Remarks from Secretary Kerry on Democracy and Human Rights in Tunisia

U.S. Department of State

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m very pleased to be here in Tunis at what is obviously a very important time for the country. On behalf of the United States of America and President Obama, I want to extend our congratulations to Prime Minister Jomaa and to the country, to the citizens who have all invested in the future of this country. And we congratulate them on the very difficult transition but vital transition to democratic rule.

The transition that has taken place here and, in fact, the series of uprisings that became known as the Arab Spring began, as many of you know better than me even, 200 miles – less than 200 miles from here with an act of courage and an act of desperation by a Tunisian man who refused to live one day longer in a country that was plagued by corruption and absent opportunity. Three years later, the Tunisian people have ratified a new constitution, a constitution that is rooted in democratic principles – equality, freedom, security, economic opportunity, and the rule of law. It is a constitution that underscores Tunisia’s long tradition of respect for the rights of women and minorities. It is a constitution that will allow the people of Tunisia to realize the aspirations of Mohamed Bouazizi and millions of others. And it is a constitution that can serve as a model for others in the region and around the world.

Getting to this moment has not been easy. There have been countless debates, discussions, and disagreements. But these things are exactly what is central to democracy. That is true of a democracy that is young or old. The fact is that the road to a full democracy is long and difficult, and it is a road that in many ways never really ends, as we see even in old democracies like ours: we’re always working and we’re always working to perfect it…

…I know that Tunisia is an educated, thoughtful country that respects rule of law and respects the rights of others, and I know this is a path that Tunisia wants to go down and wants to be successful at. So I wanted to come here today to confirm on behalf of the American people and President Obama our commitment to stand with Tunisia, with the people of Tunisia, and to help move down this road to democracy with hopes that this constitution that you have achieved will become a model for other countries in other places.

We look forward to working with you in this critical year ahead as you come to elections and hopefully to the goal that you want to achieve.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) So, thank you very much, Secretary Kerry. (Inaudible) so the first question is concerning the Rand –

QUESTION: Corporation.

QUESTION: — Corporation, which made a study 10 years ago, a report 10 years ago, speaking about a political Islam, which should go back to the eastern countries and must be eradicated from those same countries. And this is the case for Egypt and Tunisia. So my question is: What’s the second phase of this plan or strategy? And what do you want exactly from the region – this means Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt? And what do you expect – and Syria – and what do you expect from these countries?

And also the second part of my first question is about the military bases which is located in the southern part of Spain. So what can you say about this military bases? An explanation – and its relationship with Spain?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, yeah, look – in fairness, folks, if everybody asks two questions, we’re not going to have a very fair afternoon here. And I’m being informed I have to leave shortly because I have to get to other meetings in yet another country, and I apologize for that. But I want to try to be fair in this process.

I haven’t read the Rand Corporation study. I don’t know what it says, and I can guarantee you it doesn’t – it’s not a policy of the United States of America.

So with respect to the countries in the region, what do we want? We want something that radical extreme Islam – not Islam as a whole, but radical extreme Islam – doesn’t tolerate. And it’s called tolerance. It’s called acceptance, pluralism, of all people, not just one form of thinking which people get killed for or punished for if they don’t adhere to it. We want a democratic process by which people’s rights are protected – human rights, the rights of worship, the rights of assembly, the rights of speech, and we believe that the right to petition your government without going to prison. There are a whole host of rights, and that’s what the United States wants, and we admire those countries like Tunisia that are trying to embrace those rights.

- For full text of Secretary Kerry’s press availability see state.gov

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