Tunisia’s political prisoners’ families mark woeful Eid al-Adha

“There is no Eid; a sense of sadness and injustice prevails among us,” added Zainab Al-Maraihi, the wife of another imprisoned Ennahda member. [Getty]

This Eid al-Adha, Tunisian families of more than seventy political prisoners spent the holiday waiting for hours at prisons, hoping for a brief glimpse through the separating glass of their loved ones.

On the first day of Eid, Rahma Al-Abidi, wife of interim head of the Ennahda Movement Mondher Ouanissi, headed with her two children to visit her husband at Al-Aouina prison in Tunis, where many political prisoners are held.

“I started preparing two days before eid Mondher’s favorite dishes to be ready to stand early on Eid day in line for hours, hoping for some family time at the end,” said Rahma to The New Arab

This is the first Eid al-Adha for Mondher in prison. He was arrested in September after a leaked tape in which he accused his fellow Ennahda leaders of receiving foreign funds. Ouanissi says the tape is fake.

“The children return home sad and exhausted after every visit. My daughter sometimes cries for hours after the visit,” added Rahma.

“There is no Eid; a sense of sadness and injustice prevails among us,” said Zainab Al-Maraihi, the wife of another imprisoned Ennahda member Sahbi Atig.

To avoid the trauma and humiliation, some families have decided to send food and well-wishes to their imprisoned relatives without enduring the “inhumane conditions” of visiting hours on Eid day.

“I hope the authorities make special arrangements to allow children to visit their parents in prison with dignity,” said Aziz Al-Hazqi, father of Jaouhar Ben Mbarek. Jaouhar was sentenced in February to six months in prison for sharing “false information” about the elections.

More than seventy outspoken dissidents of Tunisian president Kais Saied, including political opponents, lawyers, journalists, activists and social media users, have been detained since the end of 2022, without trials or on bogus charges, according to the Amnesty Rights group.

“At least 40 remain arbitrarily detained as of May 2024, with most of them held in connection with the exercise of their internationally protected rights,” the rights group noted.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both deemed, in their latest report, Tunisian authorities’ crackdown on journalists and media figures as “methodically annihilating” what little remains of the country’s hard-won freedoms.

‘No Presidential Elections until political prisoners are freed’

Over the past months, imprisoned dissidents have protested the injustice against them with several hunger strikes. Despite the deterioration of their health, their strikes have changed nothing.

President Saied has started a “witch hunt” against his opponents since he consolidated power in 2021 by suspending parliament and rewriting the country’s constitution. Voters, weary of political and economic turmoil, approved his constitutional changes in a 2021 referendum with low turnout.

He is widely expected to run for a second term in this presidential election, likely to take place in September or October.

The National Salvation Front, a coalition of the main opposition parties including the once-majority party Islamist movement Ennahda, has vowed to boycott the elections until “all imprisoned political opponents are freed.”

They also called for allowing Ennahda‘s headquarters to reopen, guaranteeing the neutrality and independence of the electoral commission, and restoring the independence of the judicial system.

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