Some are going into politics. Zghaier, the activist who was tortured, belongs to the Democratic Progressive Party (PDP), a key opposition movement during the Ben Ali era. The 29 year old, who adopted the middle name “libre,” French for free, is also a member of the PDP’s “Facebook Committee,” which is to help spread its the party’s message of a market economy tempered by social justice.
The turnaround of Zghaier’s fortunes is particularly dramatic.
On Jan. 7, a week before the fall of the old regime, he was snatched from a Tunis street by plainclothes security agents who put a sack over his head, bundled him into a car and took him for interrogation. For the next six days, Zghaier said he was alternately beaten, threatened, cuffed to a wall, forced to strip and photogaphed in humiliating positions.
Much of the mistreatment, he said, took place in the basement of the Interior Ministry on Avenue Bourguiba _ decried during the Ben Ali years as a torture chamber.
Today, the ministry is ringed by barbed wire and guarded by the military, but in a sign of the new times its officials now communicate with citizens through Facebook.
The ministry’s page, with more than 150,000 followers, explains how to apply for civil service jobs, describes police activities and gives updates on the approval process for parties seeking to run in the elections. As of Monday, 37 were approved, the ministry said. It also listed nine that have been rejected, including some with a radical Islamic bent.
One of those behind the outreach is Sami Zaoui, minister of technology and communications in the interim government. Zaoui, a former consultant for an international accounting firm, told a French radio station last month that his first decision on the job was to lift the Internet censorship that had been enforced under Ben Ali.
The government is aware it’s being closely watched by the activists, said Fatma Azouz, a journalism professor at Manouba University in Tunis. “I am sure that those who went to the streets are capable of going again,” said Azouz. “Any government will be aware of the possibility.”