As many might remember, it was in Tunisia, as a result of the demonstrations in Sidi Bouzid, where the revolutions and uprisings, collectively known as Arab Spring, came into being. However, in spite of the revolution and the changes it brought about, some people still think that “nothing has changed.”
In this regards, it is illustrative what Afef Abrougui, a Tunisian blogger and activist, tells us about what people have experienced and what they are still going through in her country. It also helps us to know a bit more about a country which, when separated from the Middle East, we actually do not know much about.
The interview has two parts, the fist one is a video recorded in July in Nairobi, Kenya, during the last Global Voices Summit; the second is a written interview conducted by e-mail. You can find both below.
Global Voices (GV): Alef, tell us something about yourself.
I'm student of International Relations at a Tunis based college. I worked before with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and Index on Censorship. I do not have a personal blog but I have recently launched the Arab Region in Media Monitoring Blog. The blog is a project for the Young Leaders Visitors Program, which I recently took part in. The blog aims at monitoring the coverage of the Arab region in the most influential mainstream media outlets. I started with a blog to develop good content until I get funding to launch a website (hopefully.)
GV: What are your feelings about the protests against the anti-Islam film? Is it justified or is it an over reaction?
The violent reactions to the amateurish film outraged me more than the film's content. And I'm not the only Muslim who believes so. Nothing can legitimize violence. However, we need to take into consideration the socio-economic background at the reactions of these protesters who attacked the US embassy in Tunis. Most of them are unemployed, deprived, ill-informed and manipulated. All these factors put together can easily lead to the creation of a religious extremist.
GV: This takes us to religion, I know is a very personal thing, but, how important is religion for you in your daily life?
Religion, though important to me, remains a very private part of my life. I don't discuss it much in public. Since you asked me about religion's role in my daily life I would not mind answering you. People deal with stress in their daily lives in different ways by drinking alcohol, doing Yoga, taking a walk or partying. For me the teachings and values of Islam [honesty, tolerance, patience, gratitude, humility, generosity...] is what keep my daily life less stressful and brighter. I guess this illustrates how important religion is to me in my daily life.
GV: We used to think about women in the Arab world as oppressed and with very little freedom. Please tell us your personal and close experience on this.
This stereotype about Arab women is very common in the West. This stereotype is disseminated by mainstream media which erroneously depict the Arab region as a homogenous entity that looks like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan (though the last two countries are not Arab), that oppresses women. Being born, raised and educated in Tunisia, I did not face any pressure for being a woman.
GV: Tell us about your city and your country. What are your favourites spots?
Well I'm in love with my country's historical heritage. Tunisia is a mosaic of Amazigh, Phoenician, Roman, Arab and Ottoman civilizations. This makes the country diverse and unique. Taking a walk in the Medina (Old city, in Tunis) is priceless for me. Tabarka, a coastal city in the north-west of Tunisia famous for its coral fishing, international jazz festival, and our forests are a good place for peace of mind.
GV: How do you see the future of Tunisia and the Arab Spring? What are the next important things that are going to happen in your country?
I think we as Tunisian citizens longing for democracy and the respect of human rights, are going to face tough and challenging days. It is urgent for Tunisia to have a new constitution as soon as possible (the country already suffered from almost two years without a constitution) and to set an election date. Also, as long as there are still thousands of Tunisians suffering from social injustices and deprivation, the country will still suffer from instability.
In the video interview we talk a bit about Afef's life, her work, her participation in Global Voices, her opinion about the Global Voices Summit, people's reaction to her writings, Tunisian politics and of course, her experience in the demonstrations in Tunisia.