This year’s annual Tunis International Book Fair—the 36th edition and held at the Kram exhibition center from November 11 to 21—was eagerly anticipated since last year’s fair was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, the event was marred by some of the practices and symbolism reminiscent of the authoritarian Ben Ali regime.
In recent years, there has been increasing tension around the use of haphazard landfills as residents nearby these toxic sites protest the serious short and long-term hazards they face.
As Tunisia’s biggest annual film festival, the Carthage Cinema Days (JCC) kicked off on Sunday, October 30, the traditionally desperate search for tickets began. But one group of people received their own private film screening: about 150 prisoners from the Oudhna Civil Prison, including 30 female prisoners who were brought in from the Manouba Women’s Prison facility.
The assassinations of politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi in 2013 left many unanswered questions and suspicions. In both cases, authorities didn’t immediately explain who the suspected assassins were, and they never clearly detailed to the public the assassins’ potential motives, planning, resources, or organizational support.
On Sunday, September 26, thousands of people, close to Ennahdha party and its allies, demonstrated in downtown Tunis against President Kais Saied and his latest decision extending his exceptional powers and suspending parts of the constitution. Thousands assembled in front of the National Theater on Habib Bourguiba Avenue from about 10:00 until 16:00 to denounce the recent decisions, which they consider illegitimate, calling it a “coup” and a step back towards dictatorship.
On September 1, police violently dispersed a peaceful demonstration in downtown Tunis, punching, shoving, and using pepper spray against demonstrators as well as journalists who were there covering the event. Aside from some incidents in front of Parliament on July 26, Wednesday’s police repression was the first documented use of police violence against peaceful demonstrators since President Kais Saied suspended parliament and dismissed the government on July 25.
Late last June, when it was the region hardest hit by Covid-19, Meshkal/Nawaat went to Kairouan. The tragic situation there foreshadowed what the rest of the nation has since been living through: a sharp spike in cases made much worse by a lack of basic State services, personnel, and supplies. Without enough doctors, ambulances, vaccines or vaccination teams, protective gear or nurses, many in Kairouan faced their spike by relying on family for care, exacerbating the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, medical personnel themselves were unable to get vaccines and many worked without receiving salaries promised in their contracts.
There have been numerous assaults and harassment of journalists by security forces, politicians and officials in recent years–with June alone seeing 18 assaults, and May seeing 13, according to the National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT). However, in the days since mass protests began on July 25 and President Kais Saied subsequently announced exceptional measures concentrating powers under him, there has been a spike in such harassment.
Sunday’s protests are now better known by the Presidential decisions they seemingly helped prompt: a freezing of Parliament, a dismissal of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, and the lifting of Parliamentary immunity in what critics of President Kais Saied have called a coup.
أدّى مصرع أحمد عمارة (32 سنة)، بتاريخ 8 جوان الجاري، أثناء إيقافه داخل مركز للشرطة، بحسب ادعاءات، إلى قيام موجة من الاحتجاجات والاشتباكات مع قوات البوليس امتدت على عدة أيام، في الحي الشعبي سيدي حسين. العديد من الأشخاص تعرضوا لإصابات، بمن فيهم طفل يبلغ من العمر15سنة تم تجريده من ملابسه والاعتداء عليه بالعنف الشديد في مقطع فيدو انتشر على نطاق واسع، مما أنتج موجة غضب عارمة. سيدي حسين هو كذلك الحي الذي قتل فيه الشاب أحمد عثماني (19 سنة) برصاص أعوان الديوانة سنة 2018.
The death of 32-year-old Ahmed Ben Moncef Ben Ammar on June 8, allegedly while in police custody, has prompted several days of protests and clashes with police forces in the working class neighborhood of Sidi Hassine. Several people have been wounded, including a 15-year-old who was stripped naked and beaten in a widely-shared video that has prompted outrage. Sidi Hassine is also the neighborhood where 19-year-old Aymen Othman was killed when customs officials opened fire in 2018.
As a new wave of Covid-19 infections hits Tunisia, health workers say that the vaccine roll out is beginning to overcome some initial hesitancy and skepticism. Some of this skepticism has been of the vaccine itself -even among health workers- but also of governing institutions and their communication.
In recent months, private polling indicates a surge in popularity for the Free Destourian Party (or Free Constitutional Party, PDL by its French acronym). In many ways the PDL has fashioned itself as a new iteration of Ben Ali and the former regime’s single ruling Constitutional Rally Party (or RCD), of which PDL president Abir Moussi was once Assistant Secretary General in Charge of Women. But when Meshkal/Nawaat went to the PDL headquarters in the Kheireddine Pacha neighborhood of Tunis on March 12 to ask about the party’s rising popularity, they were met by a round, bald man in a dark navy suit: Moussi’s bodyguard.
In 2019, Tunisia ranked third in the African continent in terms of the number of people suffering from depression, with more than a half million people suffering from this mental illness, according to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics. Mental healthcare professionals say that the need for such healthcare is increasing, yet the public health care system is not adequate to treat all patients.
After more than a week of protests across the nation following a sudden, government-imposed lockdown on the 10th anniversary of the January 14, 2011 revolution, security forces have arrested over 1600 people, 600 of them children, according to Yassine Azaza, a human rights activist and volunteer lawyer on behalf of the Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH by its French acronym). Those numbers were given to Nawaat/Meshkal on January 20, 2021, but since then the numbers have increased and human rights activists and organizations said they are struggling to keep track.
In a government building in downtown Tunis, protesters occupying the space recently confronted the official in charge. “Give me my right or I will set myself on fire,” screamed Akrem Labiadh on January 6, 2021.
Hundreds of healthcare staff and workers, including doctors, nurses, medical students and other staff held a protest march on Tuesday, December 8, which they dubbed a ‘day of rage’ for the Tunisian public health sector. The focus of protesters demands was on public investment in healthcare facilities, equipment and infrastructure following the death of 27-year-old surgical resident, Badr Eddine Aloui. Aloui fell to his death on December 3 from the fifth floor in the Jendouba Regional Hospital due to an elevator dysfunction.
On Monday, November 23, a 21-year old woman died after falling into a stormwater drainage channel in the industrial area of Enfidha in the governorate of Sousse. Her death marks the second time in less than two months that dangerous infrastructure has taken the life of a young person.
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