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Cablegate: Response to Call for Nominations: 2008 Secretary's

VZCZCXYZ0003
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #1380/01 2881255
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151255Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3995

UNCLAS TUNIS 001380

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR G/IWI, NEA/MAG, DRL, AND ECA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWMN PREL PHUM KPAO TS
SUBJECT: RESPONSE TO CALL FOR NOMINATIONS: 2008 SECRETARY'S
AWARD FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN OF COURAGE

REF: A. STATE 126072

B. TUNIS 1044
C. TUNIS 986
D. TUNIS 293
E. TUNIS 708
F. 06 TUNIS 1658

-------
Summary
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1. (SBU) Embassy Tunis is pleased to nominate Samia Abbou
for the Secretary's Award for International Women of Courage.
Secretary Rice remarked on International Women's Day that
the day commemorates women, "who are the international
defenders of what President Bush has called the
non-negotiable demands of human dignity." When Samia's
husband Mohamed Abbou was convicted of "defaming the
judiciary" in 2005, after he posted articles online critical
of President Ben Ali (he was released on July 24, see Refs B
and C), Samia had many options. She could have chosen to
remain quiet, avoided the spotlight, and actively distanced
herself from civil society activists. She did not. Instead,
she choose to highlight her husband's cause in the
international arena, calling attention to freedom of
expression and association issues as well as prison
conditions. Her work personifies the defense of human
dignity, and her dedication, courage, and leadership in this
cause have made her an example and an inspiration. End
summary.

2. (SBU) During Mohamed Abbou's two-year incarceration in
El Kef prison (he was released on July 24, see Refs B and C),
Samia Abbou was subject to regular police harassment and
surveillance (Refs D,E, and F). For example, Samia was
routinely followed by plainclothes policemen, who were also
stationed outside her home. On occasion, someone would
rattle her doors and windows late at night frightening her
young children. Police would stop her frequently during her
weekly drives to El Kef prison (a two hour drive from Tunis),
where her husband was incarcerated. Harrassment would
notably escalate whenever Samia took action to promote her
husband's cause, such as meeting with US Embassy officials or
international NGOs.

3. (SBU) Though worried for herself and her family, Samia
found the courage to become an international spokesperson for
freedom of expression and prisoner's rights to call attention
to her husband's cause. For example, on October 16, 2006,
Samia Abbou rallied the wives of other political prisoners
for a one-day hunger-strike to protest their husband's
continued detention. Following the
hunger-strike, police harassment and surveillance of Samia
Abbou and her family dramatically increased, but Samia
continued to speak out. Mohamed Abbou's case received a
significant amount of international attention, and much of
that is due to Samia's work as a spokesperson. Her work drew
attention not only to her husband's case, but to the
challenges faced by civil society activists in general.

4. (SBU) It is important to note that Samia Abbou balanced
the demands of activism with the challenges of suddenly
acting as a single parent. She was a source of compassion
and strength to not only her own family as well as to the
many families that found themselves in similar situations.
It takes a lot of courage to do what Samia Abbou did, and she
did most of it on her own. Samia is currently focusing on
obtaining her law degree and license to practice law. The
legal profession will be lucky to gain a talented, eloquent,
and dedicated defender of human rights.

5. (SBU) While Samia says that her husband's release was,
"the present of a lifetime," the Embassy feels that it is
important to formally recognize her contributions to the
advancement of civil liberties in Tunisia. Freedom of
expression is a central element of any democracy, and as such
is an important element of post's democracy promotion
strategy. Post's efforts are most effective in conjunction
with the efforts of local activists, of which there is a
small but dedicated cadre. Samia and Mohamed Abbou are,
while not young, among the younger members of this group, and
have the potential to become the leaders of a new generation
of activists. They undoubtedly have a long career ahead of
them, but in the meantime, post feels that it is important
to recognize that Samia Abbou did what she did, at great
personal cost, simply because it was the right thing to do.

----------------------
Biographic Information
----------------------


6. (SBU)

Full Legal Name: Samia Hammouda Abbou
Job Title/ Association: Student
DOB: November 3, 1965
Country of Birth: Tunisia
Citizenship: Tunisian
Address: Rue 1 0240 El-Ouardia, Tunis 1009
Telephone: 20 984 225
E-mail address: abboumohamed@gmail.com
Passport Number: z866990

7. (SBU) Samia Abbou was notified of her nomination.
DESJARDINS

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