Born in Ksar Hadada – in southern Tunisia, near Tataouine – Amira Yahyaoui spent most of her childhood in Tunis. She is the daughter of Judge Mokthar Yahyaoui, who was dismissed in 2001 following the publication of an open letter to President Ben Ali concerning the lack of independence of the Tunisian justice system.
As a teenager, Amira Yahyaoui became aware of the need to participate in the fight for the respect of the Tunisian people’s fundamental freedoms. In 2004, she left Tunisia for Paris to study mathematics and law. She also hopes to relay her family’s struggles, particularly among the many Tunisian political refugees living in Paris.
She has therefore become active on the Internet and social networks, taking part in several “cyber-rallying” campaigns.
- Support for Fatma Arabicca, a blogger arrested in November 2009
- Support for Slim Amamaou and Yassine Ayari during their demonstration on May 22, 2010 for Internet freedom in Tunisia. Amira Yahyaoui transformed their initiative into a general rally at the Consulate General of Tunisia in Paris.
With the first clashes that followed the slaying of Tarek Bouazizi on December 17, 2010, Amira Yahyaoui has worked to attract the attention of western media to the repression under Ben Ali’s regime. On January 14, 2011, the day Ben Ali fled, she was on the set of a major television news channel, with live commentary on the unfolding events. She returned to Tunis on January 17, though the country is still highly unsettled and its political future still uncertain.
Although the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly was established following the elections of October 23, 2011, Amira Yahyaoui is aware that the revolution is not over and that the newly acquired rights can be withdrawn at any time from the Tunisian people.
Amira Yahyaoui decided to place the citizen at the heart of Tunisian political action by giving them the means to learn about the activities of elected officials and to defend their fundamental rights. In 2012, alongside other activists, she founded the Al-Bawsala organization (compass in Arabic).It concentrates on three areas: the monitoring of the National Constituent Assembly’s legislative work; political advocacy for the empowerment of elected politicians, the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms; support for the development of citizen initiatives.
Al-Bawsala has democratized the challenges of drafting the Constitution by organizing meetings between elected officials and citizens. Amira Yahyaoui studied and ensured every detail. These meetings – during which popular discontent was expressed openly – had a cathartic effect and enabled elected officials to realize the urgency and the necessity to achieve a text that meets the democratic aspirations of the Tunisian people, expressed during the Jasmine Revolution.
By helping to maintain a relationship of trust with elected officials and institutions, Amira Yahyaoui has strongly contributed to helping the latter avoid being rejected by the people of Tunisia. This would would have resulted in an upsurge of violence and increased the risk of Tunisian society exploding.
A bold approach
The presence of Amira Yahyaoui and members of Al-Bawsala at each meeting of the ANC, equipped with video and photo cameras rendered public:
– the parliamentary committees’ reports and conclusions;
– the absenteeism of MPs;
– the regularity of the votes;
– the content of all proposed laws and amendments up for discussion.
Her presence is a conquest. During the first sessions, Amira Yahyaoui was not welcomed in the Tunisian Chamber, and certain lawmakers disapproved of her work. She was not deterred by attempts to block her nor by threats, and a growing number of MPs from all sides now support her.
All information and documents are then collected and posted on Marsad.tn. Accessible to everyone, the platform also provides citizens the biography of each MP, his political affiliation, his participation rates in debates and votes, his votes and sometimes even pay stubs or tax returns. The political affiliation of the deputies does not modify these publications.
The disclosure and compilation of drafts is a major step forward in building a democratic Tunisian society and could only have been carried out thanks to the determination and incorruptibility of Amira Yahyaoui and the other members of Al -Bawsala.
Amira Yahyaoui has managed to put the political accountability of elected officials in a central position within the ANC’s efforts. The goal is to remind officials of the expectations of the Tunisian people, as well as to avoid abuses and irregularities. Thanks to her, the ANC’s efforts have complied to a need for transparency which gives more legitimacy and strength to the Constitution, voted on January 26, 2014. Today, not a single MP doubts Al Bawsala’s right to monitor the ANC’s activities.
To anchor democratic practices within Tunisian society, Amira Yahyaoui and Al-Bawsala are working to establish new monitoring programs that focus on local government and the use of public funding.