An olive tree for Lina Ben Mhenni

the activist and blogger was honoured at Tunis Garden of the Righteous

The Italian Embassy in Tunis and Gariwo have paid tribute to the political and social commitment, but above all to the courage and determination of Lina Ben Mhenni, a young Tunisian blogger and activist who passed away last January. A new olive tree at the Embassy’s Garden of the Righteous commemorates her numerous battles “in defence of freedom, democracy and the protection of the planet”, in which she often jeopardized her own life.

A restricted ceremony was held on June 30th, with Lina’s family and friends, before the Minister of Human Rights and Relationships with Constitutional Bodies and Civil Society, Ayachi Hammami.

“Lina was a friend of Italy and a righteous for us, who deserves to be commemorated here, because she always worked for justice and good in her life. And she did it with courage, moral resistance and determination”, explained the Italian ambassador in Tunis, Lorenzo Fanara. “There is another reason why we decided to honour Lina. Lina has been a positive example for youngsters and for all those who have lost hope. Democratic society and the rule of law need positive examples. Lina is a source of inspiration for those who do not accept to surrender to frustration”.

Minister Hammami pointed out in his speech that “Lina did not follow any right or left-wing ideology of exclusion, she was actually motivated by positive values that unite those who work to support democracy in Tunisia”.

Lina’s father, Sadok Ben Mhenni, a militant and a former political prisoner, pointed out that “Lina had a special relationship with Italy. And Italy had a special relationship with Lina. This relationship stemmed from our long history, from the exchanges we had and even from hostilities, because they can also bring people closer”.

The President of Gariwo, Gabriele Nissim, stated in a message: “Coronavirus has struck all human beings without distinction and has made us understand that we need to think in a new way about solidarity, democracy, responsibility. We will live in a different world, which we can only rebuild through a new political and moral elite that allows us overcoming selfishness, contrasts, walls dividing nations. This is why Gariwo is committed to valuing all people who seek dialogue and fight against hatred in the name of peace and of respect for others. Lina, who left us so young and suddenly, is a moral reference not only for Tunisia, but also for new generations all over the world. She has taught us the taste of hope and we will not forget her”.

The concept of the garden as a place of gathering and dialogue is shared by Gariwo that has been fostering the creation of Gardens of the Righteous since 2003 to honour exemplary individuals with moral resistance by involving schools, citizens, associations and institutions. This collective commitment has led to the creation of a network that currently involves 138 Gardens of the Righteous in Italy and 12 in the world. The Garden of the Righteous at the Italian Embassy in Tunis, the first one created in an Arab country, was opened in July 2016 and hosts a new tree every year, dedicated to the righteous of the past and of our times. Individuals honoured in this garden include Mohamed Abid, a Tunisian man who was awarded the Gold Medal of Civil Valor for Courage in Italy for sacrificing his life in 2003 to save an Italian woman and two children in difficulty at sea off Agrigento; Mohamed Naceur ben Abdesslem, the guide who saved Italian tourists during the attack at Bard Museum on 18th March 2015; Khaled Abdul Wahab, the 32-year-old man who hid a group of Jews four months during Nazi occupation.

Translated by Valentina Gianoli

6 July 2020

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