Lina Ben Mhenni
Last updated: 27 September, 2012

“Tunisia is so far from being on the right path to build a democracy”

On the night of September 3, three policemen raped a young Tunisian woman. The victim was in her fiancé‘s car when plainclothes policemen arrested and separated them before raping the girl.

Written differently the incident will look like this: a Tunisian citizen has been raped by a group of Tunisians belonging to the security body supposed to guarantee the safety of citizens and to protect them.

After the incident, the girl had the courage to register a complaint against her aggressors. She also informed some associations and human rights organizations of the horrors she experienced. As a punishment for her courage, the officials of the Ministry of Interior decided to ruin her reputation. In a press conference held on September 11 the spokesperson of the ministry tried to manipulate the public opinion and to make them forget the real scandal – the rape – by arguing that the victim and her fiancé were in an indecent posture when they were arrested.

What we can deduce from the statements of the ministry of Interior affairs’ spokesperson is the following: Today, in a country said to be in a democratic transition, a police body said to be republican can allow themselves to assault, rape, torture, kill citizens (several cases of torture and murders committed by the police has been revealed in the same period), and give senseless justifications later on. The same people who are supposed to protect the citizens. The same people who took to the streets few days after January 14 last year to ask for forgiveness for the crimes they committed against Tunisian citizens for years and years are today intimidating, frightening, and terrorizing with the approval of their ministry who has been lenient on their misdeeds.

The spokesperson ended his statement by asserting that the persons responsible for the rape will be brought to justice and would probably have the appropriate punishment if convicted. On September 26, to my misfortune, or allow me to say to the misfortune of Tunisians and Humanity, I discovered that the rape victim and her companion, also a victim of a blackmail from one of the officers the same night, have been summoned to appear before the judge for a confrontation with the rapists and to be heard as defendants in a case of outrage to public decency.

The case has been postponed to October 2. Meanwhile the actors of the civil society are mobilizing people to stand against such practises in which the victim is presented or turned into a criminal. In a country in democratic transition we justify the unjustifiable. Yes we justify rape.

Today the police can allow themselves different transgressions and misdeeds and be acquitted. The Ministry of Interior has just sought to protect its agents, through minimizing the crime they committed and demonizing the victim (female, going out at night with a man in car therefore necessarily a whore, a criminal).

In this case, the psychological and physical health of the victim has been ignored. Her humanity has been denied. Her rights are of a second concern. The most important thing to retain is that Tunisia is so far from being a democratic country or a country on the right path to build a democracy.