Lina Ben Mhenni on Next Generation Please!

Who is your European icon and why?

It is always hard to answer such a question as: “who is your European icon?” Indeed, it is hard to have just one icon. My answer might be the marvelous and great Stephane Hessel[1] for all what he did, he is doing and he will be doing for humanity; for his tenacity, the sincerity of his indignation and the strength of his commitment, his relentless advocacy for democracy, freedom and human rights as well as the ease with which he communicates with young people and children. It might also be the “Indignés” of Spain and elsewhere as they have started to draw the contours of a better and fairer world. Their indignation rapidly spread to different cities all around the world. They are continuing to resist and to carry out direct actions despite the violence and the raids of the police. They are just allowing us to dream and to have hope.

But let me say that particularly in light in the latest developments in my country and in the Arab world, my European icons are all those people I had the opportunity to meet while travelling around Europe to take part in conferences, forums and festivals, those people with whom I had the opportunity to communicate in several European cities, towns and villages. Indeed thanks to our exchanges I am more and more convinced that despite its diversity humanity is but one. They have convinced me that it is possible to act as a global citizen.

Each time I have been invited to talk about my country, about our revolution and the Arab Spring, the conference room had been overcrowded with generous people eager to understand what is going on in Tunisia and in other Arab countries, eager to be part of the change and ready to help.

I will never forget the tears I saw down the cheeks of many of the people who were carefully listening to my speeches. I will never forget the sweet words I have heard and that will always resonate in my mind. Those people who feel the sufferings of the oppressed and who are ready to do whatever they can do to make the difference.  In very dark times, be sure that those people will be present to help humanity.

You are a communications/PR advisor and are free to remake the EU’s image. What would you do first?

If I were a Communications/PR advisor I would focus on three major issues to remake the EU’s image.

I will start by the improvement of the image of Europe as actor for peace. There are very dangerous developments in the international arena and Europe is a major player. International conflicts and disagreements should be settled peacefully. Indeed, Europe has to avoid engagement in international wars. Europe should be a support to freedom, democracy and the protection of the environment.

Then, I will bring into line the issue of illegal immigration. Sorting out the illegal immigrants should be one of the priorities of the EU. The 13th article of the Universal Human Rights Declaration: “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country” should be put into practice. It is unfair to see that Europeans move freely without any constraints or restrictions all over the world while they are depriving some people from entering their territories.

Finally, I will focus on the importance of new technologies and the necessity of providing computers and Internet connection to all those people who don’t have access to them in Europe as well as outside its frontiers. Nowadays facilitating communication and the circulation of the flow of information is very crucial to help improving the world and changing it to the best. What happened in the Arab world, the series of revolution that started in Tunisia and spread across the Middle East to reach Europe and other parts of the world are but a proof to the importance of IT in our life. The Access to information and the access to Internet should be listed as fundamental human rights.

[1] This article was published before Stephane Hessel passed away in February 2013