T7arek’s official mission is to ‘stimulate citizen engagement.’ Informally, however, the more prominent aim is to educate citizens on the inclusive use of ‘horizontality’ as a mechanism for organization and decision-making.
Mission and Purpose
T7arek’s official mission is to ‘stimulate citizen engagement.’ Informally, however, the more prominent aim is to educate citizens on the inclusive use of ‘horizontality’ as a mechanism for organization and decision-making. Among its mission, its values acceptance, open mindedness, collaboration and coordination. The organization is structured around discussion, the documentation of outcomes, the diffusion of this documentation to other organizations, and working on projects that include and draw inspiration from horizontality.
Origins and Development
Following the 2010-2011 uprising, the leftist political militant, Gilbert Naccache, started a series of political debates with newly minted Tunisian citizens. These debates, held between 14 January 2011 and 20 March 2011, paved the way for the birth of a movement called “Le Manifeste de 20 Mars” when a group of citizens left Naccache’s audience and moved to the side of the debates to discuss the future of post-‘revolutionary’ Tunisia. The movement’s mission consisted of reflecting on the contours and directionality of Tunisia’s nascent democratic experiment, defining the main actors and their goals, and establishing a public debate over the writing of a civic constitution. A movement consisting of thousands of citizens participated in debates and conferences to “let us write our constitution,” as it was called, across the country, and most notably in Tunis, Sousse, Nabeul, Beja, Kairouan, Gabes, Sfax, Bizerte, and Djerba. The, later known as “Doustourna” (Destourna, 2015), culminated in the sit-ins of Mahdia (22-24 July 2011), which brought together around 350 citizens, associations, lawyers, and legal experts to draft a civic constitution that was later published for public consumption with the aim of garnering feedback and suggestions from a ‘bottom-up’ approach.
During these initial debates in Mahdia, a group of youth encountered a misunderstanding with the larger group that required some attention. “We were spontaneously put together as a small community of around 30 people sharing the same view about work/organization mechanisms and ways of expression. We had later given it the name ‘T7arek’” (Interview with Olfa Khaled).
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
As a horizontal organization, T7arek resists vertical power structures, However, in order to register the organization as a legal entity, assigning ‘roles’ was necessary. As Olfa Khaled noted: “At some point after the revolution, when social movements’ spontaneity ended, getting an official authorization became necessary. However, our organizational style was distinct from the government ready-made framework for associations. We needed to legitimize everything in order to provide a premise for our activities and avoid trouble. We created the association to facilitate our social activism… We did not find a legal framework which may legitimize our presence a sa social movement in the street. That was the reason why we created our association.
Tharek was officially registered as an association in the Official Journal of the Republic of Tunisia (JORT) on 19 June 2012. With the aforementioned stipulated, its official leadership positions are as follows:
1. President: Salah Jmour
2. Vice President: Amine Ben Salah
3. Treasurer: Oussama Abdeljaouad
4. Vice Treasurer: Haifa Jmour
T7arekis founded on a number of principles (anti-racism) and guidelines. Membership is open to all those who accept inclusivity. Furthermore, any information and documentation that is relevant to horizontality must be equally shared and be made accessible to everyone.
T7arek drew inspiration from and was in contact with international organizations who used horizontality as an organizing ethos, such as Podemos and Occupy. As one of the members of T7arek put it:
“Horizontality functions like the body/heart mechanism does. The heart contains all the vital elements of the organization such as documentation, drafting/editing, finance, law and communication, while the body consists of what is functional/operational: different groups, whether cultural, artistic, environmental, etc. These [smaller] groups are completely independent and whenever they need help in a specific area then the role of the heart is to intervene and assist. They are autonomous to the point where if one group decides to function vertically internally, it is totally up to them to do so, and we don’t decide on how they should operate” (Personal interview with Olfa Khaled).
The central heart is therefore responsible for delegating responsibilities into smaller hearts [technical committees] of about 5 people, where each is responsible for overseeing specific tasks (financial, legal, communication, etc.). If one of these smaller committees expands in membership, then it is divided it into sub-committees, each working on a specific task. Each of these functions independently and once it fulfills its mission, it returns to the heart with the outcomes (propositions) and the final decision is presented to the body for approval. In the case of objections, convincing arguments premised on evidence and facts must be presented. “There is no “no” for the sake of objecting. At this level, the representative of the group (heart) who attended larger meeting (body) should go back to discussion with the group and come back with an alternative proposition. Each committee (heart) has a coordinator in addition to a general coordinator of the whole body. Once the body coordinator liaises with all the hearts’ coordinators and gathers all final-team propositions regarding a specific issue, a general decision should be either approved or rejected in a big assembly” (Ibid).
Thus, while decisions are taken horizontally,functionally there is some modicum of verticality: a ‘leader du moment’ that is responsible for overseeing any given action by the committee. The leader, however, is only in her position temporarily. Leadership must also rotate frequently.
The movement was inspired by large national and international social movements like Occupy and Podemos, and it draws inspiration from biology (i.e. how dolphins function in their natural environment).
Specializations, Methods and Tools
T7arek passes their model of horizontality to other Tunisian groups which worked on (informal) politics, art and cultural activities, intellectual property, and environmental issues (specifically issue of “gas de schiste”). Notably influences include Manich Msema7 and Fech Nestanaou. The group also works on cultural and artistic projects in France as a continuation of what has been accomplished in T7arek, Tunis.