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Tunisia: Al Radeyef Protests – When Bloggers Give a Voice to the Voiceless

With little to no coverage of the plight of thousands of people at the rich Phosphorous mines of Gafsa, Redyef and Oum el Arayess on 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).

This 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 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:

منذ 5 جانفي 2008 تاريخ اعلان النتائج النهائيّة لمناظرة انتدابات كوادر وأعوان شركة فسفاط قفصة اندلعت جملة من الاحتجاجات التى مازالت تعصف بأم العرايس والرديّف منذ أكثر من ثمانية أسابيع يخرج شباب الرديف ليعتصم بالخيام ويعلن اضرابا مفتوحا عن الطعام رغبة منه في تحقيق حدّ أدنى من العدالة الاجتماعيّة ومطالبا بحقّه في التشغيل …امّا في أم العرايس فان الارامل اللاتي فقدن معيلهن في حوادث شغل بالشركة لازلن منذ أكثر من شهر يسكنّ خيمة امام أقليم أم العرايس لشركة فسفاط قفصة يطالبن بتشغيل أحد أبنائهن

A series of protests broke out after the final list of those who will be employed a 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 :

Les forces de l'ordre, qui sont présents par milliers, n'ont pas hésité à déployer des pratiques de barbares contre des citoyens qui demandaient un droit fondamental qui est le droit du travail : des coups de feu ont été entendues, des bombes lacrymogènes ont été jetées par centaines, des chiens de police traînaient dans toutes les rues de la ville, des manifestants ont été violemment battus en plein monde et des descentes policières nocturnes et musclées ont eu lieu, violant l'immunité des domiciles, qui a poussé plusieurs jeunes à fuir et à passer la nuit dans les montagnes entourant la ville. Un climat de frayeur a été instauré dans toute la ville en procédant à des intrusions menaçantes dans tous les quartiers assurant le bouclage total de la ville et l'arrêt de toute circulation…

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:

قلت انو هالاعتقالات شملت العديد من الناس .. سواء كانو مناضلين و كوادر نقابية محترمه .. والا حتى مواطنين “لا متسيسين” .. كل ذنبهم انهم قالو ياخي شبيها بلادنا غنيّة بالثروات ، و الفاقونات العام اثناش ن شهر وهيّ تحمّل في فسفاطنا و مشتقاتو .. و الاربعة و عشرين ساعة و نحنا نربشو في المناجم .. و فنينا اعمارنا فيها .. كيما فنوا اعمارهم الذين من قبلنا .. و الذين من بعدنا .. و بالرغم من هاذاكا نحن جواعى و بطالة ..
يمكن ذنبهم انهم المرّه هاذي قالو هالكلام بصوت مرتفع شويّة ..

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?

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