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A Statement from U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia Jake Walles
 

A Statement from U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia Jake Walles

Today, September 14, marks one year since the violent attack against the U.S. Embassy and the American Cooperative School of Tunis.  Throughout the past year, despite the grave damage to our facilities, the Embassy has continued to function and carry out its work to strengthen the friendship between our nations that has existed for more than 200 years.  The American School has also continued its mission to educate nearly 600 students from Tunisia and over 71 other countries.  We remain here, and we continue this important work that benefits our two countries and our two peoples. 

Those violent extremists who attacked us a year ago do not represent the values of tolerance and mutual respect that mark Tunisian society.  The attackers sought not only to destroy the buildings of the Embassy and the School; they also aimed to ruin the historic relationship between our two peoples.  Clearly, they failed on both counts.  We have repaired the physical damage to our buildings, and we have enhanced the strong relationship between Tunisia and the United States. 

Our work at the Embassy has continued over the past year despite the difficulties caused by the attack.  I am pleased that the Embassy was able to launch a new scholarship program to send the next generation of Tunisian student leaders to the U.S. for one year of studies.  This summer, the first group of 65 Thomas Jefferson Scholars, representing 20 different governorates throughout Tunisia, arrived safely at universities and community colleges in the U.S.  As student ambassadors of Tunisia, they will represent the true values of Tunisia in their interactions with other students, professors and citizens in the U.S.  In the past year, we have also been able to continue our Information Technology and Communications program that trains young Tunisian graduates for jobs in high-tech companies in Tunisia.  Thanks to this program, over 2,000 new jobs were created in Tunisia in the past year.  Through another program, Education for Employment, more than 1000 young Tunisians were trained in job skills specifically requested by employers, and over 145 young, unemployed Tunisians were placed in jobs with local companies in the past 12 months. 

These are just a few examples of programs run by the U.S. Embassy that benefit Tunisians.  Had our attackers succeeded, they would have destroyed these valuable opportunities for education and jobs for Tunisians.  It is fortunate that they failed and that this mutually beneficial cooperation has continued and expanded over the past year. 

Tunisians also suffered during the past year from violent attacks.  We joined Tunisians in condemning the assassination of political leaders Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, and mourning the loss of the Tunisian soldiers killed in Mount Chaambi while bravely serving to protect Tunisia from the threat of terrorism.  Violence has no place in Tunisia’s democratic transition, and a clear message of rejection must be sent to those who use violence and terror to advance their goals.  Security is the key to creating the democratic and prosperous future that Tunisian citizens so richly deserve, and those who organized all these violent crimes and remain at large must be brought to justice.

Despite the challenges of the past year, the important work of diplomacy, education, business and exchange between our nations has continued uninterrupted, as it has for more than 200 years.  Tunisia’s many friends around the world, including the United States, continue to support its transition to democracy.  At this critical time in Tunisia’s history, it is more important than ever that the historic cooperation between the people of Tunisia and the U.S. continue today and into the future.