Message from the American Ambassador Jacob Walles
One month ago on September 14, 2012, a group of violent extremists attacked the U.S. Embassy and the American Cooperative School of Tunis. These violent attacks endangered the lives of the American and Tunisian employees who were inside the Embassy during the attack. The attackers inflicted millions of dollars of damage to the Embassy compound, burned more than 100 vehicles, most of which belonged to the Embassy’s Tunisian staff, and also destroyed private property in the area near the Embassy. At the American Cooperative School of Tunis, the attackers destroyed, looted, and burned books, musical instruments, and computers used to educate young minds from more than 70 countries. One thing the attackers did not damage is the strong bond between the American and Tunisian people and the commitment of the United States to support Tunisia’s transition from an unjust dictatorship to a free and tolerant democracy that provides security, economic opportunity and freedom to everyone who calls Tunisia home.
The important work of diplomacy, business and exchange between our nations has continued uninterrupted for more than 200 years, and it is more important than ever that this cooperation continue into the future. I was personally gratified by the letter of support sent to the U.S. Embassy this week from a group of students in Sfax who are studying English through an American scholarship program. This program benefitting over 800 young Tunisians helps to open doors to educational and professional opportunities for the next generation of Tunisian leaders.
Our continued partnership was also demonstrated in the graduation ceremony held last week for 24 young Tunisians who were provided professional training through a program done in partnership with an American NGO and an international company working in Tunisia. All 24 Tunisian graduates were offered full time positions with the company which is expanding its presence in Tunisia.
I am proud of this long history of partnership, but continued cooperation and investment in Tunisia requires a safe and secure operating environment. The Tunisian government has an obligation to provide security for its citizens and its guests – and I call on the Government of Tunisia to carry through with its investigation and to bring the perpetrators and masterminds of this attack to justice. I also look to the Tunisian people to speak out against violence and terror and to play an active role in shaping the future you so richly deserve.
In my meetings with Tunisians and in the countless emails, phone calls and letters I have received since September 14, I was reassured to see how strongly such acts of violence have been condemned, and I was heartened by the generous offers of support from Tunisians of all backgrounds to rebuild the American Cooperative School of Tunis and to help to continue the cooperation between our nations. It is truly the voices of those Tunisians who offered their unequivocal denunciation of violence and their strong support for moderation, peace and tolerance who will make it known to the world that the events of September 14 do not represent the values of the people of Tunisia.
As Secretary Clinton said:
Our relationship is built around the shared principles of all democracies – a commitment to nonviolence, to tolerance, and inclusivity for all people, and to upholding the rule of law. The Tunisian people have bravely put themselves on the road to democracy. They were the first of the Arab revolutions and they have made important progress in a very short period of time. They have worked too hard and sacrificed too much over too many years to see their progress hijacked or derailed by extremists with their own agenda.
The people and governments of the United States of America and Tunisia have enjoyed over 200 years of friendship and cooperation, and as the U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia, I assure you that we will not allow the senseless acts of terrorists and criminals to hinder our commitment to continue and deepen the relationship between our nations.