Rafik Abdessalem, 43, is a member of the moderate Islamic party, Ennahdha, and the party leader Rached Gannouchi’s son-in-law. He served as minister of foreign affairs within the coalition government of former Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.
In the cabinet reshuffle announced on March 8, 2013 following Jebali’s resignation, Abdessalem was replaced by veteran diplomat Othman Jerandi.
He had worked earlier as a senior researcher and head of the Research and Studies Office at the Al Jazeera Center for Studies.
Abdessalem holds a BA in Philosophy from the Faculty of Arts of Mohammed V in Rabat, Morocco, as well as a PhD in Politics and International Relations from the University of Westminster in Great Britain.
During the late eighties, he was one of the prominent figures within the student community at the University of Tunisia. He was a member of the Executive Office of the Tunisian Students General Union between 1987 and 1990. At the time, Tunisia was still under Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s rule, and the regime and security forces were ruthless against members of Ennahda and other islamist formations, forcing many to flee the country. Abdessalem thus moved to Morocco in 1990, before settling in England where he completed his graduate course.
He held different positions within Ennahdha: he was one of the leaders of the party’s exiled bureau, a member of the Political Bureau, a member of the Executive Bureau in charge of media between 2001 and 2007, and a member of the Shura council until Ennahda moved back to Tunisia.
While in London, he founded the Maghreb Center for Research and Translation, and chaired the London Platform for Dialogue, which involved a group of politicians and intellectuals living in the UK. He worked as a researcher at the University of Westminster, and was a visiting scholar at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.
At Al Jazeera’s Center for Studies, where he currently works as Senior Researcher and Head of the Research and Studies, Abdessalem is responsible for the following departments:
• International Studies Unit
• Arab Studies Unit
• Gulf Studies Unit
• African Studies Unit
• Asian Studies Unit
He is also a member of various scientific and research groups, including the Centre Union Process, which includes a number of ministers and political figures of the world.
Besides being a regular writer for newspapers, such as the Middle East to name but one, Abdessalem has written, several books, including In religion, secularism and democracy, and United States of America between hard power and soft power. In addition to dozens of research papers and articles published in both Arabic and English, he has participated in, and chaired, conferences and seminars across Europe and the Arab world.