than its head that we support and seek that it starts its activities under the best possible conditions because the TDC is responsible for the path of transitional justice, disclosing the truth and holding those involved in corruption and tyranny accountable. This issue is not a partisan or personal issue, but rather a national one that is the concern of all Tunisians.

What is your opinion about a call by some PMs to form a parliamentary investigation committee to investigate alleged corruption by TDC’s head?

We do not support the formation of such a committee. The case of the TDC is a constitutional one that should be dealt with very carefully since transitional justice is a national rather than partisan issue. We have called the TDC to unify its ranks and bridge the gaps of its structure in order to start working. I do not believe that some are seeking to dissolve it or change its formation. We will discuss this in the next meeting of the RCPCC to reach a joint decision because the country now is ruled by a coalition rather than by a single party.

Some parties in the ruling coalition complain about the encroachments of Nidaa Tounes and of its imposition of its choices regarding the appointment of governors.

No political party can impinge on government because Tunisians have not allowed any party to have hegemony and decided that we should rule in a participatory manner and under a coalition. Governor appointments are not a struggle among parties because each party of the ruling coalition presented its proposals to the prime minister who had the final say in this regard.

How do you appraise the performance of the current government led by Habib Essid?

The government is making every effort to boost development. We support this government and strive to make its effort a success. We urge Tunisians to do the same and give it the opportunity to be genuinely tested because the government’s success means the success of the democratic experience in Tunisia. We now give priority to governmental stability and hope that the possible partial reshuffle in the coming period will not affect it.

Are you considering participating in the municipal elections through joint lists with Nidaa Tounes?

We have not yet discussed this issue. Usually, small parties participate in such elections under political coalitions while major parties participate in them independently, to test their strengths and weaknesses. We have elected a commission led by previous PM Imad Hammami, which will prepare for the municipal elections to be held next year.

How do you view social conditions under the continuous strikes and protests in the country?

It is not uncommon for Tunisians to practice their right to demonstrate or strike. However, we are dissatisfied with what is going on for example in the education sector. We appreciate those in charge of education and their demands should be met and their conditions improved. In any case, it is unreasonable to use our children as a tool to bargain over the date of going back to school. The dates of going back to school and of exams should not be changed and teachers’ demands should also be met.

Members of the constitutional parties are talking about a relationship with Ennahda. Is it true?

They and we have one grandfather, Abdelaziz Thâalbi, the founder of the National Movement. It is very important to look for what is in common, such as the Reform School in the 19th century. Thâalbi refused the idea of rupture and of rejecting the other. I believe that we as Tunisians, if we exclude the exclusionary thought, will find that there are much in common because the legacy of Thâalbi as well as of Farhat Hached and Mohamed Ali El Hammi – two founding unionists – brings us all together.

A militant current represented by Sadok Chourou and Habib Ellouze within the Ennahda objected to your coalition with Nidaa Tounes. Has this current been excluded from the Ennahda for that?

Chourou and Ellouze are two icons of Ennahda. They both are members of the Shura Council and one of them is an adviser to the Ennahda presidency. The Ennahda is a broad and diverse movement that focuses on moderate Islam, democracy, institutions and rejection of violence. There are a lot of whims and they all discuss and negotiate under Ennahda and they are all equally keen about the safety of Ennahda.

When will you hold your conference and will it decide on your track towards party work or advocacy work?

The Ennahda is a continuously civil party. There is only the problem of distributing tasks and responsibilities among its institutions. This topic will be discussed by the conference, which will be held late this year or early next year.