samedi 30 avril 2016

The initiative "Books to Prisons" : the idea and the developments

To be honest, the world of prisons has always fascinated me. I have always wanted to know more about jails and wanted to help people that are held behind bars. This strange relationship I have with prisons started in my childhood.

When I was a child I used to enjoy spending hours and hours in front of our home’s bookcase reading titles, discovering authors’ names, and leafing through the different books before choosing the one that would be my companion for some days and nights.

The hours I spent there were some of the best of my life. During those journeys into the world of books, I made discoveries. Indeed, when leafing through the books I noticed the presence of my father and some of his friends/ comrades’ names on the first page of some of them.  I also came across some letters or papers with prison stamps. I understood that those books were my father’s’ books in jail. I already knew that he had spent some years of his life behind bars as a political prisoner. I have always been eager to know more about that experience and to understand it. I also had the opportunity to see some of his photos taken in prison. Moreover, I discovered the majority of the Tunisian prisons (from outside of course) as my father has always had the habit to take us on long journeys across the country to discover its nature, archeological sites and guess what; the prisons where he had spent some months and years. He also used to tell me some anecdotes about things he had experienced in jail.

Some years later, some of my friends had been arrested and jailed for political reasons or for cannabis consumption and upon their release I always had questions about the prison and its conditions. As a blogger dealing with human rights issues, I have always worked on cases of violence and torture against prisoners. I even wanted to visit some of the Tunisian prisons but this seemed to be a hard endeavor, something impossible.

This is why I did not hesitate at all and actually became excited when I had the opportunity to do so.   Last November, I visited some prisons within the framework of the prison-screening series organized by the World Organization against Torture and the Carthage Film Festival. I visited la Morneguia and Manuba’s prisons.

On our way to the screening room in La Morneguia’s Prison, I noticed the presence of a library. Curiosity drove me inside the room where I had a long discussion with the librarian. The latter showed me the different books on the shelves and told me about their sources and the mechanisms of their distribution to the prisoners. I also asked him about the possibility of offering books to prisons. He explained that this was possible after the submission of a request to the General Directorate of Prisons and rehabilitation centers. The same night, I had a discussion with my father who is more experienced than I am when it comes to jails, their conditions, and their internal laws. I asked him about his personal experience and I learned that with his comrades they had had recourse to hunger strikes to claim their right to read behind the bars. He also gave me some numbers and realities about the incarceration world. Then, I expressed my worries as to the subjects of some of the books I saw on the shelves of the prison library. Indeed, they were Islamic fundamentalist in nature. I immediately recalled some of the studies and articles presenting jails as one of the most fertile grounds for the indoctrination and recruitment of Tunisians by extremist groups.

Film screening in Morneguia 
Prisoners Reading ( late 1970s) 

In la Manuba’s prison, however, I did not have the opportunity to see the library. Later on a friend that had been arrested there told me that only two bookshelves were available for prisoners.

Manuba's prison 

With my father we first decided to follow the procedure indicated by the librarian we met in la Morneguia’s prison and send some of our personal books to one or two prisons. But a thorough examination of the situation and a look at the statistics related to Tunisian prisons and rehabilitation centers as well as to the: Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners Adopted by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held at Geneva in 1955, and approved by the Economic and Social Council and a thorough study of the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Tunisia Office entitled: Prisons in Tunisia International Standards versus Reality was sufficient to convince us of the necessity of acting on a larger scale and try to help in changing this situation.

To be sure one of the main missions of the prison is: the rehabilitation, re-education and reintegration of the prisoner in his/her community after having served his/her prison sentence. A large number of male and female prisoners who are in their early twenties and engaged in university education were in the process of serving a prison sentence as a result of their committing a drug-consumption crime -. In this context more than 53 percent of the total number of prisoners is accused of holding, consuming or dealing.

Moreover the article 40 of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of prisoners states that:
Every institution shall have a library for the use of all categories of prisoners, adequately stocked with both recreational and instructional books, and prisoners shall be encouraged to make full use of it.
The article 19 of the Tunisian Law on the organization of prisons states that:
The prisoner is entitled to continue being informed of what is happening in the outside world, through access to writing instruments, reading books, magazines and daily newspapers through the prison administration under the regulations of the institution. Every prison should have a library with books and magazines for reading. A prisoner is also allowed to  obtain other written documents enabling him to pursue his educational programs in educational institutions from inside the prison. Musicals and theatrical performances are organized in spaces inside the prison and are produced by detainees or made in cooperation with the cultural and youth structures in the region. Exhibitions are also organized inside the prison facilities or the products of cultural clubs, such as paintings and creations, are exposed in regional and local exhibitions.

But, the programs implemented in the Tunisian prisons according to this rule, could be considered as “poor” for several reasons including lack of possibilities and budgets. The use of books available in some prison libraries is almost non existent, which is therefore reflected in the administration’s lack of interest in feeding it with new books, magazines and other cultural materials. In terms of the prisons’ budgets as revealed by the directors, there are no financial allocations earmarked for the purpose.

We thus decided to launch a larger initiative relying on social media and the generosity of Tunisians as well as the collaboration with the World Organization Against Torture that has already a cooperation agreement with the General Directorate of prisons and rehabilitation.

On February 11th, 2016 I announced the beginning of the initiative on my personal Facebook Profile. I included the address of the Tunisian office of the World Organization Against Torture as our main drop off point and two phone numbers. People started to share it immediately. It went viral. Few minutes later, I received the first call from someone who wanted to give me some books. The day after, with my father we were on our way to Sfax when a woman called me to inform me that she wanted to give us some books but that she was far away from the capital. She was in El Jem, 30 minutes later I collected the books she had prepared for the collection. Many local and foreign journalists contacted me and wrote articles and did reports about the collect. I was really happy to see the enthusiasm of all those generous persons who believed in the importance of such an action. I decided to launch a special page for the initiative and two months later more than 2500 person are following it and interacting with us as to the initiative. We had already collected more than 10000 books in different languages. We also received books from Tunisians living abroad and even from foreigners.

We started with one drop off point and now we have more than 10 collection points:
-3 points in La Marsa.
-1 point in Le Kram.
-1 point in Sfax.
1- point in Sousse.
1-point in kasserine.
1-point in Jendouba.
-2 points in Jerba.

On April 5th, 2016, we delivered a first set of books to the General Directorate of Prisons and Rehabilitation Centers. Now, we are still collecting books.

To sum up:
The initiative is open. It is not limited in time. As a first step we are targeting the collection of 15000 books in different languages to be delivered to the 27 prison and rehabilitation center across the country. Now, we are studying the possibility of enrichment of the initiative through the organization of reading and writing workshops and other cultural activities. The initiative is our small contribution in the dissemination of the culture of human rights among Tunisian citizens and in the national effort in the fight against extremism and terrorism, as we believe that books can change many lives and minds.

mercredi 27 avril 2016

Books To Prisons

The Information Resource Center
invites you to a presentation entitled
Books To Prisons 
Led by Fulbright Alumna & Activist
Lina Ben M’henni & her father Sadek Ben M’henni

The Guardian This Arab youth survey highlights the dangers of desperation Lina Ben Mhenni

Five years after the beginning of the so-called Arab spring, the situation in the various countries involved is far from stable or good. The aspirations and dreams of the youth, who were behind the uprisings, have turned out to be at best mirages, and in some cases nightmares. Devastating civil wars have erupted. The main objectives – democracy and freedom – have been forgotten. New threats such as the rise of Islamic State (Isis) and terrorism are shaking the region.
Even Tunisia, considered the most successful example, and awarded the 2015 Nobel peace prize for its civil society’s efforts to avoid civil war through implementing dialogue between rival political parties, is challenged by terror and the exapansionism of Isis. It is claimed that the country is the biggest exporter of jihadis to Syria and Iraq. The rapid spread of the terrorist group suggests that the vast majority of young Arabs are poised and ready to join Isis.
To read the article ,  click here

mercredi 20 avril 2016

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The story is set in Afghanistan from the early 1960s to the early 2000s. In 402 pages, the author tells us a part of the history of the country through a fiction involving the intersection of the lives of two women: Mariam and Leila.

Mariam,  the illegitimate  daughter of a very successful businessman in Herat, lives on  the outskirts of the small town with her mother Nana. As the plot develops her life turns into a nightmare. In the quest of living with her other brothers and sisters she loses her mother. She is forced to marry an old man and to move to Kabul where her life intertwines with the life of another woman Leila.

We discover Leila as a young ambitious girl living in a liberal family. She is enjoying life and having big dreams. But that does not last for a long time. Her more or less quite life is affected by the political situation in Afghanistan. The life of school, her quiet life with her parents, and her love story with a one legged boy from the neighborhood becomes from the past as the war bursts out.

Born a generation apart, Mariam and Leila are two Afghan women who share together the horrors of war, loss and fate. They endure together the escalating violence  and dangers surrounding them in the city of Kabul. They progressively become united and are supporting each other.

The story is very captivating. A part of the history of Afghanistan is drawn in a very skillful manner. The lessons to be kept in mind  are so numerous. But the  biggest lesson  is that  love  is often the key to survival.

mardi 19 avril 2016


Est ce que cela vous arrive de parler à votre corps à haute voix? 
Je le fais en continu.
Après plusieurs opérations, deux années de dialyse , une greffe rénale, une cohabitation avec une maladie chronique, mon corps a parfois tendance à me lâcher, à me laisser tomber , à me pourrir la vie ... 
Mais les longues discussions que nous avons ensemble changent les changes ... On atteint souvent des compromis .
Et là mon cher corps je te supplie de résister ...

lundi 18 avril 2016

ليلة غبشة

البارح ليلة غبشة ماحبش يجيني النوم ... خدمت الكرهبة و قعدت ندور فلخر نلقى روحي قدام وزارة التشغيل مع الساعتين متاع الصباح ... ناس مسبولة راقدة على القاعة ... ميتين بالتعب ... حكيت مع زوز معتصمين فاقوا ... قلبي وجعني واحد يحكيلي كيفاش وصل لتونس و ما فوقوش فلوس ... مشى خدم مرمة نهار كامل ووراني الجروح في يديه و حكالي على قرايتو و شهايدو و كيفاش بعد نهار خدمة كامل قبض 20 دينار5000 مشات حجامة 4500 عجة خاطر ملي جا جيعان و الباقي مشات في مصاريف صغيرة من قبل باكو دخان و قهيوة و دينار لايت الحاصل عقاب النهار يلقى في جيبو 2000 ... برشة ناس ما تعرفش شمعناها هذا الكل ...و تقول يخدمو في اللي جا و يتصرفو سامحني باهي واحد يقرى يقرى و نقولو ميسالش يخدم في المرمة يخدم جنان يخدم عساس اما الفلوس اللي باش يدخلها باش تخليه يعاون دارهم اللي قراوه و ضحاو ؟ باش تخليه يعمل عايلة و صغار ؟
ما نتصورش عباد عندهم اكثر من 66 يوم راقدين في البرد و في السخانة و في الغبابر و مش فروشاتها ناس تكذب و لا تحب على لقمة ساهلة ؟ 
الحاصل بعد كملت تعديت على اعتصام القفاصة في منتزه المروج ما وقفتش اما الحالة هي الحالة خيم و ناس راقدة و محاصرين بالامن من كل شيرة .... 
كيف كيف ما نتصورش واحد مسيب دارو بايت في الظروف هاذيكة وهو عندو حلول اخرى ....
وفي خضم هاذاالكل الناس اللي مالمفروض تتلهى بالامور هاذي و توري الحقيقة لاهين ينظفو في عرض جماعات يانما و سراق البلاد على الجد الاول ....

En Tunisie: La contestation sociale est toujours d'actualité !

Depuis plus de trois mois, ils sont plus d'une trentaine à dormir à la belle étoile devant le bâtiment du ministère de l'Emploi dans la capitale tunisienne. Ils sont en majorité des diplômés chômeurs  originaires du gouvernorat de Kasserine. Ils sont partis sur le trimard, quelques jours  après le décès  de Ridha Yahyaoui . 

Ce dernier, 28 ans,  a été électrocuté, après  avoir escaladé un  poteau  au cours d'une manifestation  contre la modification d'une liste d'embauches au sein du ministère de l'Enseignement. Son nom aurait été retiré  de la liste qui comprenait à l'origine 79 personnes. 

Son décès a fait monter la colère des jeunes de la région défavorisée et marginalisée qui ont commencé  à manifester pacifiquemnt  au siège du gouvernorat. Ils réclamaient leur droit au travail,  droit inscrit dans la nouvelle constitution tunisienne. Cependant, la réponse  gouvernementale à leur protestation fût fidèle aux pratiques de la dictature et aux traditions héritées d'un régime à l'autre. Une réponse musclée qui n'a fait qu'aiguiser la  colère des protestataires. 

Des émeutes et des clashes entre les manifestants et les forces de l'ordre ont éclaté dans la région et se sont disséminés pour toucher plusieurs régions de la Tunisie dont certains quartiers populaires de la capitale Tunis. Un couvre feu a été décrété pour calmer les choses. 

D'autre part, des réunions gouvernementales ont été tenues avec la prétention de trouver des solutions en la matière. Mais le fruit ne fût  que de nouvelles promesses qui ne seraient jamais tenues. 

Le sit-in au gouvernorat de Kasserine s'est depuis poursuivi sans interruption. De plus, Quelques personnes ont  été déléguées pour représenter les jeunes  de Kasserine dans  la capitale et pour dialoguer avec les autorités dans l'espoir de trouver des solutions. A leur grand désarroi, les responsables ont continué  à les ignorer.  Ils sont restés là et continuent à le faire . 

Les jeunes de Kasserine ne sont cependant qu'un petit exemple qui révèle la réalité des choses en Tunisie, pays  dit être l'unique modèle  réussi  du  "Printemps Arabe". 

A la lisière de la capitale , un autre groupe de jeunes ayant parcouru plus de 400 km à pieds de Gafsa jusqu'à  Tunis campent depuis plus de 3 mois dans un parc démuni de tout. La police les encercle et les empêche de continuer leur chemin vers la ville entravant ainsi leur droit à la circulation dans leur propre pays. Des tentatives de suicide ont été à plusieurs reprises enregistrées  parmi de ces jeunes ... Leur colère monte jour après jour.

Manifestations, grèves de la faim, sit-ins et marches sont devenus le quotidien de milliers de jeunes tunisiens rongés par la colère et le désespoir. Ces derniers, piliers de la révolution de 2011, considèrent n'avoir pas bénéficié d'un changement et d'une amélioration de leur vie et de leur situation. La majorité des objectifs de la révolution ayant été ignorés par les différents gouvernements qui se sont succédés  suite à la fuite du dictateur Ben Ali. 

dimanche 10 avril 2016

تونسية في مجموعة مع اللاجئين

كالعادة المرأة التونسية ناشطة في جميع المجالات و حاضرة على جميع الواجهات في تونس و خارجها . التونسية
 هندا الحمداني و المقيمة بالكويت مسؤولة ميداني مع مجموعة : مع اللاجئين 

و هي مجموعة متكونة من أفراد لا ينتمون لاي جهة سياسية أو اية منظمة , تقوم برحلات تطوعية الى مختلف حدود الدول الاوروبية التي يوجد بها لاجؤون لمد يد المساعدة لهم ومحاولة توفير ابسط ظروف العيش لهم . و تعمل هاته المجموعة من خلال جمع التبرعات من افراد و شركات و التحوّل الى عين المكان للمساعدة . و ستكون رحلة هنادي القادمة الى اليونان حيث تنطلق اليوم . و يتمثّل عملهم في شراء الخيم و ملابس الاطفال و الاطعمة فور وصولهم الى وجهتهم و من ثم ّ القيا بتجهيزها و توفير خيام للاكل و غيرها . كما يقوم طاقم طبي بمرافقتهم لتوفير الرعاية الصحية بالاضافة الى فريق تصويريقوم بتوثيق الوضعية هناك . و قد بدأت المجموعة في تاسيس مدرسة لتعليم الاطفال اللاجئين . و هنادي هي التونسية الوحيدة المنتمية الى المجموعة . فتابعوا رحلتها و لنساندها و لو معنويا في اداء هذا العمل النبيل .
و يمكنكم متابعة الرحلة القادمة من خلال الصفحة :
او من خلال الانستغرام :
او سنابشات :@WithRefugees

مجرد رأي

نحن شعب لا يتعظّ من ماضيه و لا يحفظ دروس التاريخ و كأنّني بنا شعب قصير الذاكرة أو دعوني أقول معدوم الذاكرة. تستهوينا بعض عروض التهريج في مج...