The Arabs encountered Tunisia in the strongest resistance in their advance to the west, but at the same time the country became the place where their culture best developed and came to fruition. The city of Kairuán is associated with the most prominent names in Islamic architecture, medicine and history. During the disintegration of the Almohad empire (see Morocco), the area around Tunis became independent during the Berber dynasty hafe side, which during the 13th and 14th centuries extended its control to the coastal areas of Algeria.
The development of European shipping in the Mediterranean attracted Turkish pirates to the region, and the most notorious of these, Khayr ad-Din (also known as the Red Beard) set up his operation base in Tunis. The Algerian-Tunisian coast thus came under the control of Ottoman sultans. But the interior of the country remained in the hands of the Berber tribes. It was necessary to reconcile these, and the Turks therefore allowed the appointed governor (bey) to gain extensive autonomy and a succession of monarchy developed. In 1612-1702 it was the Murad family that ruled, and from 1705 until after independence in 1957, the Heussini dynasty was in power.
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Following the French occupation of Algeria, the European economy penetrated further into the region, bringing with it a rising debt. In 1869 the debt was so great that the governor (bey) was forced to accept that an Anglo-French-Italian commission was controlling the country’s finances. Foreign intervention increased until 30,000 French soldiers occupied the country in 1882. The reason was that France had entered into an agreement with England which, after the British’s recent occupation of Egypt, now “gave up its demands on Tunis” – in return for France having lost the Suez Canal.
In 1925, a campaign for a new constitution (Destur 1) was launched in Tunis to give the country autonomy. After World War II, the independence party Neo Destur gained importance, and it came to anti-colonial riots, which in 1952-55 culminated in armed struggle. In March 1956, France recognized bey‘s supremacy – the same ruler who in 1881 had agreed to make the country a French protectorate. The following year – on July 25, 1957 – the king was overthrown by a constitutional assembly controlled by Neo Destur. The country was declared a republic and the party’s top leader, Habib Bourguiba unfolded a fierce campaign against the French presence at the naval base Bizerta. But only in 1964 was the base evacuated. Neo Destur transformed in 1964 into the Socialist Party Destur (PSD), which until 1981 was the country’s only legal party.
During the period 1963-69, the smaller farms were collectivized under the leadership of Finance Minister Ahmed Ben Salah. Furthermore, the larger plantations were collectivized and the foreign companies nationalized.
In 1969, Ben Salah was detained and later sent out of the country. At the same time, the collectivization and co-operatization of agriculture were abandoned and the country opened itself to foreign capital. In 1972, a new investment law made almost the entire country a free zone for export companies. At the same time, Habib Bourguiba – the “Supreme Fighter” – was appointed president for life.
In the late 1970s, the economy deteriorated as a result of a decline in phosphate exports and the Community’s protectionist steps towards the main textile industry. In January 1978, the National Organization of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) – Africa’s oldest national organization – initiated a general strike against wage policy and trade union repression. The subsequent clashes cost hundreds of lives and the leadership of the national organization was arrested, including its chairman Habib Achour.
In 1980, Mohamed Mzali was appointed prime minister, thus initiating a political opening process. The following year, the parties were allowed a reorganization, and trade union elections were held, which led to a crucial renewal in the national organization UGTT. In November 1981, parliamentary elections, won by the ruling Front National, won 94% of the vote and all seats in parliament. There were numerous complaints of irregularities.
According to CountryAAH, the population of Tunisia in 2019 was 11,694,608, ranking number 78 in the world. The population growth rate was 1.120% yearly, and the population density was 75.2750 people per km2.