jeudi 13 octobre 2011

Report : Two independents with a « regard vigilant »

From left to right : Adib Samoud, Dominique Lagarde (journalist) and Sanda Barboura

When you come face to face with Adib Samoud and Sanda Barboura, you immediately take notice of their intense gaze. At least that’s the way I felt when I met them. The political couple is running for office in Kelibia under their own independent list, and if there is something effecient about the name of their party (« Regards Vigilants », which means « vigilant watch »).

Seated at a table in a popular café near Kasbah, Sanda and Adib give off the impression of completing each other, both politically and personally. They proceed to tell me about the program they have for their independent list, Regards Vigilants, while being very friendly and completing each other’s sentences at times. Their ideas are very thought trough since they represent the reason they became independent and chose not to run with a larger party.

It’s not that they never thought of joining a pre-established political force, quite the contrary, they considered it very much. However, certain situations made them go at it alone. One example is the indifference regarding the Dar Chichou arson fire by many parties, which happened last July. Adib said that when they noticed that the major parties were taking the issue lightly, they told themselves that it was time for them to go independent and try to defend their beliefs.

Before going into detail about the issues tackled in his program, Adib shared with me some of his experiences that made him known in Tunisia. He is a veterinarian by profession; he also started a sort of online newspaper in 2004 that dealt with equitable economics. Over time, more and more people consulted his articles. The things he talked about touched, in a certain manner, Tunisian politics. In 2007, his visibility grew considerably after he started the Maghreb Blog. In it were, among other things, photos and stories about the infamous cartoon of Mohammed two years ago. This created such a buzz that the blog became one of the top 24 most popular according to Lonely Planet.

A little bit later, technical difficulties forced it to be shut down and unfortunately the website had a Canadian server(!), so all data was lost. This prompted Adib to use Facebook at a time where more and more comments were directed at the then dictatorship. Even though he opposed the government, he was never arrested or beaten, like some of his more unfortunate colleagues. The reason was that he criticized while never crossing a certain line that would put him and his family in danger.

During the Revolution, he was very active on social media platforms, especially when his friend and fellow blogger, Slim Amamou was arrested on January 7th. ‘‘When Slim was arrested, we told ourselves that we couldn’t stop now; Ben Ali’s calls to peace and reason to the masses were a lie and if people believed them, we would all be sitting in jail right now’’, he recounts. He was right; Slim was released on January 14th just before the dictator fled to Saudi Arabia.

Even though he was never harmed by authorities, Adib was certainly harassed his fair share. His account was watched and his phone was wired at all times. He says that even today, he is being monitored and that sometimes in his phone calls, he can hear the ‘‘third person’’ on the line. Even more intriguing is that this does not seem to bother him in the least; he just sits there and smiles while explaining the story.

Regards Vigilants' team
His spouse Sandra is a lawyer who studied in France. She shares a similar attitude and tells me with the same passion about Regards Vigilants and its commitments. The first issue at hand for both of them is the environment. They state that ‘‘we must protect the country’s ecology as well as archeological sites. There just isn’t enough attention given to these issues. Pollution is also a big problem; it can lead to the public’s health deteriorating and the destruction of nature.’’

Religion-wise, they believe that secularism can be interesting but that it just isn’t time for it yet. In their opinion, it would be best that Islam be declared the official religion of Tunisia in the first amendment of the Constitution while also granting freedom of religion to all.

Furthermore the two independents say that post-Revolution Tunisia must practice an open-minded Islam, even though they doubt religious parties agree with this. They fear that if a party like Ennadha was elected to power, it would take religious principles and turn them into law, something that would be detrimental to the country.

Preserving women’s rights as well as reforming education to better the quality of diplomas are also atop their agendas.

Adib Samoud during the campaign
Sanda and Adib remain confident on Tunisia’s future, whatever the outcome in October 23rd. ‘‘I don’t think people will opt for extremist parties, since everyone wants a more stable country. And yes, I am optimistic for the future because things can’t be worse than they were before. The people worked so hard for the Revolution, changes have to occur’’, said Adib.

Knowing that they have an uphill battle for a seat at the Assembly, the two candidates will continue their campaign and keep distributing eye shaped stickers, the party logo, to people until the end. Even though their chances are slim, it may be worthwhile to watch Regards Vigilants just in case they manage to find their way into a part of Tunisia’s Parliament.

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