Rim Hamrouni




Rim Hamrouni, actress, specialization, theater. I experienced the revolution like the entire Tunisian nation. We participated in the revolution before the 14th, because it did not begin on the 14th. The 14th, the 14th of January, was the date of Ben Ali’s escape, the date of the tyrant’s escape. Before the 14th of January, a lot of movements and gatherings leading to that day took place. Movements took place in all classes and fields, they took place in trade unions and in different Tunisian regions, where they were led by unionists and trade unions. The first movement in Tunis took place during December 2010 but it was suppressed. But despite the suppression and the blockade we were able to break the security barriers and to go out in the streets to express our situation.

After that, there were other movements. The first movement took place on Saturday and the second one on Monday. This was an important day because of the demonstrators, who were in different districts of Tunis, and because of the arrival of the revolution in the capital was a strong sign. The movement in the capital made us understand that the matter was not trivial, and that the Tunisian nation was going to pipe up. The movement on Monday was suppressed. The suppression was enormous. People were beaten, people were arrested. They attacked us on the square (in front) of the labor union, although they were actually not allowed to enter the square. However, the movements did not stop. Movements took place in universities, institutions and on the streets of Tunis and there were movements that were organized by artists and intellectuals.

The movement of artists and intellectuals took place on the 11th of January 2011 and they arranged a so-called “flash mob“. A group of Tunisian artists met in the city center in front of the national theater, but they were suppressed in a cruel way. Well-known actors were offended, beaten and treated in a very aggressive way. Later that day, on the 10th, in the night before the 11th, the popular districts of Tunis began to move. The Intilaqa district, the Tadhamun district, the Tahrir district and the popular districts that border on the territory of Aryana and on the parts of the territory of Tunis that surround the capital. The movements continued, and there were martyrs dying. People were tortured and the arrests did not stop. So the suppression, the instrument of repression hit its peak, and they were suppressed with intense brutality.

On the 14th of January…usually I do not speak about myself, but this time I will. So it is the first time that I will speak about myself because generally, I do not, but I think that sometimes it is good to state the things more precisely. On the 12th of January, they arrested my husband. He was kidnapped. As for me, I spent two days outside of my house. I was visiting my friends as they were following me and they wanted to arrest me as well. My friends were taking care of me. So I spent three nights hiding myself at my friends’ place. I spent a night, two nights in the Tadhamun district, which is a popular district. I said,  “I will go there…it is a well-known quarter, nobody can…“

So at that time, between the 11th and the 12th … between the 11th and the 14th of January, the situation was clearly defined. If you moved you were beaten, if you moved you were kidnapped, if you moved you were killed, so to say.

On the 14th of January, Radhia Nasraoui, Hamma Hammami’s wife, and I were in front of the Ministry of the Interior. We were amongst the first people…there were three people in front of the Ministry of the Interior. We shouted….we started to shout and to rail and we screamed: „Ben Ali must  leave!“ Ben Ali’s staying in Tunisia was beyond question.

We were searching for our husbands, Muhammad Mzam and Hamma Hammami, who had been kidnapped two days ago, on the 12th. We were the first people in front of the Ministry of the Interior.

At that time, just then, at 9:10, Ben Ali’s militia came and started to scream and to say, „Ben Ali, Ben Ali, Tunisia’s father!“ They screamed, „Ben Ali, Ben Ali!“ We remained silent. We did not answer. People began to gather. A lot of people, who were passing by, joined us. They started to shout with us and help us to drive that militia away.

And on that day, on the 14th, there was a general strike. There was a general strike on the 14th. We were surprised, because while we were speaking they wanted us to enter in the Ministry of the Interior. They told us that an official wanted to talk to us. We said, “No, we do neither trust the Ministry of the Interior nor their officials. If they [the husbands] are still alive, bring them to us, show them to us at least tell us where they are. We do not need them now. The most important thing is that we do not need to be worried about them and can make sure they are fine.“ At that moment, we suddenly saw that the whole Habib Bourguiba street was filled with various members of the Tunisian nation. Adolescents, women, children, elder people…they all shouted, “Clear off!“, a famous expression. This was an important day, a really historic day. Ben Ali was going to escape and we all said, “Ben Ali escapes, how is that possible? Does that mean that Ben Ali leaves the country just like that?“ But finally, when the people moved and piped up, the tyrant left, and they are able to achieve even more than that.




After the 14th of January, after Ben Ali had fled, the people in the street did not calm down. The Tunisian nation, the movement continued at all [social] levels. At that time there was a curfew, but the people moved from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Artists, lawyers, judges, all kinds of members of the civil society moved. The instrument of suppression continued to be applied. We were tear-gassed, people were stopped and kidnapped. And then there was…and then…even in the outskirts…the same thing happened in the outskirts, too.

When the government of Muhammad Ghannouchi was installed, there were protests in the streets. The same night, when Muhammad Ghannouchi said he would become the interim president, lawyers moved in Gasserine, Sidi Bouzid and Tunis, and the government was changed, Ghannouchi was replaced. Following the constitution, Fouad Mebazaa became Tunisia’s interim president.

The government that was formed by Ghannouchi was composed of symbolic figures of the former regime for the most part, especially in important ministries whose focus lies on controlling Tunisia’s affairs. This is why the first sit-in at the Casbah took place.

The first sit-in at the Casbah  took place on a Sunday. I do not remember the exact date of the sit-in, but it was a Sunday. Groups of people from all places, from the whole republic of Tunisia, arrived at the Casbah and stayed there. If you look at the people who were there at the Casbah, you start loving the Tunisian nation even more as it proved its wisdom and made a great leap forward at the level of movements. If people go from Sidi Bouzid or Tala to Tunis by foot on Sunday and pass their information on to all people, and you find yourself at the Casbah with various people coming from different places of Tunisia, you are happy, even because of the people’s different political attitudes and ideologies.

The assemblage was huge. Between 11:30 a.m., when I came there, and 8 p.m, when I left, the square of the Casbah was full of people who held up a banner claiming: “Down with the government for the purpose of a constituent assembly. The people want a parliamentary system.“ “Go out,“ was said to the remaining symbol figures of the former regime including Ghannouchi.

During the first sit-in the atmosphere was great as there were politicians and discussions on the sidelines, like for example cultural discussions.

The people who participated in the sit-in were screaming and holding up banners demanding the downfall of the government. We were singing songs of the revolution. These songs were not special, but well known, and they were sung in order to motivate the people at the sit-in. There were young people, our friends from the field of visual arts, and they were painting pictures, writing on the walls and holding up banners. The movements during the first and the second sit-in were the same.

The artistic dimension, the artistic field, is an active and passive element for passing on people’s concerns, and it is the artistic expression, the revolutionary artistic expression, that passes on the contents and the real significance of the revolution.

Unfortunately, the second sit-in at the Casbah, excuse me, the first sit-in at the Casbah was suppressed on Friday, the 28th of January, in a cruel way. They surrounded the Casbah. The army withdrew. The occupants of the Casbah were suppressed in a cruel way. But this is not all. They followed them even to the Habib Bourguiba street. They closed the markets, they tried to scare them, they infiltrated spies. All this was useless because the Tunisian nation is not stupid. It is a strong and reflecting nation. All kinds of attempts to abort this movement were made, but without success.

On Friday, the 28th of January, the sit-in was suppressed in a cruel way. They followed them to the Habib Bourguiba street, and the suppression lasted until the next day. While people were drinking coffee in the Habib Bourguiba street, they entered the cafes and beat them. There were even people who suffered big damage from the suppression.

The second sit-in of the Casbah was more organized. Political parties and trade unions were there. The organization was perfect. The people were wise concerning their banners and demands, which was confirmed by the resignation of Ghannouchi and by getting the main demand, which was the demand for a constituent assembly, accepted. The government changed.

People went…People cried after having finished the second sit-in at the Casbah. They did not cry because of the leave, but because of the victory. It was not an absolute victory, but it was a victory. If we look at the people from Gafsa, from Sousse, from all kinds of places of the Tunisian country…. and even the people from the street markets, who were terrified by telling them that we had come to tear down the city center and to mess it up, brought us sweets, roses and everything. They brought blankets so that the people did not freeze at night. All people were sticking together as a unity, as the Tunisian nation. There were people who wanted to get them apart and spread lots of rumors in order to make the different participants turn their back on each other, but this turned out to be very difficult.

It is true that the second sit-in at the Casbah was broken up. The government was headed by Beji Kaid es-Sebsi, who was giving empty promises, like for example, “I will give you what you want. If you want this I will give it to you, but in my way and in accordance to my rules.“ This is odd and difficult to impose on the Tunisian nation, which cannot be taken as a fool. Since the escape of Ben Ali, people are able to achieve more than that and able to go out in the streets and move. And although all of us have different political and ideological orientations and come from different occupational fields, like artists and so on, we are sticking together, because finally we are all citizens who work for the people and with the people. If we now come up to a time when people have to face humiliation, proceeding from the fact that we are artists, I think that we ought to be ashamed if we leave each other and the people in the lurch.




It seems to me that the situation has not changed a lot because other aspects of suppression have appeared, which becomes evident by what happened today, for example…by what happened on Friday, when a group of students and a group of people who participated in the first and the second sit-in at the Casbah was arrested because of their permanent attendance in the Habib Bourguiba street, which did not calm down and continued to be in motion. The people are very vigilant in matters of the decisions that the temporary government takes. So I do not think that the situation has changed. But it has to change. It has to change because there are a lot of concomitants that continue to arise and want to change the course of this revolution.

If a government abets lawlessness and does not respect a Tunisian citizen’s intellect, the Tunisian nation will not respect it either.

Today at the Casbah, in the Palace of Justice, law trials for more than thirty students are taking place. More than thirty students and serious accusations: involvement, agitation and provocation of disorder, charges for attempted murder. So I do not think that the situation has changed.

What is the government’s function? Boosting employment and generating jobs? This is not happening. In the artistic field, for example, a week….ten days ago, there was a sit-in of artists for the sake of the artist’s dignity. If there is no political will that is evident to the Tunisian nation in all fields of activity, what do you think is the matter with the artistic field? We as artists and especially as stage actors, we are unsecure. People are unemployed and do not know where to go. Politics do not dignify arts and artists. For the same reason there is a strike of municipal workers. You have just seen it with your own eyes, when we spent some time in front of dustbins, how much garbage there is because those who work for the municipality told them they would improve the municipal workers’ situation, but at the next opportunity they revoked it.

Personally, I do not have confidence in this government. A revolutionary interim government is required, a government that respects the citizen’s intellect.

The people who go to the elections of the constituent assembly do not know the agenda of the political parties. Scarecrows from the security or political sector are presented to them on the pretext of the Salafist ideology, the Islamic ideology and so on… the liberty of women, laizism and so on. Personally, I think that now is not the time for that. It would be more reasonable if we tried to understand what we want. It might be that I understand it, but how can the rest of the Tunisian people understand? Basically, even if the media continue to matter and to wise up and educate people, the Tunisian society will not be able to understand as long as the arts seem to be asleep. This government is devoted to marginalization and differentiation of culture. We do not have confidence. It is like I have told you before. The Tunisian nation that made Ben Ali escape, the Tunisian nation that overthrew the first and the second and the third government is able to overthrow again. The Tunisian nation is ready for the defense of this revolution and is able to defend it by all available means in order to live in Tunisia as it likes.