Ahbab allah (The God Beloved) by Kamal Al-Sharny, Tunisia: Karam Sharif Publications, 2012. 206pp.
Prison literature from Tunisia joins the bookshelves once again. However, for the first time the authoritarian rules of two dictators, Habib Bourguiba (1957 – 1987) and Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali (1987 – 2011), form the political backdrop to these memoirs.
Tunisian journalist Kamal Al-Sharny, describes life under the oppressive regimes that forbad students from protesting and which used the judiciary to jail people for five years for simply daring to join a peaceful march.
Al-Sharny writes from personal experience, after he himself was sentenced to five years. In fact he drafted his first memoirs from inside the horror of Tunisian jails. When the authorities discovered the papers he was punished with solitary confinement three times.
Nevertheless, with the help of other creative prisoners, Al-Sharny was able to smuggle out 462 pages of writing until his release in November 1988.
The horrifying details of life in jail and the daily torture of young students haunt the reader. In particular is the description of Awn, the jailor. He tortures boys in the morning and sleeps happily amongst his own children at night, never sparing a moment to think of those he leaves behind bloodied and broken in their cells.
Al-Sharny also delves into his childhood memories in North-West Tunisia. An uninterrupted education is near-impossible at a time when students were forced to "leave classes for just thinking outside the official discourse", he writes.
Born in Tunisian in 1965, Al-Sharny received his early schooling in a town in the North-West. He was forced to leave high school for over three years when he was imprisoned. Al-Sharny later continued his education in the media and has been a professional journalist in Tunisia since 1989.