Skip to content

Blogging vs demons #wu13

"We don't use social media because it's cool," says Tunisian internet activist Sami Ben Gharbia. "But in a dictatorship, it is the only way to inform people about what is really going on. To fight the demons in society. I am not a techny Became because it's fun. I just needed useful knowledge about internet codes, to improve my civic activism possible."

In the programme Arab Demons during Winternacht 1, Petra Stienen spoke to a number of prominent writers, bloggers and activists, each from a different dictatorship in the Arab world.

"Internet activism alone is insufficient," says Samar Yazbek from Syria. "Our role as writers and activists does not begin and end behind the keyboard. But we have to take to the streets with people to make real change. And our role is in the service of helping all those people fighting injustice. Currently, our biggest demon in Syria is the tyrant and murderer Assad. And the moral corruption he has caused. First he must disappear, only then can the real, social revolution begin. And that struggle will continue for a very long time."

Ben Gharbia nods: "I am hopeful. Despite everything. Any reform movement takes time, effort and pain. It will be a struggle, but I trust the democtisation process. Both in Tunisia and in the other Arab countries."

"In Algeria, we are already one stage ahead," says Mohamed Magani. "We got rid of dictator Ben Ali a long time ago. The big demon now is our self-censorship. As a writer, you are basically free to write whatever you want, but the big problem is getting it published. I admit, that's more of a poverty problem."

Tunisia is another completely different story, says Ben Gharbia. "For a very long time, Tunisia was a popular holiday country, with good ties to the West. We had a very positive image to the outside world. It was always said by those in power that Rome and Paris were closer than Baghdad and Damascus. This is geographically correct, of course, but it was clear that the west also maintained oppression. Until the very last moment of the revolution, just before Ben Ali stepped down, France still considered sending troops to quell the uprising. Tunisia suffered immensely from a rock-hard repression, in which the internet was also used immensely. The only way to expel this 'demon' is to break through the wall of fear."

Magani hooks in: "Despite everything, we have to keep writing and talking about our humanity. That is our responsibility. In all the misery, there must be room for the voice of the underdogs, the people who are oppressed. As writers and bloggers, we are sort of curators of information, telling each other about our specific problems in each country.

Yazbek: "And that way we can support each other. Let's start reading each other's books."



Daniel Bertina

/// Freelance cultural journalist, critic, writer and dramatist. Omnivore with a love of art, culture & media in all unfathomable gradations between obscure underground and wildly commercial mainstream. Also works for Het Parool and VPRO. And trains Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.View Author posts

Private Membership (month)
5€ / Maand
For natural persons and self-employed persons.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Own mastodon account
Access to our archives
Small Membership (month)
18€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of less than €250,000 per year
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
All our podcasts
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Posting press releases yourself
Extra attention in news coverage
Large Membership (month)
36€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of more than €250,000 per year.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Share press releases with our audience
Extra attention in news coverage
Premium Newsletter (substack)
5 trial subscriptions
All our podcasts

Payments are made via iDeal, Paypal, Credit Card, Bancontact or Direct Debit. If you prefer to pay manually, based on an invoice in advance, we charge a 10€ administration fee

*Only for annual membership or after 12 monthly payments

en_GBEnglish (UK)