On December 18, 2010 Tunisians of all ages took the streets of Tunis to demand better living conditions and the end of President Ben Ali's repressive dictatorship, starting what would become the 2011 Tunisian Revolution and the Arab Spring. Among the demonstrators were seven Tunisian women activists, each one of these women celebrating the culmination of a life devoted to the fight for freedom and democracy in their country.
TUNISIAN WOMEN offers an overview of Tunisia's contemporary history from the point of view of seven courageous women activists, from Tunisia's independence from France in 1956, to the oppressive regimes of Habib Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to the 2011 Tunisian Revolution and the coalition government led by the Ennahda Islamic Party, and to the political murders of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi in 2013.
This documentary film features exclusive interviews with journalist and human rights activist Om Zied; political leader Maya Jribi; human rights lawyer Radhia Nasraoui; professor and writer Zeineb Cherni; lawyer and community activist Saida Garrach; singer Amel Hamrouni; and the President of the Association of Mothers of Victims of the Counterterrorism Law, Zeineb Chelbi. It also includes archival footage from Bourguiba's and Ben Ali's era, as well as reenactments of the Tunisian secret police surveillance and torture techniques.
Winner of the Grand Prix at the Khouribga International Documentary Film Festival in Morocco, TUNISIAN WOMEN is a powerful record of the work of women activist in Tunisia and a celebration of Tunisia's extraordinary history of activism and resistance against authoritarian rule since the 1970s.
"Filmmaker Hajer Ben Nasr's documentary focuses on the struggle for gender equality in Tunisia, as seen through the experiences and careers of seven high-profile Tunisian female activists. Following Tunisia's independence from France in 1956, the national seemed to chart a very different course from other predominantly Islamic countries in regard to women's rights, providing voting privileges and professional opportunities for Tunisian women that were scarce in other Arab lands. But Tunisia has no history of benevolent democracy, and the dictatorial regimes of Habib Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (who came to power in a coup in 1987 and headed the government until 2011) led to human rights abuses that significantly burdened the country's political and economic development. The interviewees on camera here speak frankly about the struggle for dignity and stability in the midst of authoritarian rule. Most notably Zeineb Chelbi—president of the Association of Mothers of Victims of the Counterterrorism Law—offers jolting commentary about Tunisia's tradition of secret police activities and the torture of prisoners. Although it helps to have some familiarity with the history of this North African republic, TUNISIAN WOMEN still tells a universally gripping and moving story of strong women activists engaged in a fight for human rights. Recommended."
- P. Hall, Video Librarian Magazine
• Grand Prix, Khouribga International Documentary Film Festival, Morocco
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TWN acknowledges that in New York we are on the unceded territory of the Lenni Lenape,
Canarsie, Shinecock, and Munsee peoples and challenges the harm that continues to
be inflicted upon Indigenous and People of Color communities here and abroad,
which is why we all need to be part of the struggle for rights, equality and justice.
TWN is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council
on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Color Congress, MOSAIC, New York Community Trust, Peace Development Fund,
Humanities NY, Ford Foundation, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and individual donors.