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Breaking the silence: Tunisians discuss abuse on live broadcast


In Tunis, Tunisia, victims have begun to break the silence in publicly testifying about abuse suffered under former dictatorships.

The broadcast, an idea of the Truth and Dignity commission, saw victims of violence, torture and rape air ‘their grievances’. Testimonies were aired with intention of easing ‘tensions’ that are still present in the new democracy.

It is part of the first stage of efforts to be made by the commission to fulfil transitional justice laws. Decades-long abuses have resulted in the continuous violation of human rights laws. Public hearings of this kind highlight that Tunisia is truly on the road to recovery.

“They killed our children”

Recovery involves bringing justice to victims and their families. The Tunisian democracy has agreed that this must come in the form of ‘moral and material’ reparations. The country must acknowledge the pains of their past in order to move forward.

Tunisian president, Moncef Marzouki, said that ‘there can be no sustainable democracy’ without addressing ‘past mistakes’. Documentation of abuses will expose the crimes of the former regime, ensuring that social and political changes are met.

Officials see this as a historic moment which highlights that Tunisia is healing. Although the country is healing, victims of violence will not recover easily. Ourida Kadoussi, mother of a murdered protester said “They killed our children” and demanded that ‘rights’ be given.

Many are scarred

The former regime’s violent nature has scarred many and cannot be forgotten easily. On the broadcast, women described once unspeakable sexual violence and torture. Men recalled being prisoners of the regime with some being forced to engage in homosexual activities.

Abuse cases date back to 1955 – a year before Tunisia was given independence. More recent cases occurred under the rule of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Habib Bourguiba.

A successful transition

Ben Ali was ousted in 2011 following the protests which started the Arab Spring. Tunisia has since made a successful political transition – becoming a democracy. Despite inspiring the movement in other Arab nations, other attempts at a political transition have been far from successful.

Conflict continues to plague other nations and a sense of community, nationhood and unity has been shattered. However, in 2013, following the success of the Tunisian Arab Spring The Truth and Dignity Commission was created.

Amnesty International has welcomed the public hearings. In the coming months, other hearings will follow.

A public hearing on 14 Jan 2017 will mark the anniversary of Ben Ali’s fleeing.

TNT Global Issues

 Photo Credit: AFP News Agency

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