Archive for April, 2012

I took a trip to the Gafsa region of Tunisia this weekend, including the mining towns of Redeyef and Umm-al-Arais, where there’s still plenty of unemployment and festering discontent 18 months after the start of the revolution. Speak to locals, and it’s a revolution which began out in these phosphate towns, and not in Sidi Bouzid as is widely reported.  I travelled with local photographer Nacer Talel who interpreted, and we spoke to the unemployed, phosphate company workers and miners, the firebrand unionist Adnan Hajji and formerly jailed journalist Fahem Boukadous. Here’s a blog on the issue for SBS News.

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There’s phosphates in them there hills: Photo Bill Code (use with credit and URL)

The face peered down from the statue in the middle of Redeyef’s roundabout; the martyr’s eye keeping watch over his peers.

Images like this one have become commonplace since Tunisia’s revolution was borne from the vegetable seller who self-immolated in a desperate bid for recognition of his situation.

It was in the same style of one particularly his face peering out, along with his name and date of death.

But there it was, clearly written: 2008. Not 2010, the year that Bouazizi kicked off the Tunisian revolution and broader Arab Spring.

Read the rest on the SBS website.

Below – remembering the martyr’s of 2008 alongside those of January 2011. (Photo: Bill Code. Use with credit and URL)

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Many Tunisians – with different political viewpoints – give the government some credit. A grand coalition of moderate Islamists (Ennahda), leftists and independents, members of Parliament have paid for their place in government with years in exile and imprisonment at the hands of the former regime, which did all it could to crush opposition – particularly of the Islamic kind.

But what will it take to please the newly vocal Tunisian electorate?

Read this blog post at SBS News.

I’ve just returned to the safety of my apartment in the the Bardo after a violent day of clashes in central Tunis, as police tried to maintain a ban on protests along the city’s main thoroughfare, Avenue Bourguiba.

Hundreds of protesters taunted police and were met with multiple rounds of tear gas and beatings.

I saw police -some of whom had ski masks – head butting protesters and leading away mobile-phone wielding amateur journalists to an uncertain fate. Reports said some protesters were throwing rocks at police – something I didn’t witness.

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This kid was led away after copping a headbutt and a baton in the ribs.

Tunisians are testing the limits of their new democracy. The government has imposed a ban on protests along the city’s main street, citing the need to protect commercial interests. But secular demonstrators complain that it is only they who receive the brunt of the policeman’s baton. A recent Salafist demonstration – before I arrived – was not dealt with half as violently, I’m told.

Today was martyrs’ day – in memory of those who fought French colonial rule – but it was families of the new martyrs – those of the 2011 revolution, who told me that the ruling Ennahda Islamist party has not fulfilled its promises, economic or otherwise. A group from Sidi Bouzid, where the Tunisian uprising began, marched to Tunis on foot and was represented in the crowds today.

Certainly there was a hint of old habits dying hard when it came to police behaviour, as groups of people were chased down backstreets by police in vans and on motorbikes. I forgot a scarf for the gas, and paid for it with tears.

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Video still of people being chased down the streets leading off Avenue Habib Bourguiba.

Tunisia Live – an enthusiastic group of young journalists whose office I had the pleasure of visiting today in order to take a breather – has just reported that no hospitals in the city have reported any deaths form the violence, although tens of injured have been taken in.

When all is said and done, it is an extremely exhilarating time to be in Tunis – especially as a video journalist – as a country finds its feet, tests its democracy – and everyone has something to say.

The Northern Territory of Australia seems a mighty long way from North Africa, but nonetheless, the latest (and last for some time at least) piece of mine aired on SBS Living Black last weekend.

It’s the final film of four I made while travelling through the N.T. in September last year, and it’s on the very high levels of homelessness, particularly amongst indigenous Australians, in the Top End. Voila. It was squeezed on top of three other fairly heavy investigative pieces – but I’m fairly happy with it in the end.

Telling Westerners you’re learning Arabic leads to a number of recurring responses. These range from raised eyebrows and a generic ‘hmm/interesting’ response, to the occasional ‘you’re a journalist so – nod nod wink wink – they do tend to fight a lot don’t they – handy!’

But the most common retort I’ve received since I ventured on this scheme is a general well-meaning but predictable humorous throat-clearing (generally a more thorough throat-clearing than the type I received for years on telling English-speakers that I was studying German). This week I started a course at an institute in Tunis where a number of students – myself and the other English and Italian mother tongue speakers especially – are being forced to grapple with the variety of throat altercations required for correctly pronouncing Arabic once and for all.

So it’s in that light that I post this fantastic guide to which bit of your mouth and throat you should be doing some serious damage to, courtesy of the former hectare of woodland which makes up the mass of photocopied educational material we’ve been given.

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Note that little bastard    ه  which is created right at the bottom of the throat. I would actually contest this guide and suggest it needs to come from the bloody stomach. But I’ll get there, insha’allah, even if the neighbours think I’m killing the local dogs as I practice it. 

 

There’s a small amount of interesting graffiti in Tunis; street art I wasn’t expecting after failing to see Tunisia get a mention in the excellent Arabic Graffiti book which landed under our Christmas tree last year.

Granted, I haven’t come across too much artistic graf (although there are plenty of slogans, politics around the place), but the city just this last weekend got a boost with a Franco-Tunisian project lightening up some walls downtown, as covered by Kapitalis.

Here’s a shot from that project taken on my gopro, as I start to regret leaving the SLR at home due to an abundance of photographic gear…Image

Nothing to really write home about; which is why the below stencils by the tram lines back to the Bardo area (line number 4) stand out to me. I like the use of the double wall with the Arabic script scrawled inside the hole that the ants are coming out of – alas it is too stylized for my beginner eyes to decrypt. All these years of reading tags, and back to square one!

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Finally, the Kill Your Television stencil is by no means original – but I like the fact that Tupac has endorsed it by writing ‘thug life’ next to it. There was always a message.Image