Something that drives modern society is the Top Dog mentality: that one has to domineer above all others. An interesting by-product from this obsession of power, alongside the people left to eat dust at the kerbs, the propagation of individualism…. is censorship.
It’s a mess, it’s frustrating, but because, out of millions of Facebook users, there were only just over 1,000 that could give their voice to this campaign… to be critical would be too simple. George Orwell often taught that when this kind of thing happens, you either stand up and be counted, get shot down for it and continue, or you let them feed off you until you’re dead.
3 years ago this month, a man’s act of self-immolation prompted the Tunisian Revolution and following years of the ‘Arab Spring’ as it later came to be branded, with the culmination of action in Egypt in Spring 2011.
Mohamed Bouazizi (above) was the man who set himself on fire on the 17th December, 2010, who is said to have begun it all. Harassed from a young age and then, seriously and continually throughout his life as a street vendor. Bouazazi was subjected to assaults, taunting and humiliation: simply because he did not have the funds to prevent Tunisia’s police officers from doing this to him. He eventually ended his life in the most extreme way at the tragic age of 26 – by setting himself on fire.
The President of Tunisia el-Abidine Ben Ali then fled the country.
After a historic spring of revolution, nations previously held down by fear were free of repression – and in a huge way, free on the internet. Living this new life meant Tunisians, like never before, could express themselves, communicate and collate without fear. For most of us in the UK, US and Brazil (you are this blog’s most frequent and recurrent readers); this means Facebook.
So when 29-year-old Jabeur Mejri posted a silly little cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on his Facebook profile in March 2012, he didn’t expect to be thrown into prison. For seven years.
With Egypt celebrating freedom from an oppressive regime, in Tunisia it now seemed as if nothing had changed.
Jabeur’s Facebook activity was spotted by two lawyers who decided the cartoon was them offensive to Islam. Suddenly, he was charged with ‘undermining public morals’ and ‘attacking sacred values through actions’. After demands to pay a large fine, he was jailed for seven and a half years.
Amnesty are now running a large, co-ordinated global campaign to get him back home. (You can click this link and sign, it takes 2 seconds).
Jabeur Mejri’s sister, Ines, recently told Amnesty how Jabeur was faring in prison.
“We see Jabeur every Thursday and take him food and other things. The last time we saw him his words really affected us. He is losing hope, and feels very tired and worried. He requested a pardon before Eid [in August 2013], but nothing has happened since. We’re very worried about him.
“Before he was in a very crowded cell and found it very difficult. He was on the verge of breaking down, so they agreed to change his cell. He’s now in a room with about seven or eight people and he’s much better.
“But he still has trouble sleeping, because he’s thinking too much about what happened to him and about his future. We’re continuing to campaign for him and we’re grateful for everyone’s help in trying to get him a presidential pardon.”
Quite terribly, Tunisia’s current president is actually human rights activist and had once been a prisoner of conscience. He is now the only person able to end Jabeur’s ordeal by granting him a presidential pardon. 2014’s share of presidential pardons *needs* to include Jabeur – it’s his only chance.
Jabeur has a long spell ahead of him – the pressure of which has deteriorated his mental health, and brought him close to a full breakdown.
Jabeur’s friend, blogger Lina Ben Mhenni believes his heavy sentence was intended to intimidate other Tunisians.
‘[The authorities] wanted to announce that in order to live in Tunisian we have to abide by their rules and their beliefs,’ she told us recently, ‘I am afraid that we are losing the unique fruits of the revolution: the disappearance of fear and our freedom of speech.”
A number of political and human rights commentators have named Jabeur as Tunisia’s first prisoner of conscience since the uprising of 2010.
Amnesty are asking for 5,000 signatures on their website to send to
It’s just 5,000. And there are 1.1 BILLION users on Facebook.
It’s really not a big ask.
Please sign HERE now.