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Tunisia’s outsider Kais Saied projected to win presidential election1 min read

The official results are expected Monday, but news of the projected victory has triggered celebrations

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Tunisia's outsider Kais Saied projected to win presidential election
The presidential candidate Kais Saied. (Photo by Chedly Ben Ibrahim/NurPhoto)

Conservative academic Kais Saied, who is poised to become Tunisia’s next president, on Sunday thanked the “young people for turning a new page” in the country’s history.

“We will try to build a new Tunisia,” he told a gathering of supporters, his family and the press after state media announced his landslide election victory.

“Young people led this campaign, and I am responsible for them.”

In a contest which reflected Tunisia’s shifting post-revolution political landscape, Saied, an independent, scooped almost 77 per cent of the vote, Wataniya television said.

Some 90 per cent of voters aged 18 to 25 voted for Saied, according to polling institute Sigma, while just 49 per cent of people above 60 chose him over his rival, business tycoon and media magnate Nabil Karoui.

READ: Tunisia runoff elections pits media mogul and academic in face-off

The official results are expected Monday, but news of the projected victory triggered celebrations at the retired law professor’s election campaign offices in central Tunis, as fireworks were set off outside and supporters honked car horns.

“I will carry the message” of the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Saied said.

“The law will be applied to all, and first and foremost to me,” he said.

“Everyone made their choice, in complete freedom. Our project is founded on freedom. The era of submission is over. We have just entered a new era in history,” he said.

“The state will be built on a foundation of trust. Trust between the leader and the people, and in a framework of respect for the rules,” he added.

Saied, meanwhile, underlined his support for the Palestinian cause, which he said he considered a foreign policy priority.

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Supporters of Sudan’s Bashir oppose handover to ICC

Supporters of ousted Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir held a protest Saturday vowing to oppose any move by the country’s new authorities to hand him over to the International Criminal Court

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Supporters of ousted Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir held a protest Saturday vowing to oppose any move by the country’s new authorities to hand him over to the International Criminal Court.

Dozens of his supporters, carrying Bashir’s portrait, gathered outside the Khartoum court where he is being tried on charges of illegally acquiring and using foreign funds.

“We are with you. We will never betray you. No, no to ICC,” chanted the crowd as the former president was brought to the courthouse for a hearing.

The demonstration comes amid growing calls from human rights groups, activists and victims of Sudan’s Darfur war for the surrender of Bashir to The Hague-based court.

“President Bashir represents the whole of Sudan. We have an independent judiciary and if any trials are to be held, they must be held here,” said protester Mohamed Ali Daklai.

“We reject any outside or foreign tribunal. ICC is anyway a political court used by Western countries to pressure the weak.”

Bashir was ousted by the army on April 11 following nationwide protests against his iron-fisted rule of three decades.

The military generals who initially seized power after the president’s fall refused to hand Bashir over to the ICC.

He is wanted by the ICC for his alleged role in the Darfur war that erupted in 2003 as ethnic African rebels took up arms against Bashir’s then Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalizing the region economically and politically.

Khartoum applied what rights groups say was a scorched earth policy against ethnic groups suspected of supporting the rebels — raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

The ICC has accused Bashir of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the vast western region of Darfur. He denies the charges.

About 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

Bashir, who ruled Sudan for three decades after seizing power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, is being held in a Khartoum prison and facing trial on corruption charges.

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Triggered by MP’s disgrace, Tunisia’s #MeToo breaks taboos

Tunisian politician allegedly masturbating outside a high school has sparked the country’s own #MeToo moment, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

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Viral images of a Tunisian lawmaker allegedly masturbating outside a high school have sparked the country’s own #MeToo moment, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

Read Also: Newly sworn-in Tunisia President vows to reunite the country

Discussion of sexual harassment had previously been limited to a few edgy TV shows, but now thousands of women in the North African nation are sharing their experiences from lecherous remarks to paedophilia.

A video showing the moustachioed politician sitting in a car with his trousers dropped to his knees was shot last month by a student who shared it online alongside accusations of harassment.

The newly elected lawmaker denies inappropriate conduct and has said he was urinating due to a medical condition, even threatening his accuser when pursued by prosecutors.

#EnaZeda — Tunisian Arabic for #MeToo, was inspired by the huge global movement that bloomed in 2017 in the wake of sexual assault allegations by multiple women against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

It has given some in Tunisia the confidence to confront their harassers face-to-face.

“Tonight, I have cried all the tears from my body. Tonight, I was harassed and nobody took the trouble to react,” wrote one internet user Lina Kaboudi.

But “unlike all the other nights, I dared to respond to the perpetrator. I did not keep walking, pretending I had not heard.

“I stopped, and I held him to account”.

Breaking taboos 

Tunisia is considered a pioneer on women’s rights in the Arab world and was the first predominantly Muslim country to abolish polygamy in 1956.

But the taboo on confronting sexual misconduct remains strong, especially within the family.

It is rare for victims to pursue formal complaints, despite sexual harassment in public places being punishable by law with a one-year prison term and a fine of 3,000 dinar (around 1,000 euros) since July 2017.

To catalogue the avalanche of testimony, Tunisian activists have set up private Facebook groups including one simply named #EnaZeda, which has more than 20,000 members.

Poignant accounts, some anonymous, are shared daily in the group — ranging from rape and incest to inappropriate behaviour by teachers or celebrities and molestation on public transport.

Activists say they have been surprised by the volume and variety of the stories, and NGO Aswat Nissa (Voice of Women) says it has collected more than 70,000 testimonies.

“At first, we created a group to defend the young girl who filmed the lawmaker, because she had suffered a lot of criticism and pressure,” said Myriam Bouattour, who heads Aswat Nissa.

“Then women, and sometimes men too, shared their stories, so now we are trying to organise workshops with psychologists.”

Bouattour said she has received messages from parents who have “broken the family taboo by talking about sexual harassment with their children, after reading testimonies about paedophilia”.

‘Didn’t lift a finger’ 

Traditional attitudes and apathy among some in power mean the nascent #EnaZeda initiative faces an uphill battle.

Kaboudi — the woman who called out street harassment — laments the passivity of the police, who “were a few feet away” and did not “lift a little finger” to help her when she was harassed.

She also despairs of witnesses who similarly “did nothing”.

In an attempt to break the silence, in October the Centre for Research, Study, Documentation and Information on Women (Credif) launched an awareness campaign about sexual harassment on public transport.

Dubbed “the harasser #MaYerkebch (does not ride) with us”, the initiative includes an app that uses a chatbot to speak to a harasser on behalf of a victim or witness and remind them of the law.

Najla Allani, director of Credit, emp the app states out loud the type of sexual misdemeanour and location, in a voice that speaks firmly in local dialect to “intimidate and scare the harasser”.

“People dare not speak (themselves) out of fear, but with this voice app, they will be better able to react”, Allani said.

An evaluation of the experimental initiative later this month will decide if it continues, so long as “the financial means allow it”, she added.

It remains to be seen how big a contribution #EnaZeda will make to Tunisia’s battle against sexual harassment, but one thing is sure — the shroud of silence is no longer so suffocating.

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North Africa Politics

Moroccan court extends jail time of dissident journalist, Taoufik Bouachrine

Taoufik Bouachrine was originally thrown behind bars for 12 years in November 2018, but this was lengthened to 15 years on Friday

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Moroccan court extends jail time of dissident journalist, Taoufik Bouachrine
Taoufik Bouachrine, (L) director of the Moroccan Akhbar Al Youm newspaper and caricaturist Khalid Gueddar arrive at the court in Casablanca on October 23, 2009, on charges of lacking respect for a member of the royal family. AFP PHOTO/Abdelhak Senna (Photo by ABDELHAK SENNA / AFP)

A Moroccan court has increased the jail sentence of a dissident newspaper publisher on charges of rape and other offences that he denies and says are politically motivated.

Taoufik Bouachrine was originally thrown behind bars for 12 years in November 2018, but this was lengthened to 15 years on Friday following an appeal by the public prosecutor.

The journalist had been found guilty of human trafficking, abuse of power for sexual purposes, rape and attempted rape.

Bouachrine, whose daily newspaper, Akhbar Al-Yaum has a history of run-ins with the authorities, has maintained his innocence throughout the trial.

The charges against him were based on complaints, testimonies and about 50 videos seized from his office, purporting to show him in a variety of sexual acts.

His defence team said the videos were doctored and in any case showed “consensual relations”.

Earlier this year, rights group Amnesty International called for the publisher’s release, saying his imprisonment was a “matter of freedom of expression”.

A United Nations Human Rights Council working group also reported this year that Bouachrine was the victim of “arbitrary detention” and “judicial harassment”.

The panel cited a lack of evidence and alleged witness intimidation — accusations denied by Moroccan authorities.

Bouachrine has been critical of public figures including billionaire agriculture minister Aziz Akhannouch and the kingdom’s ally, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Rape trials are rare in Morocco, where victims fear social repercussions in a society that remains largely conservative.

During the course of the trial, four women cited by the prosecution as victims denied involvement.

One was sentenced to six months in prison for accusing the police of falsifying her statement, while others refused to appear in court.

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