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Silenced no more: Tunisia's youth leading the charge for freedom of expression

Silenced no more: Tunisia's youth leading the charge for freedom of expression

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إقرأ باللغة العربية:

"لا تختبروا صبرنا" ... شباب تونس يتمسكون بحرية الرأي والتعبير


"The real constitution is the one that the youth wrote on the walls", a phrase that the Tunisian president repeated a lot in his speeches, and perhaps it was a link between him and the youth who always yearned to live freely in his country. But human rights activists say that Tunisia's youth today are being prosecuted for their stances that reject policies restricting freedom of thought and expression.

At the end of February, human rights public opinion in Tunisia was shocked with the arrest of activists Buthaina Khaleghi, Wissam al-Saghir and Osama Ghulam for graffiti writings and drawings addressing the state of freedoms in Tunisia. The young rights advocates were later released after a campaign was launched by activists on social media under the hashtag "freedom for the youth".

The latest arrest came following a wave of arrests initiated by the Tunisian authorities in January and February against prominent political opponents, whom President Saied accuses of corruption, conspiracy against state security and planning to assassinate him, while the opposition describes these arrests as "random" and says they are "a path to dictatorship".

During the same period, 10 youth activists from the Oum El Araïss mutamadiyah (administrative division), southern Tunisia, were referred to the Public Prosecution for taking part in peaceful and civil protests demanding the right to employment.

In the same context, the head of the Journalists' Syndicate (SNJT) Mohamed Yassine Jelassi, political activist Wael Nawar, member of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights Khalil Zghidi, human rights defender Nawras al-Douzi, human rights defender Asrar Ben Jouira, and civil activist Saif Ayadi were referred to the judiciary for participating in a protest movement against the constitutional referendum in July 2022.


"Do not test our patience" 

Commenting on her referral to the judiciary on charges of inciting disobedience and "insulting a public official" (assaulting an employee), Nawras al-Douzi tells Raseef22 that "the charges against her and her friends are fabricated and will not frighten them, but will make them insist on upholding their right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of thought and expression."

"On July 18, 2022, we, a group of young men and women, decided to take to the streets to reject the referendum on the new constitution, but we were surprised to be referred to the judiciary on fabricated and baseless charges," added al-Douzi, a human rights and feminist activist.

She continues, "We took to the streets to express our rejection of the new constitution, which was written by the president alone without involving the youth, even though he always stresses in his political speeches that the real constitution is what the youth write on the walls. We wrote on the walls for many years but they didn't listen to us."

Nawras al-Douzi is surprised that she was referred to the judiciary on charges of assaulting women working in the police force, saying, "I am a feminist activist who has long defended women's rights, so would it be possible for me to assault women while they are doing their work!"

"We took to the streets to express our rejection of the new constitution, which was written by the president alone without involving the youth, even though he stresses in his political speeches that the real constitution is what the youth write on walls"

Al-Douzi believes that the current regime is trying to intimidate young people and silence their voices and confronts anyone who exercises their right to expression with intimidation and fabricating charges by referring them to the judiciary, stressing that dozens of young people are now subject to judicial proceedings because of their positions and opinions.

In the same context, al-Douzi expresses her astonishment at the oppressive practices carried out against the youth who contributed to the overthrow of the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and whose voices were loud when it came to addressing human rights violations and the right to a decent life, according to her.

She concludes by stressing her determination and that of her comrades to continue their struggle, "I say to the president of the country and those with him: Do not test our patience. Our positions are clear, and we will not be afraid, and we are ready for any kind of confrontation."

For his part, the head of the Journalists Syndicate, Mohamed Yassine Jelassi, said his referral to the judiciary on charges of inciting civil disobedience and disrupting freedom of movement is an act of targeting the Journalists Syndicate and an attempt by the existing authority to silence opposition voices.

While speaking to Raseef22, Jelassi added, "The youth of Tunisia will not be afraid, and will express their positions and opinions, and will remain victorious for rights and freedoms and the right of Tunisians to freedom and justice".

Jelassi described the arrests and referrals to the judiciary that targeted activists as "revenge", noting that the authority suppresses all voices that criticize it.

"Do not test our patience. Our positions are clear, and we will not be afraid, and we are ready for any kind of confrontation".. Tunisia's youth take a stand on freedom of opinion and expression

Freedom for the youth

Civil society organizations in Tunisia have raised the slogan "freedom for youth", rejecting the prosecution of human rights activists and social, youth, and political movements in Tunisia. They assert that freedom of expression in the country is threatened, while the Tunisian president insists that "there is no room for undermining freedoms in his country".

The civil coalition in Tunisia, a gathering of a number of Tunisian organizations, associations and personalities, says that "a significant number of young people in Tunisia are subject to judicial prosecution for their opinions and posts on social networks, or for their participation in peaceful trade union and human rights movements."

Today's Tunisian youth are being prosecuted for their stances that reject policies restricting freedom of thought and expression

The coalition accuses the authority of deliberately undermining the right to trade union, the right to expression and peaceful protest in Tunisia, and affirms its "support for youth forces and living citizenship to continue their struggles so that they remain a continuous and influential force of pressure on the governance system to review development policies, combat corruption and respect rights and freedoms."

The coalition also called for an end to the prosecution of the youth and to guarantee their right to expression and protest, while condemning "the excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and the targeting of activists and youth in Tunisia."

The coalition also announced the formation of a human rights committee whose task will be to provide legal support to all those referred arbitrarily to the judiciary to ensure a fair trial for them, believing in the right to a fair trial.

Youth and student movements in Tunisia have always played an important role in defending freedom of opinion and expression, and Tunisia's youth still insist on the need to involve them in drawing the map of Tunisia's future, managing the country's public affairs, and adhering to the democracy that was the product of a revolution they describe as a revolution of "freedom and dignity".


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A measure of a true and just society is directly related to how free its individuals are. Free to be themselves, express themselves, and live their lives unconditionally without fear of threat or repercussion. And yet, in our corner of the world and almost all over, human rights remain threatened and challenged by tyranny and oppression. Be the change, take the lead!

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