Tunisia: Million Rural Women stand in solidarity with the land struggles in Siliana

The movement to occupy state lands began in Chouaïgui and Dakhla in the governorate of Manouba, where the Million Rural Women and Landless Association was founded to lead movements and protests by landless peasants to reclaim their ancestral lands and wrest them from bands of capitalist investors exploiting hundreds of thousands of hectares without authorization.

This movement led to a campaign of repression and imprisonment out of fear from those in power, who were concerned about a repeat of the successful experience in Jemna, where peasants claimed and transformed these lands into a paradise serving the community. The experience of Dakhla-Chouaïgui garnered the support and commitment of lawyers and activists, with the martyr Chokri Belaïd at the forefront.

In 2021, a group of women and men peasants launched a movement to reclaim lands from speculative investors in Siliana, particularly in Henshir Laqasba, where dozens of workers and farmers organized a sit-in lasting for months.

This resulted in a series of arrests and trials involving nine peasants, including their comrade Turkia Chaibi, president of the Million Rural Women and the Landless Association, who supported and guided them. This trial has been ongoing since 2021.

The response was organizational, leading to the establishment of a regional branch of the Million Rural Women and the Landless Association in Siliana and five local branches in the depths of Fériana. The solution lies in organization, training, and education, with the association organizing training sessions in ecological agriculture and promoting the rights of peasants based on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP).

On April 17, 2024, the appeal trial coincided with the International Day of Peasant Struggles.

Consequently, around 100 association members and their supporters from various regions of Siliana gathered outside the court to demand an end to judicial prosecution and justice for farmers. They then headed to the site of the initial sit-in, Henshir Laqasba, where they were welcomed by local residents and held a public meeting with speeches, including one by Turkia Chaibi, who commemorated the peasant martyrs of that day and highlighted the Million Rural Women and the Landless movement. Slogans were chanted outside the court and at the sit-in site.

“Land, Freedom, National Dignity”, “Stop the prosecution, end the prosecution”, “Right of access to land”, “Long live April 17, International Day of Peasant Struggles”

Report by Million Rural Women and Landless Association