Vanessa Szakal

Vanessa Szakal

Vanessa studied French, Spanish, and Arabic at the University of Washington in Seattle. She currently interns at Nawaat where she is able to pursue her interests in news media and the universal right to access to information.

29 December 2017

In November, Lawyers Without Borders (ASF) and the Tunisian Bar Association (ONAT) launched a campaign to speed up the implementation of legislation intended to protect the rights of detainees. It has been almost two years since parliament voted to reform Tunisia’s penal code through the adoption of Law n°5-2016, known more simply as Law 5. And yet statistics and testimonies indicate that misconduct by officials and human rights abuses committed in police stations and detention centers remain commonplace. What will it take for old practices to be replaced by the procedures set out in the new legislation?

25 December 2017

This year’s Documentary Film Festival of Redeyef (RFDR) takes place December 20-24, in the town whose name is almost synonymous with Tunisia’s phosphate industry and its deleterious effects on the surrounding populations and environment. Although the mining basin revolt of 2008 is considered a precursor to the Tunisian revolution in 2011, in 2017 residents affirm without hesitation that here in Redeyef, « nothing has changed ». Now in its fourth year, the RFDR, funded by the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation, is pushing to establish a perennial film festival here, a so-called difficult terrain that is parched for sustainable cultural outlets.

19 December 2017

How much will US Congress carve out for Tunisia in 2018? The jury is still out, and even though the fiscal year began October 1, Washington has yet to approve the new budget, including foreign funding amounts. An article* published earlier this month on The Hill urges senators to remember Tunisia while finalizing the budget for the coming year. « Tunisia is an American ‘soft power’ success story—let’s keep it that way », the author writes, arguing that with US foreign assistance « there is reason to believe that the rule of law and democratic institutions will prevail », whereas cuts in funding to the country would represent « a serious mistake ».

04 December 2017

On December 1, Tunisians celebrated the birth of the prophet Muhammad with assidat zgougou, a pudding-like dessert garnished with nuts, dried fruits, and candies. For one day out of the year, families savor this uniquely Tunisian treat made from zgougou, seed of the Aleppo pine tree that grows abundantly throughout the Mediterranean. With some 360 thousand acres of Aleppo pine forest in Kasserine, Siliana, Kef and Bizerte, Tunisia is the only country where the tree’s black-grey seeds are harvested for human consumption.

01 ديسمبر 2017

يُصادف أول يوم من شهر ديسمبر لهذه السنة، ذكرى المولد النبويّ، الذّي يحتفل به التونسيّون عادة بإعداد ما يعرف بعصيدة الزقوقو. موسم جني الصنوبر الحلبي، المعروف محليّا باسم “الزقوقو”، انطلق منذ بداية شهر نوفمبر الجاري في شمال البلاد أين تتواجد أشجار الصنوبر بكثافة. إثر لقاء جمعنا بمحمد مختار، مدير وكالة استغلال الغابات، التابعة لوزارة الفلاحة، والتّي تقدّم كلّ موسم عرض طلب لاستغلال مقاسم غابات الصنوبر الحلبيّ، توّجه فريق نواة إلى أحد غابات بنزرت أين انتقلت خمس عائلات بأسرها لتعمل حتّى شهر ماي في جني حبوب “الزقوقو”. في قصّة الباي، بمعتمديّة ماطر، وعلى امتداد 50 هكتارا، تنتشر بعض الخيام الرثّة التي تأوي العملة وعائلاتهم خلال موسم الجني الذّي يتزامن مع فصل الشتاء الصعب في تلك المنطقة الجبليّة.

20 November 2017

A buxom young woman steps lightly from the water, carrying a jug at her hip and holding her sefsari above her head. Hooped earrings hanging down to her throat, bangles on her wrists, gold coins across her chest. She emerges, barefoot onto a muddy shore strewn with—red bottle caps, a packet of Camel blue cigarettes, empty plastic bottles. A fare 18th century maiden in a most unlikely environment. The scene is one of many diffused via Zabaltuna, a digital campaign that denounces Tunisia’s waste management problem, an increasingly noxious environmental and public health issue especially since 2011.

17 November 2017

On November 15, after nearly two weeks of fervent critique and promises of public demonstration, the Interior Ministry stepped in to stay a polarized debate around a bill concerning the repression of abuses against armed forces. In an attempt to appease security unions backing the measure and civil society groups opposing it, Interior Minister Lotfi Brahem insisted before parliament’s General Legislation Commission on Wednesday that the Ministry is taking the concerns of all sides into consideration. Brahem proposed the creation of a joint committee to draft a new law that will protect security agents and their families « with consideration for human rights principles and in respect of constitutional provisions ». For now, the current controversial text remains in parliament for further examination.

18 October 2017

Over the next year, Tunisian cartoonists will take turns drawing and debating with students and prisoners throughout the country. « Dessinons la paix et la démocratie » [Let’s draw peace and democracy], is a collaborative project of Cartooning for Peace, the Arab Institute for Human Rights (IADH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). A two-day training which took place September 6-7 at the IADH in Tunis marked a first exchange between after-school educators, prison staff and six cartoonists.

22 September 2017

Moustached, tatoo-clad characters, toothy creatures with large heads and tiny wings, speech bubbles containing gangly Arabic script invade whatever empty space Jawher Soudani gets his hands on. Vacant walls and buildings in Sfax, Kef, Sousse, Hammamet, Beja, Djerba and Gabes—the artist’s birthplace—have provided an outdoor canvas for Soudani, more commonly known by passers-by as Va-Jo. This September marks a first: a solo exposition at Atelier Y in La Marsa, Tunis.

17 September 2017

September 7-10, the International Feminist Art Festival of Tunis, Chouftouhonna, took place at the National Theater in the capital’s old neighborhood of Halfaouine. The former palace of Grand Vizier Khaznadar, rarely open to the public, was transformed for the event into a living museum: for four full days, every corner of the palace, its renovated theater, gallery rooms, courtyard, dim hallways and bright stairwells were occupied by art installations, performances, workshops and debates animated by women. Since the first edition in 2015, the festival has grown three-fold, drawing not only new participants, but artists and activists from near and far who affirm that they are in it for the long-run.

11 Sep 2017

Après quatre ans de lutte, la mutuelle tunisienne des artistes, des créateurs et des techniciens du milieu culturel est devenue une réalité. L’arrêté du 8 août 2017 paru dans le Journal Officiel de la République Tunisienne (JORT) du 25 août 2017, consacre sa structure, ainsi que son statut légal et indépendant. A travers cette « structure de solidarité » impliquant tous les intervenants du secteur culturel, les fondateurs de la mutuelle, un groupe d’artistes et de syndicalistes persévérants, pourront mieux défendre les réformes qu’ils proposent pour une couverture sociale décente et inclusive. Au premier rang, Mounir Baaziz, un infatigable cinéaste déterminé.

21 August 2017

Towards the beginning of the summer months, Tunisia’s Ministry of Tourism and sector operators announced their expectations for an improved tourist season. At the start of June, the National Tourism Office (ONTT) calculated the number of tourist arrivals for January through May 2017 to be nearly double (46.2%) that of the same period last year. Media reports on the ONTT’s numbers displayed a range of enthusiasm « It’s going much better! »—to reserved optimism—« Tourism is going (a little bit) better ». On the ground, Tunisia’s seaside hotels are mostly full, its beaches packed with locals and visitors from near and far. Air-conditioned restaurants and cafés are bustling. The shaded, winding passageways of Tunis’ Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are also teeming with people. Does this mean that business is in full swing for the souk’s craftsmen and vendors?

18 August 2017

Voter registration for Tunisia’s municipal elections closed on August 10, bringing the total number of citizens registered to over 5.7 million. Of the 1.3 million Tunisians living abroad, 8,838 registered to vote in the elections scheduled for December 17th. As the country prepares for its first district-level elections since the revolution, the Fédération des Tunisiens pour une Citoyenneté des deux Rives (FTCR) and partnering organizations are leading a discussion on the role of Tunisian immigrants in local governance in their towns and cities of origin.

14 August 2017

While media outlets and Tunisia’s Ministry of Tourism are understandably eager to paint a convincing portrait of the country’s tourism come-back, not everyone sees growth from the same perspective. On the ground, Tunisia’s seaside hotels are mostly full, its beaches packed with locals and visitors from near and far. The shaded, winding passageways of Tunis’ Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are also teeming with people. Does this mean that business is in full swing for the souk’s craftsmen and vendors? Nawaat took a walk up and down the Medina’s main tourist circuit to find out.

12 أوت 2017

تذهب التصريحات الرسمية إلى أن القطاع السياحي يشهد انتعاشة لسنة 2017، إذ أشارت وزيرة السياحة أول شهر أفريل الفارط إلى أن عدد السياح الوافدين على البلاد تطور بنسبة 33,5 بالمائة مقارنة بسنة 2016. من جهته أشار تقرير المنظمة العالمية للسياحة إلى أن تونس تعد من بين الوجهات السياحية العالمية القابلة للتطور في المستقبل. الإقرار الرسمي بانتعاشة السياحة التونسية ينطلق من مقاربة كمية لعدد السياح الوافدين على البلاد. ولكن إلى أي مدى يساهم الارتفاع العددي في تحسين حياة الفاعلين في القطاع السياحي؟ في سياق البحث عن إجابات لهذا التساؤل، ذهب موقع نواة إلى المدينة العتيقة بتونس، التي تعد وجهة كلاسيكية للسياحة، هناك يتحدث التجار عن تصوراتهم للواقع السياحي لسنة 2017 من خلال تجاربهم الخاصة.

05 August 2017

A pair of worn sneakers dangles from an electric wire stretching between telephone poles, of little consequence to the pigeons perched close by and pedestrians on the street below. How many of them look up and wonder about the shoe fixture slung overhead? This is just the sort of mundane urban detail that intrigues Mourad Ben Cheikh Ahmed, creator of the blog « Lost in Tunis ». In his most recent post, Mourad shared a series of photos accompanied by a brief explanation: « shoe tossing, or shoefiti (shoes + graffiti) is undeniably a form of street art ».

03 Aug 2017

Sur la côte du nord-ouest tunisien, à 18 km de la frontière algérienne, s’étendent les plages rocheuses de Tabarka. Sur leurs nids perchés en haut des poteaux, les cigognes ressemblent à des statues. Des lauriers-roses bordent l’autoroute qui mène vers la ville. Un énorme saxophone de 6 mètres occupe le carrefour à l’entrée de la ville. Ici, et aussi sur la gigantesque contrebasse au centre-ville, des affiches bleu-ciel annoncent le Tabarka Jazz Festival, qui s’est tenu du 22 au 29 juillet 2017. Cette édition qui marque le comeback du festival, permettra-t-elle à la ville de redorer son image et accroitre sa compétitivité en tant que destination touristique ?