Also known as Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri and Abu Du’a, Baghdadi is the current leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and was preceded by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Read more about Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

Mohamed Talbi (1921 -  ) is a Tunis-born Islamicist and specialist in medieval history who was among the founding members of the University of Tunis, as well as the first dean of its Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences.  He has been a leading Tunisian intellectual since receiving his doctorate at the Sorbonne in 1968 and gained recognition for harshly criticizing bo

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Ammar al-Hakim (1971 - ) is the son of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, former president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI, then the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) and leader of the sizeable United Iraqi Alliance bloc in parliament.  Both Ammar and his father left Iraq in 1979 because of persecution by the regime and Ammar received his schooling and deg

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Mehdi Jomaa (1961 - ) was born in the coastal city of Mahdia and received his degree in engineering from the National Institute of Engineering in Tunis in 1988. He spent most of his career with Aerospace, a subsidiary of the French company Total, having been appointed general manager in 2009 and set to oversee subsidiaries in France, the US, India, and Tunisia.

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Abou Iyadh al-Tunisi (1970-  ), born Seif Allah Ben Hassine, is the head of Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, an organization he founded in April 2011.  Born in Tunisia, Abou Iyadh travelled to Afghanistan as a young man to participate in jihad there, being in 2000 a co-founder of the Tunisian Combatant Group (TCG) there, a group affiliated with Al Qaeda and suspected of re

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Mohamed Charfi (1936 – 2008), professor, author, politician, and human rights activist, hailed originally from Sfax on Tunisia’s Mediterranean coast but studied law in Tunis and Paris.  From 1989 to 1994, he served as Minister of Education under the Ben Ali regime, initiating many reforms to further secularize Tunisian public education and to raise standards for the system

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Chokri Belaid (1964-2013), trained as a lawyer, was elected secretary general and spokesperson of the National Democratic Movement (Watad), a leftist party founded after the 2011 revolution.  In public speeches, Belaid warned of a “complicity” between the centers of power in the new government and counter-revolutionary forces and called for banning of members of the Ben Al

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Hamma Hammami (1952 -   ), the co-founder of the Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party (POCT) was recognized in the 1970s as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International for his repeated arrests due to membership in banned activist and workers’ movements.  Trained as a professor in literature and Arabic civilization, Hammami published many critical articles in t

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Beji Caid Essebsi (1926-  ) is a lawyer by training who served as advisor to Bourguiba following Tunisian independence in 1956.  He held a various of honored positions under both Bourguiba and Ben Ali, including in the Ministry of Interior and that of National Security, as well as being appointed ambassador to West Germany.  In 2011, Essebsi was appointed interim

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Moncef Marzouki (1945-  ) is a doctor by training and longtime human rights activist who spearheaded efforts in the 1980s against mistreatment of children and the death penalty.  By 1989, he was elected president of the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH).  In 1994, he was imprisoned for protesting against the electoral system which required candidates’ appro

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