Seif Abidi

Cultural Association of Citizenship

Aims and activities

This association was founded on the 5th of March, 2011, after the revolution, after the downfall of the tyrant Ben Ali. It is called the “Cultural Association of Citizenship“. This association aims for a complete and equal membership in society. What does this mean? This implies equal rights and duties for all members of society, of civil society. This means, that here our society consists of individuals.

During the Ben Ali regime not all people were equal. Not all people were equal in terms of rights and duties. This is why we founded this association. We wanted to institutionalize citizen culture in Tunisia. The meaning of the name is connected with the determination that human beings are free beings that belongs to the society or to the groups they live in.

The aims of this association are:

  • A well-defined term of citizenship. Citizenship implies valuable juristic, humanist and general political dimensions on an international level, reaching other people. The human being is not just an inhabitant of the area it lives in. It is not just the inhabitant of a region, of a small geographical place. The human being is not tied to kilometers, it is an inhabitant of the whole world. This is why among the aims of this association are the stabilization of dignity and responsibility for socialism and democracy. And of course not to forget the characteristics of the Tunisian society, which is an Arab muslim society, not an Islamic muslim. This is a part of its cultural identity.
  • The contribution to preserving the principles of the revolution, which I do not call the revolution of the 14th of January. I call it the revolution of the 17th of December, which was the date when Bouazizi set himself on fire.
  • Putting down the roots of democratic culture by use of dialogue.
  • The development of a national spirit and the quest for a complete break with Bedouin and tribal tendencies. This means, we have to think differently. If we speak about citizens, we must not speak about Bedouins and say this is a Hammurabi, this is a Mejri and this is a… I do not know what. All people are children of one country, children of a whole world. All people belong to one world and it is humanity that unites them.

Among other aims of the association is the support of a cultural scene in interior regions. The stabilization of cultural decentralization in interior regions which have the same right to practice culture as the Sahel region, as the capital and as the bigger cities. So culture is not confined to a certain region or to a certain geographic area because the people who live in interior regions also have their culture, their dignity and their history, and they also belong to the whole society, which is the Tunisian society. This means, they do not come from other places and are not extraterrestrials that came from above. They belong to the Tunisian nation. They have the same right to practice culture like other people. They have the right to cinemas, they have the right to paint and to make sculptures, they have the right to make and watch movies and they have the right to make music as it is the right for people from the Sahel region and the capital.

Our work is on making citizens inclined to sincere solidarity and construction work on the basis of equality in terms of being a member of the home country and the unity of concerns and measures. The association works on two principles, they are culture and the concept of citizenship, this means that all people, all citizens, should share a mutual thought, which is the activation of this country, of Tunisia. All people moving closer together because of the country’s activation and solidarity, sincere solidarity, not like the ”26 26“ story, not like they had been talking before they raised the fund of solidarity ”26 26“. These are the main principles of the association.

The good thing about the association is that it started to be active from the beginning, even before applying as an association on a legal basis.

Among the activities of the association is, for example, the organization of an exhibition of pictures, of photographs of the revolution. The theme was pictures of the revolution. It attracted a lot of people’s attention in the town hall of Regueb.

Another activity that the association takes part in is keeping little children occupied, to start learning, for example, … little school children, that have been brought to the association have opened a site. They bring little children who want to practice phrasing, want to paint, or want to make sculpting and so on. Because there is a school next to the association, a small school that offers basic education from the first to the sixth grade. Little children come to us. There are two teachers who are members of this association. They keep them occupied with painting, writing poetry, writing texts. This is part of the association’s activities.

According to the curriculum of the month of April, for example, we have two activities, which include a poetry workshop that will be hosted by three Tunisian poets and whose theme will be the revolution because we still are in the throes of the revolution as the revolution has not finished yet, they will also be accompanied by a musical group. One of its members is a local man and can be referred to as a good musician. He is Choukri Khlifi and we thank him for accepting our invitation.

The other activity will be a political workshop, which will neither give information about political parties not make propaganda for political parties. On the contrary, the political workshop will deal with the role of the citizen in the political life. The person who will come to lead the workshop is a professor of constitutional law, and he will explain to the people participating in the workshop what elections are, how elections are held and the organization of elections by use of registers or individuals. This means, how are they nominated for elections? How it is the people’s right to vote? And how it is the people’s right to nominate the constituent assembly for elections? He will explain a part of the points that have not yet been understood by almost 80 percent of the people. These, for example, are the association’s activities in the month of April.

The following month, in May, we have contacted friends who are involved in theater work, like Ghawth, who has another friend with whom he makes buffoonery. We will go to rural schools because one of this association’s aims is the spread of culture even in interior and rural regions. They will animate little children because they have the right to practice culture, to practice arts. This is the current program of the association for these two months.

Because we were a group of inhabitants of the region, of the region of Regueb, we organized a festival called “Festival of the Revolution in Regueb“. It included a lot of performances from the fields of music, theater, cinema and arts, especially visual arts.

Among the activities of this festival were performances of groups making committed music. There were groups like “Ajras“, [the musician] Adil Bou Aalleg, “al-Hammam al-Bidh“, “al-Aawda“, “Armada“… a lot of groups from Tunisia that are interested in committed music or alternative music, alternative culture.

One of the activities during this festival was that there were students from the academy of fine arts who made mural paintings. Those mural paintings were in the streets of Regueb on walls. Among them were pictures of martyrs, the logo of the city of Regueb, calligraphies, and sculptures in the mountains were made.

Other activities included meetings, literary and to an extent, philosophical meetings. One of these meetings, for example, was called “Pictures of the Revolution and the Revolution of Pictures“. This includes what the person who took photos during the revolution, who took those photos that make the revolution concrete, wants to transfer. “Revolution of Pictures“ means what did the pictures started to have… so what did the pictures do and what is their dimension? What is left now from the influences on people is the “Revolution of Pictures”. This means, with a picture more meanings and more ideas can be conveyed.

There were also cinema related activities, and films made about the city of Regueb, with poetry meetings in the evening in cafes. So this festival was an underground festival. It took place in streets and cafes, not in exhibition and event halls. It was an open-air festival. These are the features of the festival. The public interest was enormous and many people even came from other regions like Tunis, Sousse, Sfax, Meknes, Mazouna, Sidi Bouzid. The festival was a big hit, it is not because I am a member of the organization that I appreciate the festival or something like that, it was really a big hit. A lot of newspapers and TV channels, not only Tunisian, but also international TV channels and newspapers, reported about it. There were even people coming from foreign countries, from Germany.

In short, this is how the festival was.

There was… this music is…you know, this music is committed music or culture of committed arts…“la musique engagée“, which includes songs of Marcel Khalifa or Shaikh Imam. The groups that were there sang [songs of] Marcel Khalifa and Shaikh Imam who are…. I do not know… people… symbols of committed music in the Arab world.

There were groups that sang songs that were written by themselves, composed by themselves. There were new groups that used to be active in the streets. They had not performed before. There were groups that were cornered by the authorities. They were not active. They were only active in universities, but they were not performing [outside of universities]. All of them were making “musique engagée” [committed music]. That is all.

There are new groups that have already existed…. that were formed by people who have already been musicians, making music. The groups that I am part of, “Bil Malakas”, and “Ti Sayyib Fanni”, they are amateur groups, not professionals. And there is this group called “Armada“ that makes rap music and there is… which is the other one….yes, new, “Armada“ is new, too. And there are those who make rap and who are from Tala, I think. There are almost three or four new groups.

It is not only music. Music is a part of arts. I can tell you, for example, what is the relevance of arts. Even in philosophy it exists, because arts prevent us from being killing by the truth. This means that arts have other dimensions. The human being can escape the thing it is surrounded by, the misfortune that it is surrounded by. This means, it ascends to another level…with music and all kinds of arts. This means, it enters other dimensions. In dictatorial regimes people could not even comment on politics. They were dependent on painting, drawing, music, theater. You escape a bit, you depart a bit, you understand? You enter other dimensions. This is the relevance of music or of arts in general because arts prevent us from being killed by the truth.

We have already started with documentation or with this archive that we have made available for people who compile it, because there is a historical priority that has to be firmly established and put for the historical reliability so that afterwards, it will not be like during the revolutions that have taken place before, when there even was a modification of history. People made a revolution and other people claimed the revolution for themselves. This is why we are lucky that we now live in a period of globalization, of documentation, of pictures, of sounds, of videos so that you have something to rely on. You have everything. Everything is available.

We have also already started to make videos at the beginning of the revolution. Even before Ben Ali was overthrown we had been releasing videos on Facebook, on Youtube. So pictures and videos that the whole world could see were released. This is how people all over the world found out that there was a revolution in Tunisia, with the help of videos, pictures, photographs, you understand? That is it.