In response to the increasing prosecution of rappers in Tunisia as part of a broader crackdown on free expression by the country’s Islamist government, rappers in the country have formed a union. The organization’s purpose, however, is significantly different from traditional labor unions. As an activist body championing the right to creative expression, “The national union of rap artists aims to save the sector from marginalization and unify them under a legal structure, ensuring their rights and defending them against abuses,” union head Wajdi Bouzaydi announced on Thursday, October 10, according to AllAfrica.com.
The National Rap Union will operate under the umbrella of the General Confederation of Tunisian Workers, and will work with Tunisian authorities to mitigate the growing state antagonism to the rap community. In September, a rapper named Klay BBJ was imprisoned for a six-month term on charges of insulting the police; his co-performer from that evening, Weld El 15, is reportedly on the lam. Due in part to the efforts of the new union, a public outcry on the matter spurred Klay BBJ’s acquittal last Thursday, October 17, in a separate case (also related to insulting the police) that carried a maximum penalty of two years in jail. Two additional performers, Mustapha Fakhfakh and Aymen El-Fikih, face similar charges relating to their vocal participation in protests against the Klay BBJ trial.