How Laughter Saved Tunisia

Essay: Who says that all revolutionaries should be grim and gloomy? It certainly wasn’t the case in Tunisia, where humor has always been used as a political weapon.

Laughting in Tunis
Laughting in Tunis
Hakim Bécheur

During the last regime, the name of our former ruler Ben Ali was never said out loud in public places for fear of omnipresent snitches. But this didn't stop people from calling him all kinds of names: from "Tarzan" (a link with gorillas?), "Ammar-404" (for the Internet error message displayed every time some item of information was censored), to "the hairdresser's husband" (Leila Trabelsi, Ben Ali's much despised wife had indeed practiced this noble art). The good people's imagination knew no boundaries.

And yet, the fear of a backlash was all too real. Laughter could come with a high price, for as ignorant as dictators may be, they know that laughter can be dangerous. Still, laughing succeeded in making people forget -- even if for just a little while – the freedom that was missing. Since laughter, as some have claimed, is the property of man, Tunisians rapidly understood that it was only humor that would help them cope with the reality of having an "under-qualified president" deciding their every move.

And then came the moment when laughing was no longer enough. Muhammad Bouazizi's burning himself to death (which launched the Tunisian revolution), followed by the deaths of those felled by the snipers' bullets, transformed the laughter into rage. Not everyone has a sense of humor, after all, and certainly not a killer who shoots at his own people. When the people finally shouted for Ben Ali to "Get out!," the time for jokes had passed.

But ever since he fled, Tunisians have been smiling again. To see this, one just needs to walk in the country's towns or villages, or to go on Facebook or Twitter. The problems Tunisia faces are still enormous: high poverty and unemployment rates, a bumpy road towards democracy, and a process of writing a new constitution so challenging that the most optimistic of persons would instantly lose their sense of humor.

No such thing in Tunisia, though. Between a rally and a sit-in, people there still find a way to crack a joke: about the provisional Prime Minister Beji Caid-Essebsi's advanced age (he is 84), about the new political parties popping up like mushrooms from nowhere, about Ben Ali's former henchmen now suddenly reconverted into democrats, and about the Islamists who swear (imagine that!) they will be as good as their Turkish counterparts. That reminds me of the one about Ben Ali vs. Bin Laden. Don't stop laughing now!

Read the original article in French

Photo - Womeos

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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