Prizewinners proud and ‘overwhelmed’

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Members of the four organizations behind the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet said they were “overwhelmed” by the “great honour” of winning the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. “I think this is incredible,” Chocri Dhouibi of the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH) told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

“Tunisia has never received a Nobel Peace Prize before and now we’re getting the world’s support,” he told NRK as congratulations poured in. “This prize is great support for us and for the process.”

That’s exactly what the Norwegian Nobel Committee intended when choosing the Quartet from 272 other confirmed candidates, many of whom had dominated speculation. Among those sending congratulations on Friday were two of the top candidates for the prize, Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, charged by the will of prize benefactor Alfred Nobel with awarding what’s often called the world’s most prestigious prize, cited the Quartet for its “decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.”

Four organizations involved
Four key civilian organizations make up the Quartet: The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), the Tunisian Human Rights League and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. Representing different sectors and values in Tunisian society, the committee claimed the Quartet was able to be a “mediator and driving force to advance peaceful democratic development in Tunisia with great moral authority.” The committee stressed that the award was to the Quartet, “not the four organizations as such,” an apparent means of emphasizing the solidarity the Quartet represents.

The so-called Arab Spring originated in Tunisia and quickly spread around North Africa and the Middle East. While the pro-democracy movement has slowed or stopped in other countries, the committee noted that Tunisia “has seen a democratic transition based on a vibrant civil societ with demands for respect for basic human rights.” The Norwegian Nobel Committed called the process “unique and remarkable,” especially in light of political, economic and security challenges. Two terrorist attacks have recently shocked the country, and damanged one of its most important industries, tourism. The comittee hopes the Nobel Peace Prize will encourage Tunisians to carry on and meet the challenges.

‘We aren’t alone any longer’
Dhouibi said the prize makes him feel that “we aren’t alone any longer,” telling NRK the Peace Prize will “make the job easier.” He believes the Quartet prevented the country from descending into civil war, as seen in other countries. The Nobel Prize money, he said, can also help solve some of the Quartet’s economic problems.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg called Tunisia “a role model” and a country where the hopes of the Arab Spring are still alive. “Tunisians have been brave,” she said in relaying her congratulations on Friday. Other Norwegian political leaders called the prize “well-deserved,” with Rasmus Hansson of the Greens, for example, calling Tunisia “a source of optimism” in the Arab world.

Houyem Hajji, chargé d’affaires at the Tunisian Embassy in Oslo, said she and embassy staff were “so surprised, and so proud,” and wanted to “thank so much” everyone you has “believed in the Tunisian experience.”

The Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded in Oslo on December 10.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund