One of the wounded protesting at the Ministry for Human Rights on Monday.
More than a year after former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled his country, Tunisians are still tending to their wounds. Literally. On Monday, a number of people who were injured in the revolution forced their way into the Ministry of Human Rights to demand treatment and compensation. Read more…
These men were wounded in clashes with police between December 17, 2010 and the day Ben Ali fled the country, January 14, 2011. Some of them were hit with bullets that have yet to be extracted from their bodies; others were amputated, and are still awaiting prosthetic limbs.
Between February and November 2011, they held three different sit-ins in front of government offices to demand better treatment for their injuries. They also went on a hunger strike just before the legislative elections in the fall.
But after it won the elections, the Ennahda Party failed to keep its campaign promise to provide proper treatment to the victims of the revolution and pay compensation. The wounded have so far only received a portion of the promised money. According to Human Rights Minister Samir Dilou, the rest of the payments have been delayed because the government realised that there were impostors among the applicants.
On Monday, several dozen wounded forced their way into the Ministry of Human Rights. They staged a sit-in that lasted until Tuesday evening when, around 10 p.m., the ministry’s security officers brutally threw them out, according to several witnesses – among them journalists and human rights activists. Sit-in participants claim that they were beaten, too.
On Tuesday evening, protesters were forced to leave the ministry by security personnel. Video by Aouinet Mongi
"Today, politicians have forgotten those whose sacrifice put them in power"
Lina Ben Mhenni, who writes a blog, has closely followed the plight of the revolution’s wounded over the past year.
The wounded – those who could move, that is – went to the ministry along with martyrs’ family members and a few activists. They were responding to a call made by several organisations. The group totalled about a hundred people. They went there hoping to speak to someone in charge, but since no one came to talk to them [the ministry’s secretaries told them the minister was travelling in Germany], the protest turned into a sit-in. About two dozen people spent the night in the lobby.
Protesters forced their way into the ministry to hold a sit-in inside.
There have been many rumours on Facebook about the police attacking protesters. Personally, I didn’t see this when I was there. I’m not even sure that all of the wounded were truly wounded during the revolution. It’s possible that some people are trying to take advantage of the situation to get free treatment. This is sad, as it hurts the cause of the true victims.The true victims’ cases vary widely. Some received treatment in accordance with the new law signed on October 25, 2011, right after the legislative elections. But when they went to the hospital, they were so poorly treated that many preferred to go back home, where their families took better care of them. They feel that as heroes of the revolution, they should get better treatment, and I think they have a point. Meanwhile, other victims with more serious conditions are still waiting to be treated abroad [the Human Rights Minister notably promised some would be treated in Qatar]. Yet others received a first payment of 2,000 dinars [1,000 euros], but not all of them. Besides, this is not enough for people who risked their lives for our country.The question of the wounded was at the heart of the electoral campaign. The parties currently in power, notably Ennadha, promised them so much. Today, politicians have forgotten those whose sacrifice put them in power.
"Their fight is being co-opted by the opposition"
Riadh El Hammi is a blogger and a business manager.
The wounded of the revolution face two hurdles. First of all, their fight is being co-opted by the opposition – it’s an easy way for them to attack the government, in particularly the majority party, Ennadha. I don’t support this party but I do feel they are being treated unjustly in this regard, since those in power after Ben Ali, during the transitional period, didn’t do anything for the wounded, either. Back then, before the elections, people kept saying it was too early, that we shouldn’t ask too much of transitional governments, that there was no money, etc. Today, the same people are using the wounded for their own purely political purposes.The other problem is that the wounded are poorly organised. Several different organisations have been speaking on their behalf, when they should choose just one to avoid miscommunication. And not all of the wounded are making reasonable demands. Some are asking for too much, and are overshadowing the others. We all know we owe the wounded of the revolution our freedom, but by acting this way, they won’t obtain anything at all.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira.