The “Scheicha”, the city and the problems


Souad Abderrahim is the first freely elected mayor of an Arab capital. Your opponents see you as a candidate of the moderate Islamists. You want to keep politics out of it.

Who would like to meet the mayor of Tunis, should bring time – a lot of time. The big hype is over, this is the waiting room now, but quite full with people who want to make an appointment with her; citizens, local Managers, city employees, police officers, Activists from the civil society and even the Chinese Ambassador in Tunis equips Souad Abderrahim, the “Scheicha”, a visit in your office. “Scheicha” is the feminine Form of “Sheikh”, an Arabic title of honor for persons of respect.

The new mayor of the capital of Tunisia has now arrived in the everyday life. Anyone who enters your office, directly to the left of the door a large conference table full of file folders, waiting to be editing. The efforts of the level, so to speak. Abderrahims election was regarded as a small Sensation, which caused a stir worldwide. But now, about half a year after their assumption of office, it must offer solutions for the many challenges of the city: The crumbling infrastructure, the constant traffic jams, the Chaos of the hawkers.

Garbage is a big Problem in Tunis

But, above all, Souad Abderrahim wants to solve the garbage problem of Tunis. Especially in the evening, the waste pile up heaps in the alleys of the old town. If the mayor goes through the city, talk to the residents again and again to the lack of cleanliness. “The lack of staff and the logistics do not allow us to be constantly in every street and every alley of Tunis,” says Abderrahim. The city had too little money to ensure a better waste collection services. The Scheicha want to solve the Problem through more Recycling, and partnerships with private investors. “But we need a new legal framework.” In other words, The can take.

That a woman can tackle these many problems, doubted many of the Tunisians after Abderrahims choice in the summer of 2018. Because it is not only the first woman holding this office, but she was born in Sfax not in Tunis, and is therefore not part of the Elite families of the capital, which were traditionally the mayor. The stable smell was not there for such an office. “Tunisia is a Patriarchal mentality is still prevalent, particularly in some of the items connected with Power. As have a monopoly on Power men, as they have a monopoly on public administration offices”, says Abderrahim Interview in the DW. This tunes enjoy of women compared to other Arab countries, more rights. Nevertheless, the mayor, and give it in Tunisia, no equal opportunity for men and women. Your choice for mayor, called it a “victory for the Tunisian women”, because you have broken this “taboo” and “traditions, which had been made to the law.”

Criticism comes from women’s rights activists

However, Tunisian feminists Abderrahim are sceptical about. The women’s rights activist Leila Chebbi says, all fighting for more equal rights, would it, in principle, good for a woman to occupy this high office. But Abderrahim is not by your own merit, mayor. She was not a fighter for women’s rights, because “Tunisia is small, all of the fighters for women’s rights know each other,” Chebbi, “the Ennahda party has hoisted into office. The political weight of the Ennahda has helped”.

Chebbi, like many other women’s rights activists, Souad Abderrahim, the Islamic-conservative Ennahda party of being exploited. Because the mayor ran on the Ennahda list, and prevailed against their opponents from the secular prevailing party “Nidaa Tounes”. Ennahda wool to Polish up their Image, so Chebbi, by putting a woman on the election: “The party is against progress. She wants to make the rights won by women, even to reverse”.

As an example Chebbi is called the equality of men and women in inheritance law.A new draft law of the government is to allow that women can inherit as much as men. According to Islamic law, however, the half of the daughter in the rule, what belongs to the son. Currently the theme is in Tunisia a controversial issue. For the feminist this is a test case for the mayor, whose party is against the equal rights in the inheritance. It should show, according to Chebbi, whether Abderrahim fighting for the cause of women, or within the ideological framework of the Ennahda party must remain.

“No politics in the city Council”

But this is not: wants to position Abderrahim politically. Always if the speech of their critics and adversaries, it is less concrete, it is called no names and attacked no one. As mayor, the 54 is understood-Year-old rather than administrative officials. The city Council is an Executive body managing authority, says Abderrahim, and adds: “We do not need more political conflicts within the city Council”. The allegation that the Ennahda party, the mayor of use, through the back door of their Islamic Agenda to infiltrate, Abderrahim decided. No, in the city Council, all harmoniously work together, from an ideologically biased Agenda, the mayor could not speak.

Much prefer Abderrahim want to talk about your goals in the new office. Again and again she steers the conversation on the topic of “municipal administration”. Tunisia should be the decentralization of anchoring and no longer centrally managed. The mayor wants to give the municipalities and city councils more autonomy. “The centralism was the one who brought the people in Tunisia to Revolt. He has created large differences between regions. Decentralization allows for more justice.”

“In a war”

But how do you want to create, remains open. She says, you have to let the fear of too much “from the daily business to be distracted and to lose the long-term objectives.” The tense political and economic situation of Tunisia since the outbreak of the Revolution nine years ago, complicates her work. Again and again, the small North African country is experiencing violent waves of Protest, especially in the poorer regions of the South. The people are demonstrating against high unemployment, corruption and a bloated bureaucracy. The local and regional administrative structures revamp in this precarious Situation, fundamentally, is certainly not an easy task.

On the busy Avenue Habib Bourguiba, located in Tunis, many young people and young people don’t seem to know the name Souad Abderrahim. Perhaps it’s the fact that you can inspire rather less for the problems of local government. Nevertheless, the Scheicha gets some advance praise of the passers-by, you know. You are proud of that Tunis is now ruled by a woman, and international media report diligently about it. A woman says that she had no matter whether Abderrahim to the Islamic-conservative Ennhada-belong to party; “We are all Muslims,” she explains, “the main thing is that it is fundamentalist”.

An elderly lady with a headscarf and big sunglasses is careful with your judgement: “Souad Abderrahim is not yet in office, they must prove themselves first. It won’t be easy for you. Because Tunisia is currently experiencing a critical time, the country is very fragile. The mayor pulls in for a battle in a big war”.