Ibn Rushd Fund for Freedom of Thought

Sihem Bensedrine

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Personal

Born on 28th October 1950 in La Marsa (Tunis), married to Omar Mestiri, three children

Education

MA of Philosophy from the University Toulouse Le Mirail

Professional Life

1980-1992: reporter, editor and editor in chief of several journals
1985-1986: One of the founders of the monthly feminist magazine Nissa
1989-1995: Founder and director of the publishing house Arcs Editions which is financially ruined by government pressure (annulled orders, thefts, pressure on economic partners and the bank, outstanding debts not redeemed, editions confiscated in the print shop, etc.)
1998-1999: literary director of the 'Noir sur Blanc'.

1999:  Founds a Euro-Mediterranean association of authors, the 'Editions Aloès', with other Tunesian and European intellectuals. With overwhelming pressure and harassment from the authorities, including a series of burglaries, the confiscation of material, the expulsion of the literary director J-F Poirier from Tunisia, forced closure of the office, seizure of an edition of poetry published by Aloès, an 'invitation' to the print shops to stop working with Editions Aloès, the publishing house is forced to close in December, 2000.

November 1999: The Ministry of The Interior refuses to issue a license for printing the independent journal Kalima.

October 2000: The first issue of Kalima is published on the internet.


Voluntary work

1978: Founds the 'Committee for Support of The Victims of Oppression’ in Tunis with other brave women of Tunisia
1979: Joins the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LTDH)
1983: Participates in the creation of the Union of Independent Journals
1985: Arrested after the demonstration organized by the democratic women against the Israeli raid on Hammam Chatt. After some days of prison the case is closed.
1987: Sentenced to six months of prison for belonging to an illegal association (RSP).  She was later granted amnesty.

June 1991: The authorities demanded the resignation of Bensedrine (responsible for the dossier of victims' complaints) from the board of directors of the LTDH, which had published a press release on the torture and deaths of several people.

June 1992: The Ministry of the Interior dissolves the LTDH for having rejected the demand of for Bensedrine resignation. A smear campaign against her is launched in the state controlled press.

1992: Joins the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATDF).
November 92: edits a 'Woman's Agenda' that retraces the history of the autonomous women's movement in Tunisia and contains a booklet of addresses of associations of women in the Maghreb. The entire edition is confiscated by the Ministry of The Interior.
1995: Passport is confiscated without explanation.  She was not allowed a passport until July 2000 after the mobilization of the ATDF for the right of citizens to a passport.

2000: Imprisonment and torture (fractured ribs, trauma of the cervical spine and dorsal vertebrae, trauma of the right eye).
Nov-Dec 2000: further persecution and harassment – police violence, looting of her car, threats)
2001: Arrest at the Tunis Carthage Airport and imprisonment after an interview given to a TV chain based in London, where she denounced he systematic usage of torture and the lack of an independent judiciary and corruption.

2002: Invited by the Hamburger Stiftung for politically persecuted people
2003 and 2004: journeys to Iraq
2005: Observation of the media during the elections in Lebanon
2006: Scholar of the German P.E.N. programme 'Writers In Exile'.
2009: leaves Tunisia for Exile
2011: returns to Tunisia to help participate in the creation of a democratic state


Publications:
- « Lettre à une amie iraquienne » Editions La Découverte - novembre 2003  
- « L’Europe et ses despotes » Editions La Découverte - novembre 2004 (en collaboration avec Omar Mestiri); not yet translated to English.