Sihem Bensedrine (Foto: privat)
Sihem Bensedrine was born in Tunis in 1950. At the end of the 1970s, she became active in the fight for human rights, by the early 1980s she had become a prominent figure in the Tunisian feminist movement. From 1985 to 1994, she served as a board member of the Tunisian League for Human Rights. Together with other human rights activists, she founded the National Council for Freedom in Tunisia in the late 1990s. As a figurehead of the resistance against the dictatorship of Ben Ali, she had to endure many forms of repression. In 2001, she published texts on corruption and torture; this led to her arrest. In 2002, she was awarded the Johann Philipp Palm Prize for freedom of speech and press. After a visiting fellowship from the Hamburg Foundation for the Politically Persecuted, she continued to live in Hamburg from January 2006 to December 2007 on a grant from the PEN Writers in Exile Program. She is the editor of the online newspaper Kalimatunisie (The Word of Tunisia), gives speeches at the European Parliament, facilitates the training of journalists in Iraq and writes books about Europe, Tunisia and Iraq. In 2005, she co-authored a book with her husband which was published in German as Despoten vor Europas Haustür: Warum der Sicherheitswahn den Extremismus schürt (Despots at Europe’s doorstep: Why the obsession with security fuels extremism). She left Hamburg, when she received a Writers in Exile scholarship from the city of Graz, Austria, moving to Barcelona in February 2010. After the Tunisian Revolution in early 2011, she returned home from exile to participate in the building a democratic state. In the fall of 2011, she won the Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought, which is awarded for contributions to democracy and freedom in the Islamic world. In February 2012, Leykam Publishers released her new book The USB flash drive—a documentary of her travels, activities, complaints, fears and hopes. Today, she is president of Tunisia’s truth commission established in 2013 and workingtoward the exposure of crimes and human rights abuses committed during Ben Ali’s dictatorship, while giving a voice to the victims.