IN TUNISIA TOO, BLOGGERS AND WORKERS UNITE
Posted April 16th, 2008
With little to no coverage of the plight of thousands of people at the rich phosphate mines of Gafsa, Redyef and Oum el Arayess in the mainstream media, Tunisian bloggers and activists are turning to the Internet to tell the world their story.
Protests by workers against inflation, the rising cost of living and the right to employment in the rich mines, have been dealt with a security clampdown by the government, which has arrested countless of protesters. And for the first time ever, Tunisian bloggers join hands with activists and other online users to give a voice to the voiceless – on Twitter, like Houieda's Tweets; by joining and contributing to a Facebook group to stream updates and news about situation (134 members so far); and by uploading videos to YouTube (which is banned in Tunisia).
The above video, by Free Tunisie, shows some of the protests by the families of those arrested in unrest. More videos are also available on the above link.
Many of these online spaces also share the same text made the Tunisian Human Rights League (text published in Arabic by Samsoum and on the league's official website).
Moreover, there is a local committee which was set up to voice the requests of Gafsa inhabitants called Comité de Soutien aux habitants du bassin minier de Gafsa (Support Committee to the people of the mining area of Gafsa), which created the support Facebook group.
On blogs, COS-MAUX-POLIS (Fr) wrote two posts: one about the situation and another about the response and disinformation provided by the Tunisian government.
Writing in Arabic, Fatma-Arabicca calls the incidents the Revolution of Hunger. She puts some of the troubles in context here saying:
"A series of protests broke out after the final list of those who will be employed at Phosphates Gafsa company on January 5, which are still continuing today in Oum el Arayes and Al Radeef. For more than eight weeks now young men from Al Radeef hold protests in tents, and announce hunger strikes, to call for the minimum requirements of social justice and their right in employments. At Oum el Arayes, the widows who have lost their breadwinners in the accidents at the company, still live in tents, on the outskirts of the province of Oum el Arayes, which are located in the Phosphates Gasfa company, where they are calling for their sons to work at the company."
Fatima also posts photographs of the protests.
Carpediem-selim (Fr), meanwhile, writes a detailed post about police brutality against the strikers :
"The police force, numbering in the thousands, did not hesitate to use barbaric methods against citizens who were demanding the fundamental right to work: gunshots were heard, tear-gas bombs were thrown by the hundreds, police dogs patrolled the city's streets, protestors were violently beaten in public and aggressive nocturnal police raids were conducted, violating the immunity of [citizen's] homes, which pushed several young people to flee and spend the night in the mountains surrounding the city. A climate of fear has been instilled in the entire city proceeding to menacing intrusions in all neighborhoods, assuring the city's complete lock down and a halt to all traffic.:
Brastos (Ar), writes about those arrested, asking what their crime was. He writes:
"They said that a number of people have been arrested, including activists and union representatives, as well as people who had nothing to do with politics. Their only crime was that they asked why when their country was so rich in minerals, and they worked in the mines 24 hours a day, and sacrificed their entire lives in them, as well as the lives of those who came before them and those generations which will follow, were they still hungry and unemployed? … Perhaps their fault was that this time they have voiced their concerns with a loud voice?"
(Source: Global Voices Online)
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