Mohamed Moncef Marzouki (born 7 July 1945) is a Tunisian politician who was President of Tunisia from 2011 to 2014. Through his career he has been a human rights activist, physician and politician. On 12 December 2011, he was elected as President of Tunisia by the Constituent Assembly.
Born in Grombalia, Tunisia, Marzouki was the son of a Qadi. His father, being a supporter of Salah Ben Youssef (Bourguiba’s opponent), emigrated to Morocco in the late 1950s because of political pressures. Marzouki finished his secondary education in Tangier, where he obtained the Baccalauréat in 1961. He then went to study medicine at the University of Strasbourg in France. Returning to Tunisia in 1979, he founded the Center for Community Medicine in Sousse and the African Network for Prevention of Child Abuse, also joining Tunisian League for Human Rights. In his youth, he had travelled to India to study Mahatma Gandhi‘s non-violent resistance. Later, he also travelled to South Africa to study its transition from apartheid.
When the government cracked down violently on the Islamist Ennahda Movement in 1991, Marzouki confronted Tunisian President Ben Ali calling on him to adhere to the law. In 1993, Marzouki was a founding member of the National Committee for the Defense of Prisoners of Conscience, but he resigned after it was taken over by supporters of the government. He was arrested on several occasions on charges relating to the propagation of false news and working with banned Islamist groups. He subsequently founded the National Committee for Liberties. He became President of the Arab Commission for Human Rights and as of 17 January 2011 continues as a member of its Executive Board.
President of Tunisia
On 12 December 2011, the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia, a body elected to govern the country and draft a new constitution, elected Marzouki as the interim President of the Tunisian Republic, with 155 votes for, 3 against, and 42 blank votes. Blank votes were the result of a boycott from the opposition parties, who considered the new mini-constitution of the country an undemocratic one.
On 3 May 2012, Nessma TV owner Nabil Karoui and two others were convicted of “blasphemy” and “disturbing public order”. The charges stemmed from the network’s decision to broadcast a dubbed version of the 2007 Franco-Iranian film Persepolis, which includes several visual depictions of God. Karoui was fined 2,400 dinars for the broadcast, while the station’s programming director and the president of the women’s organization which provided dubbing for the film were fined 1,200 dinars. Responding to the verdict, Marzouki stated to members of the press in the presidential palace in Tunis, “I think this verdict is bad for the image of Tunisia. Now people in the rest of the world will only be talking about this when they talk about Tunisia.”
As President, Marzouki played a leading role in establishing Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission in 2014, as a key part of creating a national reconciliation.
In March 2014, President Marzouki lifted the state of emergency that had been in place since the outbreak of the 2011 revolution, and a top military chief said soldiers stationed in some of the countrys most sensitive areas would return to their barracks. The decree from President Marzouki said the state of emergency ordered in January 2011 is lifted across the country immediately. The state of emergency was imposed by longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and maintained after he was overthrown. It was repeatedly renewed.
In April 2014, he cut his pay by two-thirds, citing the state’s need to be a model in dealing with the deteriorating financial situation.
On 25 June 2015, Marzouki participated in the Freedom Flotilla III to Gaza in Palestine. On 29 June, during their approach to the territorial waters of Gaza, but while still in international waters, the flotilla intercepted by the Israeli army, then they were taken to the port of Ashdod, where they were interviewed. Marzouki was greeted by a delegation of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, but he declined to discuss with them. On 30 June, he was deported to Paris, returning to Tunis on 1 July, where he was greeted by hundreds of supporters.
From a first marriage, Moncef Marzouki has two daughters: Myriam and Nadia. In December 2011, during a private civil ceremony in Carthage Palace, he married Beatrix Rhein, a French physician.
Tunisian National Honours
- Grand Collar of the Order of Independence (automatic when taking office)
- Grand Collar of the Order of the Republic (automatic when taking office)
- France : Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour (4 July 2013)
- Morocco : Grand Cross of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite (31 May 2014)
- Egypt : Golden Lion of Alexandria (6 June 2014)
- Niger : Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (23 June 2014)
- Arabes, si vous parliez, ed. Lieu commun, Paris, 1987
- Laisse mon pays se réveiller : vers une quatrième civilisation, ed. Éditions pour le Maghreb arabe, Tunis, 1988
- Le mal arabe, ed. L’Harmattan, Paris, 2004
- Dictateurs en sursis : une voie démocratique pour le monde arabe, ed. de l’Atelier, Paris, 2009
- L’invention d’une démocratie. Les leçons de l’expérience tunisienne, ed. La Découverte, Paris, 2013
- Tunisie, du triomphe au naufrage (with Pierre Piccinin da Prata & Thibaut Werpin), ed. éd. L’Harmattan, Paris, 2013