Police station in Tunisia turned into an art gallery

A few months after the killing of protesters in Thala, Tunisia, one of its police stations is turned into an art gallery to commemorate the revolution and its victims

Published on Tuesday 30 Aug 2011 in Ahram Online

Nemri Bassem is one of the Tunisian young men who played an active role in the Jasmine Revolution, the revolution that ousted President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. An online news platform, Libcom, promoting what they call “libertarian communism”, states that “On 17 February, Nemri Bassem, a mechanical engineer unemployed since 2004, occupied the police station and stayed there, demanding his right to work. This action is only one of hundreds of actions that have been carried out in Tunisia by the Union of Unemployed Graduates.”

Together with a number of artists and young men, Bassem has transformed the empty police station into an open art gallery. Its walls are covered with graffiti calling for freedom, dignity and justice. Some of the art work is commemorating martyrs who died during peaceful demonstrations staged in Thala in January.

Families of the revolution martyrs, young men who were shot during the demonstrations in Thala, visit the place remembering their loved ones. Today, Thala’s new open museum is a place where people gather to discuss the revolution and listen to music.

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Thala, a small town in north-western Tunisia, with only 14 thousand habitants, is located in the Kassina Governorate, 300 km from the capital Tunis. In the first days of January 2011, demonstrations opposing Ben Ali and corruption took place in the town. They were organised by students of two local schools and supported by their parents. As a response, Thala police opened fire on the protesters.

Following the killings, a funeral procession which became a stage for peaceful protest against repression in Tunisia was also attacked by the security forces. As identified by the residents of Thala, a commander in charge, Youssef Abdelaziz ordered open fire on the procession that was passing along Bourguiba Avenue, in the vicinity of the police station. The shooting which, according to the eye witnesses included shots from snipers, wounded and killed many.

Even though Abdelaziz was removed from his post on 8 January and replaced by another police chief, the revolutionary spirit sparkled in towns and cities throughout Tunisia, leading eventually to the Jasmine Revolution.

Thala’s police station, a house to forces that participated in the killing of peaceful protesters in January has now been turned into a gallery commemorating the revolution and its victims.

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