Tunisia's first freely elected president Beji Caed Essibsi has died at the age of 92 after being admitted to the hospital this week.
He was considered to be the world's oldest sitting president, according to the BBC. Officials did not pinpoint the exact reason behind Essibsi's death nor did they mention the reason behind his hospital admission. It was the third time in recent weeks the late president was taken to a medical facility after being hit with a "severe health crisis."
Essibsi won Tunisia's first free elections in 2014 and has made landmark changes in the country during his time in office. Tunisia's former president Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali was ousted in 2011 after 23 years in office. Since then, Tunisia has been hailed as the "only democratic country" to emerge following the so-called Arab Spring.
In 2017, Essibsi called for a change in the country's current legislation and practices regarding women. In a speech delivered at the Presidential Palace in Carthage that year, Essibsi urged the country's prime minister and minister of justice to repeal article No 73, a 1973 decree which prohibits Tunisian Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men.
The president argued that the law - which prohibits women-only from engaging in interfaith relationships - is an "obstacle to the freedom to choose one's spouse." A month later, the Tunisian government lifted the decades-old ban that was in place. Essibsi's fight for women's rights did not stop there. He called for various amendments aimed at granting women equal rights as men, including those governing women's inheritance. According to Islamic law, women inherit half of what their brothers receive. Essibsi wanted to change that for Tunisian women, assuring the public that his views correlate with the country's Constitution.
He said that "the state is committed to achieving full equality between women and men ... and equal opportunities for them in assuming all responsibilities, as stipulated in Article 46 of the Constitution."
After opposition from conservatives, the original draft law was amended to give individuals the option to "opt-out".
During his time as president, a record number of female MPs held seats in the country's parliament. In 2017, 73 women were part of the country's parliaments, the highest female representation in any Arab country.
People are mourning his death
"My condolences to the people of Tunisia for the death of President Beji Caed Essibsi. I don't fear for a nation whose people embrace this kind of will and love. I am confident that the the march of success will continue for Tunisia."