Hamma Hammami — born January 8th, 1952 in El Aroussa in Northwest Tunisia — is the current spokesman and one of the founders of the Tunisian Workers' Communist Party (POCT). He became its general secretary at the end of July 2011. Hammami is also a professor specializing in Literature and Arab Civilization.
The Tunisian communist has been arrested, tried, and imprisoned on numerous occasions, due to his political activities and criticism of the former regime. He was first arrested in February 1972, when he was imprisoned for one and a half months for participation in an activist movement. He was rearrested in 1974, due to his membership to the unauthorized Tunisian Worker association, and he spent six years in prison from 1974-1980. During this period, Amnesty International recognized Hammami as a "prisoner of conscience."
In 1981, Hammami married Radhia Nasraoui, a lawyer and a member of the executive committee of the Tunisian Bar Council, as well as a human rights activist who has faced persecution and intimidation herself. Together, they have three daughters: Nadia, Oussaïma, and Sarah.
Between 1972 and 1998, Hammami served quite a few prison terms, after being found guilty on a variety of charges, among them: endangering national security, circulating false information, disturbing public order, inciting rebellion and law violations, and holding unauthorized meetings. Due to a number of critical articles that he published in the newspaper El Badil, the newspaper was banned in 1991. On several occasions, Hammami was subjected to forms of torture upon arrest, and international solidarity campaigns were raised in protest of the unfairness of his court cases. After high levels of persecution spread to his family, as well, Hammami went into hiding in January 1998.
On July 14, 1999, the Criminal Court of Tunis sentenced Hammami in absentia to a nine year and three month prison sentence. He chose to continue living in hiding, however, until February 2, 2002, when he emerged to oppose his trial before the Criminal Court of Tunis. The sentence was upheld, however, he was released several months later.
After giving interviews with Al Jazeera, Mubasher, and France 24 in which he criticized the Ben Ali regime, in September 2009 Hammami was physically assaulted in the Tunis airport by men believed to be plain-clothes police officers. He returned to hiding in October 2009 after being summoned by the criminal police.
More recently, Hammami was arrested yet again on January 12, 2011 as a consequence of giving statements to journalists concerning the 2010-2011 Tunisian protests. After being detained for four days, he was released by the interim government under Fouad Mebazaa on January 15th.
Emily recently received her BA in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic from Tufts University in Massachusetts. She is interested in journalism, human rights, and international development, and has previously interned for a human rights research organization in Boston. She arrived in Tunisia in June to begin an intensive Arabic program, and she loved the country so much that she could not bear to leave! She has also lived in Egypt and spent time traveling the Middle East and North Africa.
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