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Watch the new interview with Abdel Aziz Belkhodja on the Freedom Collection. Belkodja is a Tunisian writer, publisher and democracy advocate. In 2003 he penned a satirical novel called The Return of the Elephant in which he criticized the authoritarian regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Belkhodja’s narrative is set 100 years in the future where Tunisia has become an influential, democratic nation pitted against a tyrannical United States. This fanciful portrayal of the U.S. worked to spotlight the repressive policies being practiced by Ben Ali’s government. Commenting on censorship under Ben Ali, Belkodja said, “Living in Tunisia for a writer who likes politics, who defends his values is very difficult because the censorship was very, very strong…On television it's very strong. On the theater it's less strong. And in books, it's less strong than in the theater because with books, you can't touch more than a few thousand people. But I found a way to circumvent the censor.” Beyond his literary criticism of the Tunisian government, Belkhodja challenged the regime more directly via the Internet. In the midst of the country’s 2010-2011 revolution, he appealed to army, police and government officials to abandon Ben Ali. After the fall of Ben Ali, Belkhodja helped found the Tunisian Republican Party and served as its leader. The Republican Party joined the Democratic Modernist Pole, a coalition of four political parties and several civic initiatives, which ran in Tunisia’s constituent assembly elections in October 2011. Watch his interview here.
This post was written by Christopher Walsh, Program Coordinator of the Freedom Collection.
Christopher Walsh serves as a Manager for the Human Freedom Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, Christopher manages communications, evaluation, and public policy research projects that advance freedom and democracy in the world. He also develops and implements efforts to make the Bush Institute a welcoming place for today’s generation of dissidents and democracy advocates, overseeing visits for training, inspiration, and insight.
Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Christopher worked with the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C. As IRI’s program officer for Central and Eastern Europe, he coordinated political party building and civic advocacy programs in the Balkans and Turkey.
A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Christopher is a graduate of American University with a B.A. in International Studies. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and three young children.Full Bio
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