Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tunisian Rapper Arrested in Wake of Protests

For almost a month, Tunisia has been in upheaval. On December 17th a 26-year-old unemployed college graduate named Mohammed Bouazizi burned himself alive in his hometown of Sidi Bouzid; he would die in hospital three weeks later. In the meantime, his action has set off a wave of protest that has gripped every major city in Tunisia. Unemployment in Tunisia is officially 14%, though most experts estimate it to be much higher. The response of the notoriously corrupt ruling party, headed by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has been indifference and more corruption.

Bouazizi's death clearly ignited a powder-keg of discontent. Since the protests took off in the days following, an estimated 50 people have been killed by police and troops.

It's notable, given how much sensational ink the US media spilled over the uprisings in Iran eighteen months ago, that the American papers are giving little attention to this new movement. That the Tunisian government is on nominally good terms with the US government no doubt plays a role. The similarities between the two popular movements are notable, though. Unemployment, poverty and undemocratic regimes have played a role in both. Like Iran, protesters have made use of Facebook and Twitter in coordinating their actions.

And it's for this reason that, like Iran, Tunisian authorities have done their best to quash these cultural tools. In the past days, several bloggers and other "internet activists" have been arrested. Some have been released.

Among those arrested was one Hamada Ben-Amor, a 22-year-old living in the Mediterranean city of Sfax. Ben-Amor is rapper and musician who goes by the moniker "the General." As the protests and riots gained steam, Ben-Amor took to the studio to record a song entitled "President, Your People Are Dying," which evidently takes up the myriad problems facing Tunisian youth and questions the legitimacy of Ben Ali's 23-year rule. It was soon posted on YouTube.

Last Friday, according to Ben-Amor's brother Hamdi, "Some 30 plainclothes policemen came to our house to arrest Hamada and took him away without ever telling us where to. When we asked why they were arresting him, they said 'he knows why.'"

No word yet on whether Hamada Ben-Amor has been released.

I have no idea what the General is saying in this song, but it's posted here out of solidarity more than anything else. Hip-hop's role as a music of global resistance has been cemented over the past decade, providing a generation of youth a vehicle with which to break the bonds of invisibility. It's this exact reason that the Tunisian government fears it.


Bruce from Accordion Noir said...

Translation posted (not by me) by "totalbelfun" on the original Youtube link:

Ben Ali: You look anxious! Wanna say something?
El General: To the president, today I wanna say something to you, It is on my behalf and on behalf of my people who living in misery 2011! Still people dying of hunger! He wanted to work, he wanted to survive but his voice is silenced Get to the streets and take a look, People are turning mad Police are monsters Speaking only their batons tac tac tac, they don't care As long no one is there to say no

Our laws(rights) in the constitution
Are nothing but a decoration
Everyday, I hear of a new lawsuit
Where the poor was setup
Although they know he/she is a decent person
I see snakes (powerful men) everywhere biting our girls
Will you accept for your dauther to be bit?
I know my words are so hard
You are a father and you wouldn't allow that for your sons
Thus, take my message as one from a son to his father

I am speaking out of suffer We are living like dogs Half of the population living in humuliation and misery Mr. President, your people are dying People are eating rubbish Look at what is happening Miseries everywhere Mr. President, I talk with no fear Although I know I will only get troubles I see injustice everywhere

Till when people are living in illusions?
Where is Freedom of expression?
It is only in your speeches
The country thieves are everywhere
You know I am talking about who..
They stick to their positions, to their outracities

[then totalbelfun, the youtube poster says:]
"It is not complete. I skipped few lines in the end. I will try to post the missing parts ASAP...."

Alexander Billet said...

Wow. Those lyrics are pretty sharp. Thanks for posting them; I didn't see them because I got the video off of Al Jazeera. It's good to have a transaltion!