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Tunisia: Book Readers to the Streets!

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Tunisia, Arts & Culture, Education, Literature, Protest, Youth

Following weeks of demonstrations in Tunis, a new event has been announced, called “L'avenue ta9ra” [1], or “The avenue reads”. The plan is for Tunisians to bring their books to Habib Bourguiba Avenue, the most symbolic thoroughfare of the capital, and take part in a collective reading session.

The announcement on the event's Facebook page says [1] [fr]:

Et si on envahissait l'avenue ? Pas avec nos cris ni nos manifs mais avec nos livres.
L’idée est, comme d'habitude, simple: le mercredi 18 avril à 17h, on se déplace vers l'avenue, on s'installe dans les cafés, sur les bancs publics, sur les marches des escaliers, un livre à la main pendant une heure.
Pas la peine que l'on se connaisse, que l’on se parle…on va se reconnaitre par le fait d'avoir un livre à la main
Ça sera la première manif silencieuse sur l'avenue, sans revendication politique; prouver et montrer que les Tunisiens lisent, que ceux qui vont changer le monde sont ceux qui lisent.
Il est temps de rappeler que notre peuple est impliqué, cultivé et lettré.
Invitez vos amis, soyez nombreux, créons l'événement.
Tous à vos livres !!!!!


"L'avenue ta9ra" (The avenue reads). Image from event page on Facebook.

And what if we took over the avenue? Not with our chanting and demonstrations, but with our books.
As usual, the idea is simple: on Wednesday April 18 from 5pm, we'll head to the avenue, and for an hour sit in cafés, on benches, on steps, a book in hand.
It's not necessary to get to know each other, talk to each other…We'll recognise each other just by holding a book.
It will be the first silent demonstration on the avenue, with no political demand; we want to prove and show that Tunisians read, that those who will change the world are those that read.
It is time to remember that our people are engaged, educated and literate.
Invite your friends, come in great numbers, let's create the event.
To your books!!!

This event follows the recent lifting of the protest ban [2] on Habib Bourguiba Avenue, as well as the brutal assault [3] of peaceful demonstrators by the police. Unlike recent anti-government rallies [4], it claims to be apolitical.

Tunisian blogger Abdelkarim Benabdallah [5] is behind a similar initiative called “Les amis du livre” [6] (Friends of the book) [fr]. On Facebook the members share book suggestions, discuss their choices and organise votes to choose future locations for gathering.

There have been few cultural rallies in Tunisia since the uprisings of 2011 [7]. However, young Tunisians are once again taking the lead and intend to make these collective reading sessions more frequent and common across the country.