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Tunisia: Activist Lina Ben Mhenni Attacked by Police

When Tunisian activist and blogger Lina Ben Mhenni attended a pacifist sit-in to protest against the Ennahda-led government in the capital Tunis on August 5, 2012, the last thing she expected was to be savagely beaten by those who are supposed to preserve law and order. The police and not just one but 10 of them attacked her.

In a blog post entitled “Assaulted by the cops” (available in French, Arabic and in English), Ben Mhenni recounts her story. The accident took her back to December 2010, which witnessed the eruption of the Tunisian Revolution in her country, which ushered in the so-called Arab Spring, forcing dictator Zine Al Abedine Ben Ali to leave power.

She recalls:

At 9.30, we decided to move and start our rally on the median strip in front of the Municipal Theater. At first the police tried to disperse us, using the pretext of the state of emergency- not allowing the gathering of more than three people in public places. We decided to move in the direction of the Ministry of Interior and chanted the slogan: “Oh People wake up,  the” Nahdhaouis” is stealing your money”. The cops attacked us. Bikers tore along the median strip and went towards the crowd to disperse us. The scene was much like the attack of the camel in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Rym El Benna was beside me when we both received blows to the head. Friends of ours took us away from the place.

But that is not the end of the story. Lina continues:

Suddenly a policeman in plainclothes (someone I already know) grabbed me by the arm and took me far from my friends. I started screaming and yelling, he was joined by two, then three other cops and then their number increased. They all worked unceasingly to take my backpack but I  resisted. Indeed, one of them was holding me by the neck, two others tried to tear out my bag whereas the others were having fun beating me and tearing my clothes … …

Photo taken from Lina's blog. Her memory card being confiscated, this was taken while she was at the emergency.

It was later on that Lina remembered the faces of those who assailed her. Her friends confirmed to her that their number was around 10 persons.

Once  in security, I discovered  that those thieves succeeded in stealing my camera.  I decided to go back and to get it back. Clashes between the protesters and police continued. The latter looked like rabid dogs running in all directions, insulting  and hitting  people arbitrarily. The scene was worthy of December 2010.Later some friends and journalists managed to have my camera without the memory card and I was driven  to the emergency.

On Twitter, netizens reacted strongly to Lina's treatment.

Khalil asks:

@kalimacher: @benmhennilina On vient d’annoncer la blessure de certains blogueurs dont Abdessalem Hamdi, Lina Ben Mhenni,… [Kapitalis]: confirmation?

Some bloggers injury have been announced such as Abdessalem Hamdi, Lina Ben Mhenni,… :confirmation ?

Amira Yahyaoui shows anxiety:

@Mira404: J’arrive pas a avoir @benmhennilina au téléphone?! Des nouvelles?!!!!

I am unable to reach Lina Ben Mhenni by Phone. Any news ?

Nayma Charmiti shares some news:

كنت معاها و البوليسية ضربوها و فكولها مصورتها كيما ضربوا برشة صحفيين و سمعونا لكلام

@Nayma_M_Charmiti: I was with her and the cops hit her and took her camera, they also hit some journalists and insulted us. #Spit

Lina is a Global Voices Online author.

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