Smart Girl Stories
Lin Ben Mhenni
Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. A Revolutionary Activist, Lecturer For Democracy In Tunisia

A Revolutionary Activist, Lecturer For Democracy In Tunisia

Smart Girl Lina Ben Mhenni, a Tunisian blogger and activist. Despite facing countless challenges and numerous death threats, Ben Mhenni remained fearless in her fight for democracy in her country.

Thanks to the bravery and persistence exemplified by activists like Ben Mhenni, Tunisia is now considered one of the most successful cases of democratic transition in the Middle East. As we see more individuals standing up against injustice all over the world, let us use Ben Mhenni’s story as inspiration for our own efforts towards creating positive change.

Early Life

Lina Ben Mhenni was born on 22nd May 1983. Mhenni was born into a family of activists, both her father and another were activists. Her father was a political prisoner while her mother was a student union movement member. Her background in activism inspired Mhenni to become one.

Mhenni taught linguistics abroad early on in her career during the early 2000s. She moved back to Tunisia before the revolution took place. She continued teaching linguistics in Tunis before she fully immersed herself in the life of activism.

Mhenni was diagnosed with Lupus in 2007, receiving a kidney transplant from her mother. This made her become very vocal about the importance of organ donation, even participating in the World Transplant Games and willing several medals.

Mhenni’s Activism In Tunisia

Mhenni started her blog, A Tunisian Girl which was written in three languages; Arabic, English & French. She was one of the few bloggers to publicly condemn the injustices done by the government to the people of Tunisia during the reign of former Tunisian president Ben Ali. She was brave enough to post photos and videos of protesters getting injured and beaten up by the police during the uprising.

She faced censorship on her social media, and in May 2010 she was among the core organizers of a protest in Tunis to condemn the government’s act of media and internet censorship. She managed to cover the gruelling details of the revolution, including how many Tunisians were massacred by the police. She was one of the few Tunisian bloggers to even work in the government’s reforms to media and information laws and continued tracking press freedom and human rights in the country.

Ben Mhenni was also against the continued corruption in the Tunisian government. She began receiving death threats and required police protection. She termed the Tunisian revolution not only a war fought against Ben Ali but also a war fought on the ground through demonstrations and resistance. She acknowledged that Tunisia’s revolution could not be called an internet revolution. It wasn’t enough to just tweet or publish posts online, a lot of work was needed, and people needed to show up for demonstrations on the streets.

Mhenni together with her father started initiatives to form libraries in prisons to promote culture and counter terrorism. She also spoke about the poor state of hospitals in the Tunisian capital. She continued to speak for these injustices until she died. She was a true inspiration for young women to stand up for what you believe in, no matter how scary it may be.

Inspiring Achievements

In 2011, Mhenni made it to the list of Nobel Peace Prize candidates for her contributions to championing human rights and her activism during the Tunisian Revolution. Although she didn’t win the award she went on to receive lots of international awards, including El Mundo’s International Journalism Prize for her fight for freedom and the Sean MacBride Peace Prize in 2012.

In March 2020, the Tunisian Postal Service also honored her by publishing stamps with her portrait for fighting for the liberty of expression, free access to the internet, and for human rights. In May of the same year, Mhenni was honored by the Delegation of the European Union to Tunisia by launching the Lina Ben Mhenni Prize for the Liberty of Expression. The prize will honor the best literary works fighting for and defending freedom rights and values of democracy shared by Tunisia and the European Union.

Her Death

Ben Mhenni died on 27 January 2020, at 36 years of age, after suffering a stroke from complications of Lupus disease. Her coffin was carried by women as she went to be buried.

Mhenni’s work continues to inspire many women in Tunisia and many fear that there won’t be any other like her. Her life and her dedication to freedom of rights makes her a perfect example of a Smart Girl. We hope that Mhenni’s story will inspire other girls to stand up for what they believe in.

Learn about more inspiring girls on our Smart Girls page, or follow our Instagram page for more stories like this!

Hannah

Hannah

Founder, Smart Girl, Survivor, Champion of womens rights and kids rights

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