Tunisia profile - Timeline

  • 21 May 2015
  • From the section Africa

A chronology of key events:

Habib Bourguiba (1954 picture)
Habib Bourguiba, independent Tunisia's first leader

circa 1100 BC - Phoenicians settle the north African coast. The city of Carthage, near the site of present-day Tunis, becomes a naval power.

146 BC - Carthage falls to the Romans.

439 AD - Vandals invade; Roman buildings and artefacts are destroyed.

600s - Arabs conquer the territory of present-day Tunisia.

909 - Berbers wrest the region from the Arabs.

Ottoman Empire

1600s - Tunisia becomes part of the Turkish Ottoman empire, but has a high degree of autonomy.

1800s - French and Turkish designs on Tunisia force it to tread a careful path.

1881 - French troops occupy Tunis. France controls economic and foreign affairs; Tunisia is a French protectorate from 1883.

1934 - Habib Bourguiba founds the pro-independence Neo-Dustour Party

1942 - World War II: German troops arrive to resist allied forces in Algeria. Allied forces drive German, Italian troops out in 1943.


1956 20 March - Tunisia becomes independent with Bourguiba as prime minister.

1957 - The monarchy is abolished and Tunisia becomes a republic.

1961 - Tunisia says French forces must leave their base in Bizerte. Fighting breaks out. France pulls out of Bizerte in 1963, after long-running talks.

Tunisians celebrate deposition of Habin Bourguiba, November 1987
President Bourguiba was deposed by Prime Minister Ben Ali in 1987

1981 - First multi-party parliamentary elections since independence. President Bourguiba's party wins by a landslide.

1985 - Israel raids Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) HQ in Tunis; 60 people are killed. The raid is in response to the killing by the PLO of three Israeli tourists in Cyprus.

1987 - Bloodless palace coup: Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has President Bourguiba declared mentally unfit to rule and takes power himself.

1989 - Ben Ali wins presidential elections. He goes on to be re-elected four more times, the last time in 2009.

1999 - First multi-party presidential elections; Ben Ali wins a third term.

2000 April - Habib Bourguiba, the founding father of independent Tunisia, dies.

Synagogue bombed

2002 April - 19 people - 11 of them German tourists - are killed in a bomb explosion at a synagogue in the resort of Djerba; Al-Qaeda claims responsibility.

2002 May - President Ben Ali wins a referendum on constitutional changes, paving the way for his fourth term.

2002 September - Jailed leader of Communist Workers' Party, Hamma Hammami, is freed on health grounds. He had been accused of being in an illegal organisation and of inciting rebellion.

2004 October - President Ben Ali wins a fourth term with 94% of the vote.

2005 July - Parliament introduces an upper house - the Chamber of Councillors - which is dominated by the ruling party.

Tunisian President Ben Ali, 1998
Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali ruled for more than 20 years

2005 November - Tunisia hosts a UN conference on the global information society. Authorities deny that police have harassed journalists and other delegates.

2006 - October - Authorities launch a campaign against the Islamic headscarves worn by some women.

Tunisia moves to close its embassy in Qatar in protest at alleged bias by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV channel. The channel broadcast remarks by veteran Tunisian dissident Moncef Marzouki in which he called for peaceful resistance to the Tunisian government.

2006 December - The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party, elects a woman as leader - a first for Tunisia. She is May Eljeribi.

2007 January - Islamist militants and security forces clash in Tunis. Twelve people are killed. Interior Minister Rafik Belhadj Kacem says the Salafist militants had come from Algeria.

2009 February - French court sentences German convert to Islam to 18 years over attack on Djerba synagogue in 2002. Walid Nouar, brother of suicide bomber, got 12 years for his part in al-Qaeda attack.

2009 July - Police charge nine men, including two air-force officers, with plotting to kill US servicemen during joint military exercises.

2009 October - President Ben Ali wins a fifth term in office.


2010 December - Protests break out over unemployment and political restrictions, and spread nationwide.

Tunisian protesters, January 2011
Tunisians overthrew the Ben Ali regime in the first popular revolution of the Arab Spring

2011 January - President Ben Ali goes into exile amid continuing protests.

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi announces an interim national unity government, only partly satisfying protesters.

2011 February - Prime Minister Ghannouchi resigns, responding to demands by demonstrators calling for a clean break with the past.

2011 March - Date for election of a constitutional council set for 24 July.

Rally for Constitutional Democracy (RCD), the party of ousted President Ben Ali, is dissolved by court order.

2011 April - Libyan troops cross border into Tunisia during clashes with rebels.

Thousands of Tunisians flee by boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

2011 May - Curfew imposed amid fresh street protests.

2011 June - Ex-president Ben Ali is tried in absentia for theft. He is sentenced to 35 years in prison.

2011 October - Parliamentary elections. Ennahda Islamist party wins, but falls short of an outright majority.

2011 November - National assembly which will draft a new constitution meets for first time.

Tunisian Salafist protester, 2012
Hard-line Islamists have demanded the introduction of Sharia law in Tunisia

2011 December - Human rights activist Moncef Marzouki is elected president by the constituent assembly, Ennahda leader Hamadi Jebali is sworn in as prime minister.

2012 May - Hundreds of Salafi Islamic extremists clash with security forces and attack a police station in Jendouba in a dispute over Salafi attacks on alcohol sellers.

2012 June - Former president Ben Ali is sentenced to life in prison over the killing of protesters in the 2011 revolution. He is living in Saudi Arabia, which refuses to extradite him.

The government imposes an overnight curfew in eight areas following riots by Islamists against an art exhibition. One man died after being shot in the head.

2012 August - Thousands protest in Tunis against moves by Islamist-led government to reduce women's rights. Draft constitution refers to women as "complementary to men", whereas 1956 constitution granted women full equality with men.

2013 February - Prime Minister Jebali resigns after his ruling Islamist Ennahda party rejects his proposals to form a government of technocrats after the killing of an opposition anti-Islamist leader. Ennahda rejects opposition allegations that it was behind the killing of Chokri Belaid, whose death prompted violent protests.

2013 May - At least one person is killed in clashes between police and Salafi Islamists of the Ansar al-Sharia group in the Tunis suburb of Ettadhamen, where it was holding a meeting. Police also clashed with protesters in the city of Kairouan, where the government had banned an earlier Ansar al-Sharia meeting on security grounds.

2013 July - Assassination of opposition politician Mohamed Brahmi prompts mass demonstrations, a general strike and calls for the government to resign.

2013 October - Governing Islamist party, Ennahda, agrees to hand over power to caretaker government of independent figures tasked with organising fresh elections in 2014.

2013 December - After months of wrangling, Ennahda and the mainly secular opposition agree on appointment of Mehdi Jomaa as head of interim government.

2014 January - Parliament passes the country's first constitution since President Ben Ali was ousted in 2011.

Prime minister-designate Mehdi Jomaa forms cabinet of independents and technocrats, to govern until new elections.

Election posters in Tunis
Tunisians look at election posters before the 2014 parliamentary polls

2014 February - The government says the suspected assassin of opposition politician Chokri Belaid has been killed in an anti-terrorist operation.

2014 March - President Marzouki lifts the state of emergency imposed in 2011 during the revolution that toppled his predecessor, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

2014 May - Tunisia's interim parliament approves a new electoral law to govern legislative and presidential elections.

2014 October - Nidaa Tounes, which unites secularists, trade unionists, liberals and some players from the Ben Ali era, wins largest bloc of seats in parliamentary election, overtaking the Islamist Ennahda.

2014 December - Nidaa Tounes candidate Beji Caid Essebsi becomes president after decisively beating outgoing president Moncef Marzouki in run-off elections.

2015 March - The Islamic State extremist group claims responsibility for an attack by three gunmen on the Bardo Museum in Tunis, in which 21 people, mainly foreign tourists, were killed. Two gunmen killed at the scene. Suspect, Moroccan Abdelmajid Touil, arrested in Italy in May on Tunisian warrant.