Cultural rights for a Tunisian-Spanish bridge

Some of the participants to the 2017 Idea Camp in Madrid found their ideas so similar, they embarked on a common project. Beatriz Barreiro Carril and Mondher Tounsi were two of them. We spoke with Beatriz on what convinced them to do so:

Beatriz: When Mondher told me about his idea, I immediately realized that his goal was related with cultural rights as human rights, the same as mine, even if he did not explicitly has formulated his idea in that terms. I had just read then a report of the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights which focused on cultural rights as a counterbalance of radicalism and fundamentalism, and this was the objective both of the Mondher’s idea and mine. Mondher and I only get to know each other the last day of the Idea Camp, but the conversation was really important for me and we were skyping during the next weeks.  We thought that our, at the same time, similar and diverse approaches on cultures and identities could give fresh tools on how to fight against xenophobia and radicalism.

Your common project turned into Culture and Human Rights – as described on your website . What difficulties did you encounter in realizing the first steps of your common project? How did you overcome those?

Beatriz: Yes, that is the short version of the name of the project “A Tunisian-Spanish bridge for counteracting violent extremism and xenophobia through the right to take part in cultural life”. One difficulty we experienced was related to the fact that we realized we need a more direct contact between Kasserine and Madrid team. The theory approach of both projects was highly accurate -based on the approach of the UN Special Rapporteur, as mentioned- but we realized we need “human” contact between Kasserine and Madrid. This was an important challenge to us. And here, our colleague Nevelina Pachova, member of the Spanish team proposed to create a kind of on-line team: Cultural-artistic group Kasserine-Madrid. Kasserine-Madrid is a cultural exchange group through arts literature, painting and new technologies.

We could invite Sihem to be with us in Madrid for participating in this activity with Rey Juan Carlos University, an institution who supported us as well, both from an institutional and financial approach. It was on this occasion that Fundación Sur interviewed our Kasserine-Madrid group.

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As in all projects small moments of “glory” confirm you in your belief you are doing the right thing. Can you describe one of these successful moments? What did it teach you for later steps in your project?

Beatriz: I can think of more than one! but maybe I can tell you about the moment when a school teacher came to me during the second day of our course for teachers in “Casa Árabe”. After arriving home after the first day - it was in July, Madrid is really hot and tiring at that moment of the year - she had been reading news and articles written by journalists and academics on the issue of cultural rights. She told me so many intelligent and appropriate ideas in applying the legal tools I had been teaching about to these school teachers just the day before. This proved to us that our teaching methodology, based on a combination of Law, Theater and Cultural Policies is useful and effective! I was a little afraid that the teachers would find the “Law moments” a little boring. But not at all! It seemed that we achieved to show an attractive and effective methodology - which we can replicate now. One of the participants told us: Congrats! You achieved to give a law lesson without mentioning any number (of articles). I am realizing that I am more and more interested in teaching Law to non-Lawyers: It is very important that citizens can be aware about their rights.

If you compare the project parts happening in Spain and in Tunisia, what differences did you encounter? And what similarities?

Beatriz: A clear difference is the fact that in Spain it is much easier to have access to spaces to organize cultural activities: We are so grateful to Casa Árabe for this! This is not the case of Kasserine, where the creation of the cultural center Kasserine Catalyst asked more energy and more financial investments, since it is not easy to find spaces that fit the project. On similarities, we both face the same challenges concerning stereotypes about identities. We could say that these kinds of biases exist everywhere in the world and that we both need to challenge such biases, as the UNESCO Constitution says  “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”.

What was the biggest surprise you have encountered in the project realization until now?

Beatriz I already knew that there were many things which could be done without financial help, but I am still surprised of seeing how the enthusiasm of young people participating in the project helped turn and idea into a solid basis.

To present and future grantees of the ECF what are your recommendations for the implementation of projects?

Beatriz I would suggest trying to identify people who are already working in the same field. Very often, efforts can be joined. I would also suggest focusing more on the processes instead of getting obsessed with the results. Of course I am aware that basic results needs to be achieved. But when working on cultural identities the process is highly important.

Imagine your project in its’ most successful form: what will it look like? What will it have achieved?

Beatriz I imagine people like René Paul and Alfonso, or other of my enthusiastic students in the future, implementing and improving the methodologies we create during this year in new workshops with children and young people in Madrid for opening bridges with people with diverse identities …

You can order and access the book at the website of  Teseo Press

You can order and access the book at the website of Teseo Press