The sentencing of human rights defender and LGBTQI+ activist Rania Amdouni to six months in prison by a court in Tunis on 4 March 2021 for participating in peaceful protests calling for social and economic justice is an attack on the rights to freedom of expression and assembly in Tunisia. Rania is a member of Damj,
the Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality, and was sentenced on charges of “insulting police and abuse of morals,” after participating in ongoing protests.
A decade after the Arab Spring spread across the Middle East, Tunisia is still suppressing fundamental democratic freedoms. Ongoing protests that have swept Tunisia since 15 January 2021, calling for an end to corruption and policy brutality, and urging the government to implement social and economic reforms. More than 1600 protesters have been arrested so far with major concerns that security forces are specifically targeting members of the LGBTQI+ community.
Rania had been monitored and targeted by security forces after she became a visible part of the protests, before finally being arrested on 27 February 2021.
“Ten years after the Arab Spring that led to major changes in the political dynamics in Tunisia, the Tunisian authorities are still trampling on the same rights protesters demonstrated. The arrests of protesters and unlawful sentencing of activists like Rania Amdouni is an indication that not much has changed in terms of human rights over the last ten years,” said Masana Ndinga-Kanga, CIVICUS Advocacy Lead for the Middle East and North Africa, “Rania Amdouni and all those arrested in relation to the protests should be released immediately.”
Many of those arrested for their role in the protests have been subjected to physical abuse, threats and intimidation during the protests or in detention centers. Those in detention centers are kept in crowded and unsanitary conditions, exposing them to COVID-19. Many others have fled the country or have been forced to self-censor to avoid violent repercussions.
Global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on the Tunisian authorities to release Rania Amdouni and other activists immediately, and to stop violently suppressing protests.
Demonstrations in Tunisia started on 15 January 2021 as protesters raised concerns over increasing levels of corruption and inequality and called for social and economic reforms. The protests spread in response to the violent attacks against demonstrators by security forces. Some activists have resorted to self-censorship due to an increase in online harassment and civil society groups are calling on the Tunisian authorities to investigate all allegations of violence against protesters.
For more information on civic space violations, visit the Tunisian country page on the CIVICUS Monitor
Photo: Flickr/Amine GHRABI