Tunisia`s 7hell!

Many things have changed in Tunisia since one year ago. For me, the most relevant -and the most charming- is that the fall of Ben Ali`s dictatorship has opened a Pandora vase which, in this case, was full of good things that have been repressed and hidden. The vibrant creativity of the Tunisian youth is one of them. The few times I visited Tunisia during Ben Ali`s regime I had the impression it was a suffocating country. They were trying to sell us foreigners the idea of the carte postale (postcard), of the safe beautiful country not touched by any problem, and no political or security issue. They use to pass us boring (according to me) Tunisian films that were the exact projection of what the former colonial powers (especially France) wanted to see coming out from this country. And I could see no youth`s  activities, except from the one I witnessed online, done by the brave Tunisian activists, like Nhar 3ala Ammar, the flash mobs, the protests, daring videos like the ones posted by Astrubaal.

But the post-14 Janvi Tunisia is an explosion of creativity. And the vibrant Tunisian youth is driving the change, organizing youth generated media activities, grassroot events, communities meet-ups. I`ve recently visited the amazing office space opened by the Nawaat folks near Tunis` Casba -a beautiful, historic place which in 2011 witnessed huge mass protests that have brought down two governments after the fall of Ben Ali-.   It`s a traditional Arabic house, which reminds me of the Damascene houses I`ve lived in, where Nawaat has set up its offices and the awesome hackspace, the first one in Tunis, whose activities are coordinated by open source advocates Kangoulya and Ali Hentati. They are carrying out a number of projects dedicated to openness, freedom of expression, free and open software together with the many open communities that are present in Tunisia (Ubuntu, Mozilla, etc).

This upcoming Friday 27th Jan at 7pm they`ll be hosting a community talk regrouping these communities, Creative Commons Tunisia, Wikimedia (who`s trying to set roots in Tunisia), and Nawaat of course. The same day, at 2pm, Wikimedia will present Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and try to get more Tunisians helping creating original online content in Arabic.

And on the 28th at 6 pm, Arty Show Galery in La Marsa, Tunis, will be hosting the first Creative Commons Salon in Tunisia, celebrating openness and creativity. A CC-licensed film about Tunisian cyber police by Kerim Bouzoita will be shown, and many “open” artists will be featured as CC-friendly rap group Armada Bizerta and the comics collective Yaka. The Tunisian bloggers` association will join and give a talk, as well as Nawaat and Kangoulya who will present the OpenData and OpenGov projects.

Tunisian activists have in fact started campaigning for 7hell (ouvre-open), a movement which regroups bloggers, techies, artists, politicians and who ever is interested in pushing openness and transparency. The OpenGov and OpenData campaign promoted by 7hell activists is the sign that Tunisia is moving in a very interesting direction, towards building a direct link between citizenship and institutions. It is the sign that Tunisian revolution was not an “anti”movement only; it is indeed an ongoing revolution and a pro-active movement trying to achieve a real change in civil society and institutions, not only a regime change.