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Call for Help from Tunisian Artists
When the international press reported on June 11 about severe unrest in Tunisia, it was said that protests against an art exhibition were the trigger. What was meant was "Printemps des Arts" (Springtime of the Arts) in La Marsa, a city near Tunis. Attracting much less attention from the global public, the aggression against the participating artists – including public calls for their murder – continues to this day.
On June 17, the Collectif tunisien pour l’art, la culture et les libertés im Internet published a resolution and called on organizations, institutions, and people all over the world for support. The resolution (in French and English) summarizes from the viewpoint of the Collectif the events since the closing of the exhibition.
The conflict did not begin till the last day of the 10-day art fair (June 1-10) when some visitors voice indignation about what they considered the blasphemous character of the works of art and threatened the organizers with legal consequences. The media report differing versions and interpretations of the causes of the rapid escalation. The fact is that in the following night a large group of Salafists stormed the Palais Abdellia, destroyed works of art, and ravaged the site of the exhibition. Bloody fights with the police occurred in and beyond Tunis.
In the following days, fundamentalists fanned the flames of anger at the artists. As evidence of the alleged blasphemy, they used Facebook to spread pastiches of works of art that weren’t shown at the exhibition at all. Also on Facebook and in other social networks, they published the names and photos of the participating artists and called for their killing. Several of these artists were threatened personally.
The representatives of the artists reproached the Culture Minister for failing to defend them and to seek a solution to the conflict, but instead heating it up further and abandoning them to the mob by making utterances like "It’s enough for art to be beautiful, it shouldn’t be revolutionary, it should be nice" and himself calling some of the exhibited works blasphemous.
The resolution published by the Collectif tunisien pour l’art, la culture et les libertés calls for international pressure on the Tunisian government to "force them to preserve freedom of conscience, creation, expression, and the life of artists".
>> See the Petition
More information in English in Tunisia live:
In Photos: Printemps des Arts
Police Called to Contemporary Art Exhibition Following Confrontations
Artworks and Property Vandalized During A Night of Tension in Tunis
Angry Artists Respond to Attacks With Protest in Front of Ministry of Culture
Union of Tunisian Artists Calls for Minister of Culture to Resign
Chairman of Zitouna Mosque Banned from Preaching Following Incitement to Murder Artists