Chammam is the only black member of the NCA.
He was elected as “My Islamic upbringing allowed me to get over some minor incidents related to the color of my skin in Tunisia, which I attribute to cultural backwardness. This did not affect me at all,” Chammam stated. His position as Ennahdha’s leading personality in Kebili made him a respected figure in the region.
Chammam was born on February 19th, 1961 in a poor religious family in Old Kebili. Chammam joined the Ennahdha movement in 1977, when he was 16 years old. He was caught in 1987, under President Bourguiba’s rule, and accused of belonging to the Islamist movement Ennahdha. He was then held in jail for three months. His case was not heard by a judge.
In 1991, Chammam was forced to flee Tunisia after the crackdown on Ennahdha members by the Ben Ali regime. He went to Libya in December 1991, where he stayed for two months. There, he met with Sudanese immigrants who suggested that he go to Sudan to pursue his studies. They smuggled him over in a pickup through the town of Kufra in southern Libya.
Libyan border control officials arrested them in Kufra, before they entered Sudan, and returned them to Ajdabia, then Benghazi, in eastern Libya. He was mistaken for a Sundanese drug smuggler, held in custody and questioned by Libyan security forces. He was then cleared of all charges related to drug possession, and was able to travel to Sudan legally.
The Ben Ali regime exercised pressure on the Sudanese authorities to hand over Chammam and other Tunisian political dissidents. The Sudanese authorities suggested that Chammam pursue his studies to avoid extradition back to Tunisia. Chammam chose to do this, on the condition that he would not engage in any political and commercial activity and/or in any terrorist activity against Tunisia. During this time, he lived and worked in Khartum. He was able to bring his wife and his son to Sudan in November 1997, after the Tunisian regime received pressure from European governments to grant passports to families of political dissidents in exile.
Chammam graduated Suma Cum Laude from the Um Durman University of Islamic Studies with a B.A. in Shariaa and Comparative Law in 1995. In 1999, he received a diploma in Public Law from the University of Niline in Khartum, Sudan. Chammam then studied at the Islamic University of Um Durman in Sudan, earning a Suma Cum Laude Masters’ Degree in Shariaa and Sources of Jurisprudence in 2000.
In 2004, he was awarded a PhD in the same major from the same university. Chammam worked as an Assistant Professor in the World African University in Khartoum from 2001 to 2004, in the Faculty of Shariaa and Islamic Studies. He also worked as an imaam in the university’s mosque. The private university is funded by seven Arab countries, and its aim is to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies to Sub-Saharan Africa. Almost all students are African Muslims. His published works include research on Shariaa law, jurisprudence and studies of Islamic scholars.
“I led a calm and discreet life in Sudan, where my two young children were born. I felt Sudan was like home,” Chammam stated.
In March 2011, Chammam returned to Tunisia, after restrictions on political dissidents were lifted following the ouster of Zine El Abdine Ben Ali during the Tunisian Revolution.
He is the father of three children, two boys, and a girl.