Violence against women: New Tunisian law in effect, will it be effective?

Tunisian legislation adopted in July 2017 to eliminate violence against women finally went into effect on February 1. Organic law n˚2017-58 of 11 August 2017 amends certain discriminatory provisions of the penal code and requires State institutions to develop a coordinated approach to prevention as well as assistance and support for victims of violence. The adopted text is the culmination of numerous drafts and a years-long struggle by a few civil society associations. Now that the legal means are more or less in place, the question is how, and with what means, to implement anticipated reforms?

Interview with Habibi Funk in Tunis [Video]

On the closing evening of the Goethe Institut’s Geniale Dilletanten in Tunis (January 20-28), the expo’s downtown venue was packed for a DJ set by Habibi Funk. Berlin-based Jannis Stürtz, co-founder of Jakarta Records, began younger music project Habibi Funk which revives long-forgotten or little-known songs of the 70’s and 80’s from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan and Lebanon. As he gets set up for the evening mix, the man behind Habibi Funk experience talks to Nawaat about the travel, research, elbow-rubbing and ethical considerations that feed the project.

“Fech nestannaw” anti-austerity protests continue in downtown Tunis

Friday, January 12 marked just over a week since protests broke out against the increased prices introduced by Tunisia’s 2018 budget. Unlike previous periods of contestation since the 2011 revolution, demonstrations in at least 18 regions across the country over the past week have been characterized by heightened tension leading to confrontations between protesters and security forces. Friday’s demonstration in Tunis, strained but peaceful, coincided with the court date of Ahmed Sassi, one of many campaign activists who has been arrested since January 4.

Carte d’identité biométrique: Entêtement sécuritaire et surdité parlementaire

Le projet de loi de la nouvelle carte d’identité biométrique sera soumis, cet après-midi, au vote de l’Assemblée des Représentants du Peuple (ARP) en plénière. En cas d’adoption, la nouvelle loi, qui apporte des modifications à la loi organique du 22 mars 1993, fera que chaque tunisien ait une carte à puce électronique contenant ses données personnelles et gérée par le ministère de l’Intérieur. Alors qu’une telle mise à jour pourrait constituer un pas vers la numérisation des services administratifs, elle présente également de hauts risques pour l’intégrité et la confidentialité des données personnelles.

Tunisia in 2017: The divide between local struggles and government policies

If many had hopes that 2017 might hold answers to the social and economic demands of the revolution, those hopes were short-lived. Tunisians faced an increasingly grim economic situation with an 8% drop in the value of the dinar and unemployment at 15.3%. The country’s long-awaited municipal elections, promising decentralized governance, are postponed until May 2018. Several months after the Prime Minister declared a « war against corruption », parliament passed the “reconciliation law” pardoning administrative officials implicated in economic crimes under the former regime. As much as resistance to changing old ways persists, protest movements represented a dynamic social force in 2017.

Detainee rights and Law 5: When practices don’t follow legislative reforms

In November, Lawyers Without Borders (ASF) and the Tunisian Bar Association (ONAT) launched a campaign to speed up the implementation of legislation intended to protect the rights of detainees. It has been almost two years since parliament voted to reform Tunisia’s penal code through the adoption of Law n°5-2016, known more simply as Law 5. And yet statistics and testimonies indicate that misconduct by officials and human rights abuses committed in police stations and detention centers remain commonplace. What will it take for old practices to be replaced by the procedures set out in the new legislation?

In a town where « nothing has changed »: Documentary Film Festival of Redeyef

This year’s Documentary Film Festival of Redeyef (RFDR) takes place December 20-24, in the town whose name is almost synonymous with Tunisia’s phosphate industry and its deleterious effects on the surrounding populations and environment. Although the mining basin revolt of 2008 is considered a precursor to the Tunisian revolution in 2011, in 2017 residents affirm without hesitation that here in Redeyef, « nothing has changed ». Now in its fourth year, the RFDR, funded by the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation, is pushing to establish a perennial film festival here, a so-called difficult terrain that is parched for sustainable cultural outlets.

American aid: In spite of Trump’s cuts, Congress bets on Tunisia’s “success”

How much will US Congress carve out for Tunisia in 2018? The jury is still out, and even though the fiscal year began October 1, Washington has yet to approve the new budget, including foreign funding amounts. An article* published earlier this month on The Hill urges senators to remember Tunisia while finalizing the budget for the coming year. « Tunisia is an American ‘soft power’ success story—let’s keep it that way », the author writes, arguing that with US foreign assistance « there is reason to believe that the rule of law and democratic institutions will prevail », whereas cuts in funding to the country would represent « a serious mistake ».

Celebrating Mouled : Harvest season begins in Tunisia’s Aleppo pine forests

On December 1, Tunisians celebrated the birth of the prophet Muhammad with assidat zgougou, a pudding-like dessert garnished with nuts, dried fruits, and candies. For one day out of the year, families savor this uniquely Tunisian treat made from zgougou, seed of the Aleppo pine tree that grows abundantly throughout the Mediterranean. With some 360 thousand acres of Aleppo pine forest in Kasserine, Siliana, Kef and Bizerte, Tunisia is the only country where the tree’s black-grey seeds are harvested for human consumption.

الزقوقو: ستة أشهر من العمل الشاق من أجل الاحتفال بيوم واحد

يُصادف أول يوم من شهر ديسمبر لهذه السنة، ذكرى المولد النبويّ، الذّي يحتفل به التونسيّون عادة بإعداد ما يعرف بعصيدة الزقوقو. موسم جني الصنوبر الحلبي، المعروف محليّا باسم “الزقوقو”، انطلق منذ بداية شهر نوفمبر الجاري في شمال البلاد أين تتواجد أشجار الصنوبر بكثافة. إثر لقاء جمعنا بمحمد مختار، مدير وكالة استغلال الغابات، التابعة لوزارة الفلاحة، والتّي تقدّم كلّ موسم عرض طلب لاستغلال مقاسم غابات الصنوبر الحلبيّ، توّجه فريق نواة إلى أحد غابات بنزرت أين انتقلت خمس عائلات بأسرها لتعمل حتّى شهر ماي في جني حبوب “الزقوقو”. في قصّة الباي، بمعتمديّة ماطر، وعلى امتداد 50 هكتارا، تنتشر بعض الخيام الرثّة التي تأوي العملة وعائلاتهم خلال موسم الجني الذّي يتزامن مع فصل الشتاء الصعب في تلك المنطقة الجبليّة.

Zabaltuna: Bringing orientalist figures back to life in Tunisia’s dirtiest landscapes

A buxom young woman steps lightly from the water, carrying a jug at her hip and holding her sefsari above her head. Hooped earrings hanging down to her throat, bangles on her wrists, gold coins across her chest. She emerges, barefoot onto a muddy shore strewn with—red bottle caps, a packet of Camel blue cigarettes, empty plastic bottles. A fare 18th century maiden in a most unlikely environment. The scene is one of many diffused via Zabaltuna, a digital campaign that denounces Tunisia’s waste management problem, an increasingly noxious environmental and public health issue especially since 2011.

New security draft law portends return of police state in Tunisia

On November 15, after nearly two weeks of fervent critique and promises of public demonstration, the Interior Ministry stepped in to stay a polarized debate around a bill concerning the repression of abuses against armed forces. In an attempt to appease security unions backing the measure and civil society groups opposing it, Interior Minister Lotfi Brahem insisted before parliament’s General Legislation Commission on Wednesday that the Ministry is taking the concerns of all sides into consideration. Brahem proposed the creation of a joint committee to draft a new law that will protect security agents and their families « with consideration for human rights principles and in respect of constitutional provisions ». For now, the current controversial text remains in parliament for further examination.

When cartoonists meet students and prisoners to see Tunisia from “different angles”

Over the next year, Tunisian cartoonists will take turns drawing and debating with students and prisoners throughout the country. « Dessinons la paix et la démocratie » [Let’s draw peace and democracy], is a collaborative project of Cartooning for Peace, the Arab Institute for Human Rights (IADH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). A two-day training which took place September 6-7 at the IADH in Tunis marked a first exchange between after-school educators, prison staff and six cartoonists.

From graffiti to gallery: Stepping into the universe of Jawher Soudani

Moustached, tatoo-clad characters, toothy creatures with large heads and tiny wings, speech bubbles containing gangly Arabic script invade whatever empty space Jawher Soudani gets his hands on. Vacant walls and buildings in Sfax, Kef, Sousse, Hammamet, Beja, Djerba and Gabes—the artist’s birthplace—have provided an outdoor canvas for Soudani, more commonly known by passers-by as Va-Jo. This September marks a first: a solo exposition at Atelier Y in La Marsa, Tunis.

“Chouftouhonna”: feminist art festival takes over Tunisia’s National Theater

September 7-10, the International Feminist Art Festival of Tunis, Chouftouhonna, took place at the National Theater in the capital’s old neighborhood of Halfaouine. The former palace of Grand Vizier Khaznadar, rarely open to the public, was transformed for the event into a living museum: for four full days, every corner of the palace, its renovated theater, gallery rooms, courtyard, dim hallways and bright stairwells were occupied by art installations, performances, workshops and debates animated by women. Since the first edition in 2015, the festival has grown three-fold, drawing not only new participants, but artists and activists from near and far who affirm that they are in it for the long-run.

Le travail de fourmi de Mounir Baaziz pour une Mutuelle Tunisienne des Artistes

Après quatre ans de lutte, la mutuelle tunisienne des artistes, des créateurs et des techniciens du milieu culturel est devenue une réalité. L’arrêté du 8 août 2017 paru dans le Journal Officiel de la République Tunisienne (JORT) du 25 août 2017, consacre sa structure, ainsi que son statut légal et indépendant. A travers cette « structure de solidarité » impliquant tous les intervenants du secteur culturel, les fondateurs de la mutuelle, un groupe d’artistes et de syndicalistes persévérants, pourront mieux défendre les réformes qu’ils proposent pour une couverture sociale décente et inclusive. Au premier rang, Mounir Baaziz, un infatigable cinéaste déterminé.

The Medina of Tunis: back to business for the old city’s craftsmen and vendors?

Towards the beginning of the summer months, Tunisia’s Ministry of Tourism and sector operators announced their expectations for an improved tourist season. At the start of June, the National Tourism Office (ONTT) calculated the number of tourist arrivals for January through May 2017 to be nearly double (46.2%) that of the same period last year. Media reports on the ONTT’s numbers displayed a range of enthusiasm « It’s going much better! »—to reserved optimism—« Tourism is going (a little bit) better ». On the ground, Tunisia’s seaside hotels are mostly full, its beaches packed with locals and visitors from near and far. Air-conditioned restaurants and cafés are bustling. The shaded, winding passageways of Tunis’ Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are also teeming with people. Does this mean that business is in full swing for the souk’s craftsmen and vendors?


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