04 March 2011

On facebook the Tunisians’ protest from the Cie of Turin

They arrived at Lampedusa without suitcases, but they brought with them a bit of the revolutionary wind that has been shaking Tunisia since December. The ingredients are the same: peaceful mobilization and communication through social networks and international press. They are thirty of the six thousand Tunisians who arrived in Lampedusa since the beginning of the year. Workers heading towards France where the relatives are waiting and ready to take care of them. They have been detained for three weeks in the centre of identification and expulsion in Turin, and now that they’ve found out that they’ll have to stay locked up for other six months risking to be expelled, they’ve organised the protest. Inside the centre they proclaimed the hunger strike. They began refusing food last Tuesday and today it is the fifth day they’ve stopped eating. Thursday three of them fainted and two more felt unwell. They are all very tired, but they are determined to continue their protest until the day of their liberation. In the meantime they organised themselves on the internet.

The page is called “Guantanamo Italy” and it’s on facebook. This is how it works: the thirty Tunisians of the Cie’s green section in Turin collected their names and communicated them by phone to their friends in Zarzis, in Tunisia, who set up the page.

From the page, it’s possible to download a video, where the full names of the guys detained appear, accompanied by a song in the background and a very clear denunciation. “What is happening to our brothers in Italy is very unpleasant. Don’t usurp the freedom of our youth.” Then the address of the Cie in Turin in via Santa Maria Mazzarello follows.

On the same page one can download, in the photographic album, the pictures of the protest in Zarzis organised by the relatives of the victims of the shipwreck that happened on the 11th February. That day the collision at sea between the fish boat with 120 people on board and the corvette “Liberté 302” of the Tunisian navy caused 35 deaths. The same people who run the page also asked Al Jazeera and France24 to take care of the case. They demand justice for the relatives of the victims. And they demand justice for the Tunisians locked up in the detention centre of half of Italy. 100 in Turin, 90 in Rome, 50 in Gradisca and the same number in Bari, Bologna, Modena, Lamezia and Trapani. About five hundred people forced to spend the next six months in detention without having committed any crime and even though their final destination is France.

“Give us back our freedom. We are heading to France, we will leave Italy, give us only five hours!” they were telling me Thursday during my visit at the Cie. I talked to them from behind the bars of the enclosure. I was not authorised to enter inside the sections. And I felt I was on the wrong side. Because it hurts to look into the eyes of a man through the mesh of an iron gate. Especially when the men on the other side cry all together “Libertà! Freedom!”, the first word they learned in Italian, waving white papers where they had written the same thing: “Libertà”.

They are the same young men who challenged the bullets of Ben Ali’s snipers and who caused the regime in Tunisia to fall. The same young people whom we praised in our pompous editorials, when facebook and the revolution were a definitely sexy combination for the gurus of communication.

And now that the same guys are locked up in our cages? Where are the journalists? Where are the associations? Where are the politicians? Is it possible that nobody bothers to pay them a visit? To listen to their pleas? How can one understand why Italy accepts the requests of asylum of 2.000 Tunisians and lets 1.400 without documents leave for France pretending not to know anything, but on the other hand is inflexible on the detention of a few hundreds of the same people? This is the contradictory attitude that has caused the breaking out of the protests in all the Italian Cie’s. Especially in Gradisca, where the Cie was wrecked after two days of fires and riots, to the point that today the 100 detainees are forced to sleep on the floor in the only two rooms left available.

translated by Alexandra D'Onofrio