Beginning in early antiquity, Tunisia was inhabited by the indigenous Berbers. Phoenicians began to arrive in the 12th century BC, establishing several settlements, of which Carthage emerged as the most powerful by the 7th century BC. Carthage was a major mercantile empire and a military rival to the Roman Republic until 146 BC, when it was defeated by the Romans who occupied Tunisia for most of the next 800 years. The Romans introduced Christianity and left architectural legacies like the Amphitheatre of El Jem. In the 7th century AD, Arab Muslims conquered all of Tunisia (finally succeeding in 697 after several attempts starting in 647) and settled with their tribes and families, brought Islam and Arab culture to the local inhabitants, and since then Arabs became the majority of the population. Then, in 1546, the Ottoman Empire established control there, holding sway for over 300 years, until 1881, when the French conquered Tunisia. In 1956, Tunisia gained independence as the Tunisian Republic under the leadership of Habib Bourguiba with the help of activists such as Chedly Kallala, Farhat Hached and Salah Ben Youssef. Today, Tunisia's culture and identity are rooted in this centuries-long intersection of different cultures and ethnicities.
In 2011, the Tunisian Revolution, which was triggered by dissatisfaction with the lack of freedom and democracy under the 24-year rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, overthrew his regime and catalyzed the broader Arab Spring movement across the region. Free multiparty parliamentary elections were held shortly thereafter; the country again voted for parliament on 26 October 2014, and for president on 23 November 2014. After the 2022 constitutional referendum, Tunisia became a unitary presidential representative democratic republic. From 2014 to 2020, it was considered the only democratic state in the Arab World, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index, and was rated a hybrid regime in the 2021 Index. It is one of the few countries in Africa ranking high in the Human Development Index, with one of the highest per capita incomes on the continent, ranking 129th in GDP per capita income.
The official language of Tunisia is Modern Standard Arabic. The vast majority of Tunisia's population is Arab and Muslim. Vernacular Tunisian Arabic is the most spoken, and French also serves as an administrative and educational language in some contexts, but it has no official status.
Tunisia is well integrated into the international community. It is a member of the United Nations, La Francophonie, the Arab League, the OIC, the African Union, the COMESA, the Non-Aligned Movement, the International Criminal Court, and the Group of 77, among others. It maintains close economic and political relations with some European countries, particularly with France, and Italy, due to their geographical proximity. Tunisia also has an association agreement with the European Union and has attained the status of a major non-NATO ally of the United States.
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