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Two Tunisian Graffiti Artists to Face Trial

On 3 November 2012, police caught graffiti artists, Oussama Bouagila and Chahine Berriche drawing graffiti in Gabes, in the South East of Tunisia. Bouagila and Berriche are members of Zwewla [ar] [ "the poor" in Tunisian dialect], a street art community famous for its graffiti in support of the poor and marginalized groups in Tunisia.

Bouagila and Berriche face charges of “writing, without permission, on public property”, “breaching the state of emergency” and “publishing fake news that could disturb public order”. The two young graffiti artists have remained free pending their trial, scheduled on December 5.

Another graffiti by Zwewla in Sousse, central East Tunisia: “The employed and the unemployed are against injustice and exploitation”

Oussama Bouajila told Nawaat.org that when police caught him and Berriche, they were inscribing a graffiti that says “the people want the poor's rights.”

Slateafrique's Tawa fi Tunis blog quoted [fr] Bouajila saying:

Nous avons fait ce mouvement de graffiti parce que personne ne parle de nous, de nos problèmes de chômage, de pauvreté et de marginalisation. Nous avons donc décidé de parler par nous-mêmes. Pourquoi le graffiti? Parce que le graffiti est plus accessible au tunisien qui n’a pas Facebook par exemple.

We created this graffiti movement because no one speaks about us and the problems of unemployment, poverty and marginalization that we face. So, we have decided to speak for ourselves. Why graffiti? Graffiti is more accessible for the Tunisian [citizen] who does not have access to Facebook, for instance.

“They buried the poor alive”, graffiti by Zwewla. Photo by Hamideddine Bouali

On the other hand, Berriche complained [fr] about Tunisian legislation which he “says does not guarantee freedom of expression”:

Le problème, ce n’est pas la police qui a essayé de nous arrêter ou qui nous a confisqué notre matériel. Le vrai problème, c’est la loi qui s’applique pour les uns et pas pour les autres. Et la loi en elle-même ne garantie par la liberté d’expression et continuer de réprimer avec les mêmes méthodes des anciens dictateurs, les activistes et militants

The problem here, is not the police which tried to arrest us or confiscate our equipment. The real problem is that law is applied to certain persons but not others. Besides, this law in itself does not guarantee freedom of expression, and still oppresses along with the old dictators’ methods, activists.

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