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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 United States 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