Tunisian social networks have been in full swing for two days following the intervention of security forces in Lotfi Abdelli’s show. Between those who defend freedom of speech and those who defend good morals, the “debate” rages… Is it already a debate? Can we say that exchanges on social networks are a form of “debate”?
However, Sunday 7 August got off to a good start. The comedian Lotfi Abdelli, one of the most famous and appreciated on the Tunisian comedy scene, shared a “live” in which he promises Sfaxien a show like no other. Showing the camera dozens of “mraoueb” (boiled eggs) he bought with his team to boost himself, he shows genuine impatience to meet the “magnificent” audience at the Sfax International Festival and its five thousand spectators.
When the evening came, however, things did not go as planned. Lotfi Abdelli was equal to himself, that is, a humorist who pushes the lines by using a lexicon that deviates from the uses. Nothing special compared to Jean-Marie Bigard, Laurent Baffie, Jeff Panacloc or Paul Mirabel. Even Abdelli might seem like a saint compared to them.
Except that here the encyclopedia does not pass on to everyone. The same person who utters obscenities in the street and laughs loudly in front of insolent foreign comedians suddenly becomes a puritan and advocates good morals when a Tunisian artist or creator dares to speak below the belt on television, in the theater, even in the cinema. The same Tunisian who subscribes to IP TV and its hundreds of pornographic channels and to Netflix and its hundreds of films and series defending LGBT and gay couples categorically rejects a nude scene on a Tunisian TV channel or that a fiction evokes homosexuality. This same Tunisian who is hardly offended by the skimpy clothing that tourists approach in the summer, but who wants to cover his fellow citizens from head to toe or insult them in the street. The same man who, when he lives abroad, accepts that we eat on the terrace in front of him during Ramadan, but accuses his non-fasting fellow citizens of disrespecting his faith and undermining his feelings as a believer.
Lotfi Abdelli deviated from this unspoken orthodox rule, uttering obscenities (shit), insinuating others and throwing long fingers. A large part of the theater where the show takes place laughed, according to the videos circulating on social networks. Another party preferred to leave the premises.
“The Sfaxians are conservative and like to go to the theater with their families, they don’t need to put up with that kind of vulgarity! Lotfi Abdelli did not respect the public, Lotfi Abdelli did not respect families, Lotfi Abdelli does not make art, Lotfi Abdelli is vulgar, period,” exclaims one of his critics.
But what were these front puritans doing in a show by someone who has always drawn on this register? They expected to see Molière when they went to see Abdelli? Those who pay to see Abdelli on stage are well aware of the artist’s record and his crude way of criticizing.
Unfortunately, the problem is no longer there. Kaïs Saïed’s Tunisia is well below.
The scene where we see the middle finger was quite special because this finger was not aimed at just anyone, it was aimed at the president of the republic, the government and the various high officials. Scandal! The police come on the scene, it’s busy. The spectators, reportedly shocked by the remarks, attack the actor and his producer Mohamed Boudhina. He is physically assaulted. Everyone freaks out. Lotfi Abdelli escapes a real beating in extremis. The show is interrupted, and we therefore decide to postpone all shows.
On the night from Sunday to Monday, the security associations step up and call on the police to no longer secure Lotfi Abdelli’s shows.
A union man goes out on Monday morning to say that the police are there to maintain good morals and good taste and that from now on they will stand down whenever these are hit!
The Department of the Interior, for its part, gives a lighter version, claiming to be Republican. He thus denied any refusal by the security forces to secure Lotfi Abdelli’s show, suggesting that the latter had attacked the security institution with an obscene gesture, which angered the units deployed to secure the show.
He added that the security guards remained on site until the end of the show and that they had also followed the comedian back to his hotel.
The department stated that, upon hearing, the prosecution had ordered the initiation of an investigation into the circumstances under which this incident took place, in addition to an administrative investigation at the Ministry of the Interior.
On the artist’s side, however, we have a different story. His lawyer denies the Home Office, saying that the comedian had to leave Sfax in the back of a pick-up covered with a tarpaulin and a stepladder. “The police did not accompany him to the hotel, this is false,” she told Business News, specifying that what happened is very serious and that the police are giving themselves unlimited powers with complete impunity. .
It is also false to say that the comedian attacked the security establishment with an obscene gesture because the gesture was not specifically directed at the police, it was directed at the ruling class.
Monday evening, attacked from all sides, Lotfi Abdelli confirms in a Facebook post that he has decided to leave the country definitively. “You stole what little hope I had!” “, he concludes dejectedly.
On Tuesday morning, the League for Human Rights came out and warned against a possible transformation of the police into militias “for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice”.
Back on social networks, some applaud the behavior of the security guards and launch “good riddance” against the comedian, who is considered vulgar and who is denied the title of artist and creator.
Others point out the danger of what is happening before our eyes! “But what right have the police to interfere with artistic work, no matter how good the work is! “, we can read here and there.
Regardless of what we say, there are new facts happening before our eyes, with the blessing of the Home Office.
Never, never, have the police in the past interfered in judging the quality of artistic work.
In self-respecting countries, dozens of artists take to the stage every night to openly insult the police, without the latter reacting. It’s called freedom of speech.
If we follow the logic of the security unions, someone like Coluche or Dieudonné would have been lynched alive in Tunisia!
The police have a mission that is well defined by law, everywhere in the world. She is there to secure certain places and doesn’t need to get mad. If the artist defames or insults her, all she has to do is file a complaint!
Moreover, and about the quality of Lotfi Abdelli’s works, anyone is free to judge him vulgar. But as far as we know, Abdelli never forced anyone to visit him! Its record is known, and the Puritans and other elitists need only boycott it!
Unfortunately, the truth is simpler. Those who call themselves Puritans are the same who laugh at the obscenities of French artists. Those who call themselves elitist have never expressed any quality criticism of any artistic work. Why ? Because they pretend to be what they are not. True puritans and elitists did not feel concerned at all about Lotfi Abdelli and never saw his achievements. If so, they don’t even know who it is.
As for the police, their response to the middle finger seems a little too simplistic. This is not the first time she has been attacked by artists. What bothered our police on Sunday night was that Lotfi Abdelli directly attacked the President of the Republic. In order to be seen well by her superiors, she sought to create a controversial incident. Goal reached right on target.
With his show and his eventual departure, Lotfi Abdelli exposed the schizophrenia of the Tunisians and the opportunism of the police and testified to the death of freedom of expression in Tunisia.
Raouf Ben Hedi