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Tunisia: Paying Tribute to Cyber Dissident Zouhair Yahyaoui

"National Day for Internet Freedom" Photo by inf0mag.blogspot.com

"National Day for Internet Freedom" Photo by inf0mag.blogspot.com

Today marks the seventh death anniversary of Zouhair Yahyaoui, the first Tunisian cyber activist, to be detained during the regime of Zeine El Abidin Ben Ali. On his website TUNeZINE [fr], Yahyaoui had criticized Ben Ali's corrupt and autocratic regime.

In a poll published on his website, Yahyaoui once asked:

According to you Tunisia is a republic, a kingdom, a zoo, a prison or nothing?

Although he used the pseudonym Ettounsi (The Tunisian in English), the Tunisian authorities, succeeded in tracking him down, and detaining him. He was arrested on June, 4, 2000, and one year later, a court in Tunis sentenced him to two years in prison for “publishing false information”, “non-authorized use of an Internet connection” and “theft from an employer.”

In November, 2003, and due to international pressure, the authorities granted him conditional release. Yahyaoui spent a period of 18 months behind bars, during which he was tortured, and abused, both physically, and verbally. As a consequence, he faced some serious health issues, such as kidney problems. On March, 13, 2005, he passed away following a heart attack.

Yahyaoui won numerous international awards for his fight for net freedom. Reporters Without Borders awarded him the ‘CyberLiberty’ award for his “contribution to the freedom of information on the internet”.

In his memory , and in recognition of his cyber activism, and his sacrifices for a more democratic Tunisia, March 13 is now the National Day of Internet Freedom in the country.

Blogger Kamel Mahdhaoui pays tribute [fr] to Yahyaoui saying:

Je prie pour que Dieu nous pardonne de n’avoir pas entendu suffisamment Zouhair, Bouazizi, et les martyrs de tout lieu et tout temps.

Hommage à Zouhair Yahyaoui dit Ettounsi de Tunezine.

Hommage pour son combat pour la liberté sur Internet et pour la dignité.

Il nous a quittés le dimanche 13 mars 2005.

I'm praying for God to forgive us, because we could not hear enough Zouhair, Bouazizi, and all the martyrs of all places and of all times.Tribute to Zouhair Yahyaoui, alias Ettounis of Tunezine.

Tribute to his fight for Internet freedom, and for dignity.

He left us on Sunday, March 13, 2005.

The author of the blog March, 13 Zouhair Yahyaoui day for net freedom, a blog that was launched to dedicate March 13 to Yahyaoui writes [fr]:

Zouhair Yahyaoui était un de ces nombreux jeunes diplômés tunisiens qui ont violemment et douloureusement subi les conséquences de la dictature de Ben Ali dès leur entrée dans l'âge adulte.

Sa liberté, il a voulu la prendre, sans attendre que les conditions soient favorables, ou plus faciles, sans attendre que ce soit ” le meilleur moment ” (…)Sur son site, sur ses forums, il dénonce infatigablement les atteintes aux droits de l'Homme, les procès injustes, il y soutient les opposants au régime.

Zouhair Yahyaoui was one of these educated young Tunisians, who were violently, and painfully subjected to the consequences of the Ben Ali dictatorship once they became adults. He wanted to take his freedom, without waiting for the “right moment”. Through his webiste, and forums, he had tirelessly denouncing human rights violations, unfair trials, and he had been showing support to the opponents of the regime

@Paillon raises a key question on whether those who harmed Yahyaoui, have been held accountable or not. She tweets [fr]:

Je suppose que les juges, procureurs et policiers qui ont detruit la vie de Zouhair Yahyaoui sont sous les verrous ?

I suppose that the judges, prosecutors, and police officers who destroyed the life of Zouhair Yahyaoui are behind bars now?

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