Latest World News

In Tunisia, Chaïma Issa, the first female political prisoner under the regime of Kaïs Saïed


The day falls in front of the closed doors of the prison for women of Manouba, in the western suburbs of Tunis. A few dozen people gathered on Monday, April 3, to express their support for the activist Chaïma Issa, detained for more than a month. “Freedom, freedom! No more police state! »chant activists, lawyers and families of prisoners gathered for the breaking of the fast as a sign of solidarity.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Tunisia: “Chaima Issa defends the work of public freedoms accomplished by the revolution”

The case began on February 11, when security forces apprehended pro-democracy activist Khayam Turki, founder of the Joussour think tank. In the days that followed, Noureddine Boutar, director of the private Mosaïque FM radio station, and several political figures were arrested. Chaïma Issa, a member of the National Salvation Front (FSN), the main opposition coalition to President Kaïs Saïed, is one of them.

After more than thirty-six hours of hearing, the investigating judge of the judicial center for the fight against terrorism decides: like the seven defendants questioned before her on February 25, she is placed in pre-trial detention pending her trial. for “conspiracy against state security”, becoming the first female political prisoner under the regime of Kaïs Saïed.

A “Hollywood” arrest

Sitting on a chair placed against the wall facing the judge’s office and surrounded by her lawyers, the 43-year-old activist is not intimidated. “Is this Tunisia? Is this the Tunisia where we studied you and me? Is this the Tunisia we dreamed of? »she launches at the end of a long tirade filmed discreetly and part of which was broadcast on social networks.

“She made everyone cry. Even the judge had tears in his eyestestifies Dalila Ben Mbarek Msaddek, one of his lawyers. As he was about to issue the warrant of committal, we all stood up. I told him: “You have just arrested the seven men, at least leave Chaïma free”. » But nothing helps, the judge’s decision is made: the activist will spend the night in prison. “He was dejected, he took his head in his hands, his eyes lowered”describes the lawyer.

The Association of Tunisian Magistrates denounces “unprecedented pressure” on the judicial system

Since the coup by Kaïs Saïed on July 25, 2021, the judiciary has gradually been placed under the direct control of the executive and the Ministry of Justice after the dissolution of the Superior Council of the Judiciary in February 2022, then the dismissal of 57 judges in June. Regarding the recent wave of arrests – which also affected two magistrates – the Tunisian president warned: “Whoever clears them becomes their accomplice. » Remarks strongly criticized by the Association of Tunisian magistrates, who denounced “unprecedented pressure” on the judicial system. For its part, the prosecution still refuses to speak officially on the subject.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Tunisia criminalizes contact with Western diplomats

During his hearing before the judge, Chaïma Issa described his arrest on February 22 as “Hollywood”. “There were police everywhere, they were blocking the road from all sides. I quickly understood that it was not a simple identity check”tell the World her sister, Khadija Issa, who was in the activist’s car when she was arrested. “Chaïma just had time to call [l’avocat] Samir Dilou to inform him of the situation. »

Escorted by police, Chaïma Issa left the judge’s office smiling, fist raised, singing the national anthem with her lawyers, before being taken to the women’s prison. On March 30, the indictment chamber confirmed the decision of the investigating judge and refused his request for release, like that of the other opponents. Legally, she can be detained for fourteen months without trial.

” Free electron “

Doctor in sociology, poet, writer and journalist, Chaïma Issa studied comparative religions at Zitouna University, before continuing her university career in France. In 2014, she stood in the legislative elections but was not elected. A defeat that did not prevent her from engaging with parliamentarians in favor of women’s rights and trying to bring together the groups divided between Islamists and anti-Islamists.

Saïda Ounissi, member of Ennahda, former deputy and minister, remembers a “free spirit that erected no barriers, even if she disagreed with certain positions”. “She is not sectarian and has no prejudice”confirms Bochra Belhaj Hmida, former president of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD) and former MP Nidaa Tounès, the party created by former President Béji Caïd Essebsi in 2012 to counter the Islamists.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Europeans are alarmed at the risk of a “collapse” of Tunisia

Chargé de mission to the Minister for Women and the Family in 2020, Chaïma Issa published the same year Gender, Feminism and Religion, a book published by Karem Cherif editions (in Arabic). Immediately after Kaïs Saïed’s coup in 2021, she publicly opposed the exceptional measures announced by the president. To the point of becoming one of the spokespersons of the protest with the initiative “Citizens against the coup d’etat”, then within the FSN, of which she “is a bit of a muse”according to former MP Saïda Ounissi.

In January, the activist was accused of inciting the Tunisian army to disobedience

In January, the activist, herself the daughter of a member of the Islamic Tendency Movement (the former name of Ennahda) imprisoned for her political positions in the early 1990s, was accused of inciting the army Tunisian to disobedience. She is being prosecuted by the military court for a media statement based on a controversial new decree-law which officially aims to combat cybercrime, but poses a significant threat to freedom of expression.


“The Africa World”

Every Saturday, find a week of news and debates, by the editorial staff of “Monde Afrique”


In prison, Chaïma Issa can receive visits from his close family and his lawyers. All describe a woman with a moral steel, despite the hardships. At 20, his son Jaza Cherif does not intend to give up either. “She is very strong and this is not the time to cry. We will continue to fight until he is released.”he promises.