Tunisia: rappers form a union, defend freedom of expression

Singers and artists join forces after a wave of arrests

10 October, 19:28

    Tunisian rapper Alaa Yacoubi aka 'Weld El 15' released from prison [ARCHIVE MATERIAL] Tunisian rapper Alaa Yacoubi aka 'Weld El 15' released from prison [ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

    (by Diego Minuti) (ANSAmed) - TUNIS, OCTOBER 10 - Tunisian rapper Klay BBJ, 22, is serving a six-month prison sentence for singing the anti-establishment song No Pasaran to a holiday crowd last August in the resort of Hammamet.

    A former boxer, Klay BBJ named himself in honor of Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali, and became a rapper after a difficult personal life. Now incarcerated along with criminals with whom he has nothing in common, he is just the most recent Tunisian artist who has chosen to speak out through rap against a society that has turned out to be a far cry from the one he and his fellow citizens dreamed of with the 2011 fall of the Ben Ali regime.

    Another famous Tunisian rapper, Weld el 15, incurred the same fate for singing the righteous rage of youthful rebellion against a world that offers them nothing. Post-revolutionary Tunisia is a controversial country, in which singing can endanger the singer, as can shooting a movie or a documentary that crosses the lines imposed by a strict morality that often turns out to be just a facade.

    So Klay BBJ and his fellow artists have decided to unite in the world's first rappers' union.

    Born under the guidance of a minor trade federation called the CGL, the rappers union has little to do with work contracts and a lot to do with sending a signal to the powers that be. These appear unable to take any criticism, no matter where they come from, and especially if they call for social change.

    Meanwhile, Klay BBJ has spent his first weeks behind bars in a cell packed with another 145 detainees, and has been transferred from prison to prison for no apparent reason.

    While prison transfers usually occur by family request or because of prison brawls, the young rapper's lawyer says neither situation has occurred. The transfers therefore appear to be punitive measures against the singer for having expressed his rage.

    ''I am not a criminal'', Klay BBJ made known from Mornaguia prison. ''I only exercised my right to a different opinion''. But maybe this is a crime in today's Tunisia. (ANSAmed).

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