Art and music are a haven from violence

Youth of popular neighborhoods in Tunisia: We want to come to light

Popular neighborhoods suffer from a lack of infrastructure and a lack of appreciation. Archival

Art is a haven for young people from marginalized popular neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Tunis, striving to dispel stereotypes that characterize them as perverts.

These neighborhoods have been considered popular and impoverished places for decades and shelter delinquents, reinforcing the image of being an environment for growing violence.

Mohamed Ali Ayari, who lives in the densely populated neighbourhood of Douar Hicher, said: "These allegations despise us and complicate our lives."

Ayari, 23, is a goalkeeper and recently won a rap clip in a competition organised by the International Alert Association, which works for the integration of young people in marginalized areas in Tunisia.

The organization selected dozens of young people from the neighbourhoods of Douar Hicher, Fouchana, Tadhamon and Sidi Hassine to express themselves in their own way through music, a documentary and photos addressing the violence.

The organization's coordinator, Hossam Ayari, explains, "There are people who are exposed to violence on a daily basis, some of whom practice it and others who suffer from it. Hence the idea of turning it into cultural activities." In the video, which he produced with the support of the organization, Muhammad Ali repeats phrases such as "I want to come to light."

"Expressing Ourselves"

In a small room he turned into a studio in the middle of informal buildings in the Douar Hicher neighborhood, Muhammad Ali tries to record clips of music he composed with the help of friends in the area.

Wassim al-Tayachi, 22, said, "We chose music to express ourselves, our lives, the lost youth, the state that marginalizes us and the society that rejects us." He believes that it is difficult for people from "popular neighborhoods" to get a job in the labor market or obtain official documents.

Mohamed Ali, who dreams of becoming a famous rapper but is not sure if his dream will come true in Tunisia, adds that these young people, disappointed and frustrated in a country rocked by severe political tensions and social and economic crises, have found rap music a "cure for depression", while many are seriously considering illegal immigration and sea rides to European shores in the hope of a better life. "A state that does not listen to its young people cannot offer them anything," Wassim said.

«The desire to succeed»

Meriem Chourabi, 24, who holds a master's degree in accounting, opened a centre in her Fouchana neighbourhood on the outskirts of Tunis a year ago and co-produced a documentary denouncing the lack of social and economic justice.

She notes that many young people in popular neighborhoods, however, "have a desire to succeed more than others, driven by the difficulty of their situation."

Belhassen al-Jabri, a 26-year-old unemployed engineer, chose photography to send a message to the authorities: "We do not deserve to be marginalized."