The Human Impact

Tunisian constitution must enshrine equal status of women, says activist


Tunisian human rights activist Amira Yahyaoui recalls how, at the age of 17, she narrowly missed being shoved under a subway train. This is just one example of the threats and pressures her family faced for their opposition to the country’s then president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted last year in a popular uprising.

During Ben Ali’s 23-year rule, Yahyaoui’s father, one of the North African country’s most distinguished judges, lost his job after sending an open letter to the president decrying corruption and the state of the justice system. Her cousin was arrested for publishing satirical articles about the former leader, and died from the torture he underwent.

Yahyaoui’s experiences left her with no alternative but to fight for democracy and freedom of expression in her country, she explains passionately.

Now 28 and back in Tunis after a spell in France, she is president of Al Bawsala, a non-profit organisation founded last October by young Tunisian activists, which aims to support the democratisation process and raise public awareness about politics.

Having shifted the focus of her efforts from the blogosphere back to the real world, Yahyaoui and her colleagues are pushing for transparency in the drafting of Tunisia’s new constitution, and lobbying for changes to parts they believe undermine rights and democratic freedoms.

Aid workers praise Tunisian generosity to Libya refugees

In early 2011 Tunisians hung a handwritten banner over the main street of the market town of Tataouine reading: “Welcome to our Libyan brothers”.

Their support was just as well, as Libyans pouring across the border soon doubled the town’s population from 40,000 to 80,000.

As we mark World Refugee Day it’s worth asking how many other countries would have shown the same hospitality.

Could corruption be worse in Tunisia, Egypt after Arab Spring?

The “Arab Spring” was fuelled in part by popular desire to weed out corruption. But could graft in fact be on the rise in Egypt and Tunisia?

It could indeed be rising massively, according to Nicola Ehlermann-Cache, a senior policy analyst at the Paris-based think-tank, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“Unfortunately, informal reports have been made to me – certainly in Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq – (by) people claiming that corruption is rising tremendously,” she said last week as a panelist at the International Bar Association’s (IBA) annual Anti-Corruption Conference in Paris.