Eight Months After Embassy Attack, U.S. Remains Cautious in Tunisia

By Asma Smadhi | May 10 2013 Share on Linkedin Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google Share on pinterest Print

Tags: attack ,CEMAT ,Christopher Stevens ,Libya ,U.S. Embassy ,

Tanks near the U.S. Embassy on September 14, 2012.

Nearly eight months after attacks on the U.S. Embassy and American Cooperative School in Tunis, the American government continues to issue warnings about travel to Tunisia and provide additional pay for government employees stationed in the country.

Several days after U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in assaults in Libya, rioters and extremists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tunis September 14 of 2012, resulting in the deaths of four Tunisians. The attackers were allegedly protesting a low-budget anti-Muslim video clip.

A committee in the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing this Wednesday to examine whether the administration of President Barack Obama mishandled the incident in Libya.

On the day of the attack in Tunis, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Tunisia. But since March 13, the U.S. Embassy in Tunis is no longer on ordered departure status, but continues to operate with limited staffing due to security concerns, according to the U.S. State Department website.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs has issued several Travel Warnings on its official website since September 2012 cautioning U.S. citizens about the risks of visiting Tunisia.

A man prays near the U.S. Embassy during the attacks.

The various Travel Warnings have highlighted the instability of the security situation as sporadic episodes of civil unrest continue to take place in Tunisia. The street that leads to the embassy headquarters in the Lac suburb of Tunis remains blocked and a significant security presence is visible in the area.

Starting October 7, 2012, employees of the State Department in Tunisia qualify for a Danger Pay Allowance at a 25 percent rate of Basic Compensation, equal to the rates set for Sudan and Somalia.

The attacks affected various American organizations operating in Tunisia and U.S. citizens who were either studying or working in the country.

Educational exchanges remain an important part of the outreach programs coordinated by the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, said Stephen Kochuba, the spokesperson for the embassy in Tunis.

Laryssa Chomiak, head of CEMAT (the Tunisian branch of the American Institute for Maghrib Studies) told Tunisia Live that various exchange programs, such as the Fulbright for U.S. citizens, were suspended following the attacks as American students and scholars were called back to their home country. Some students and scholars were prohibited by their universities from returning to Tunisia, Chomiak said.

There are currently no American Fulbright participants in Tunisia and we look forward to resuming the Fulbright program for visiting American professors and students when conditions permit, Kochuba said.

He added that a new scholarship program for Tunisian students has recently been initiated. The Thomas Jefferson Scholarship program is a 10 million dollar initiative that will send approximately 200 Tunisian students over the next three years to the U.S. for one year of study at American universities and community colleges.

Kochuba also said that private American citizens and NGOs are encouraged to refer to the consular announcements issued by the State Department, but must ultimately make independent decisions about travel to Tunisia.


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    I’m so proud of how the Embassy staff and ACST teachers and staff, American, Tunisian, and foreign, all came together and bounced back. I’m also proud of how, in general, the Tunisian response was so supportive, caring, kind, and helpful…which really shows how wonderful the Tunisian heart is. It was so hard at first, and still is sometimes emotionally, but persevering though and setting a good example for the kids is what was really important during this time. Even though I moved back to the states a few months ago, my heart is always with this special place!

  1. what does it do by attacking embassies even during the romans and Carthagenians time , emissaries and ambassadors were always respected , they were more civilized then than now. Not all tunisians are uncivilized only a few called “Salafistes” paid by Qataris and Saudis.

  2. Many US-related institutions such as AMIDEAST Tunisia remained open and unscathed after the Embassy attack. The hype over these isolated events is totally ridiculous! Tunisia still sees hundreds of tourists arrive everyday. If anything, the above article only serves to scare people who would otherwise love to visit this fascinating part of the world. A Tunisian visitor to the U.S. would have a much higher chance of being caught in some sort of crossfire or random violence than vice versa. Tunisians have always differentiated the citizens of a country from their leaders, corrupt or not. No heinous acts designed to turn people into sheeple will work on them. Long live the Tunisian spirit–a role model for the rest of the world (including the U.S.)!

    • Of course Amideast would have not been involved, nor CEMAT or the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce, or any organization such as those, because they were not involved. This started as a planned protest about the anti-Muslim video made by the American, which is why the Embassy was targeted, and evidence clearly indicates the school was also a target the whole time. However, why did that have to spill over into a school that educates children from over 70 different countries? Why did that have to spill over into a school that educates actually only a small percentage of Americans, and an even larger percentage of Tunisians? Just because it is called an ‘American’ school doesn’t mean that by trying to ruin it, you would be hurting all Americans. Many people from many counties, including Tunisia, were hurt. That is sad, to let greediness and non-Islamic behaviors from those who are supposedly very much living a lifestyle that suggests they believe in ‘la ilha il Allah’ ruin a quality institution such as ACST. But, never mind what tried to be done, because ACST is already better than before, thanks to great cooperation from all countries involved in the rebuilding efforts!

      • If we all lived properly by the most basic principles that have been taught to us in the Quran and Hadith, and choose the middle path in all our affairs, as we have been told by Allah subhana wa’a taala and our beloved Prophet Mohammed (Peace and Blessing be Upon Him), and we truly wanted for our brother what we want for ourselves, we wouldn’t be comparing to one another, talking about one another, wanting to hurt or damage one another or our belongings. We don’t have to be so extreme in one way or another, and we don’t have to make life so difficult. We have been told that it is us that makes this dunya so hard, not the religion. The religion is perfect, al-Hamdouallah! It’s us who don’t take the time to get a true understanding, and don’t make the proper choices to set good examples and work to do better for ourselves and those around us.

        • Exactly, April! The good news is that not only peace-loving Muslims like ourselves but people from other faiths are waking up to the fact that extremists are fraudulently supported by the very enemies of Islam. As soon as Muslims and Christians realize that their beliefs are being toyed with by the same sub-humans out there, they’ll band together and make the planet a better place!