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The Neila Test


Neila Charchour Hachicha, a Tunisian democracy activist, is quickly becoming a test case for White House seriousness about democracy promotion and rule-of-law. Last year, she gave an interview to the Middle East Quarterly about impediments to reform in Tunisia. She later spoke at AEI about the need for democracy.

In the last couple weeks, Neila’s car has been confiscated, her internet connection severed, and her daughter threatened. Police have been stationed outside Neila’s house and have written down the license plate numbers of anyone who has visited her. Last night, we learned that Neila’s husband had been sentenced to ten months in prison on accusations that appear to have no legal basis. She was called in for four hours of questioning.

The U.S. Embassy in Tunisia remains silent. If the Bush administration does not stand up for its friends in the region, it will soon learn it has none. Willingness to stand up for dissidents is more powerful than any message Karen Hughes can give.