Tunisian Author and Activist Lina Ben Mhenni, (1983-2020)

Tunisian author, journalist, and civic leader Lina Ben Mhenni, who just last week appeared at the Arab Woman Literature Festival in Tunis, died yesterday after a long struggle with lupus:

She wrote up until the very end — about her illness, about Baghdad, about Tunisian politics and civic memory — publishing her final post on the popular “A Tunisian Girl” blog Sunday.

She wrote, earlier this month, about her illness: “I have accomplished a lot in my life, but there has always been a very high price to pay. Behind every smile, there are excruciating tears and pain, needles, dozens and dozens of pills, and days and days in hospitals.”

Her popular blog, which chronicled the unfolding of Tunisian popular uprising, was turned into the book Tunisian Girl; she also published work in Féminismes, ailleurs and Nouvelles de Tunisieand was a gifted public speaker. She was put forward as a nominee for the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2011, when she was just 27, but like many great leaders, was not recognized.

She continued to work in favor of freedom of expression, health care, libraries, and other projects despite the challenges of her health. In 2016, for instance, she led an effort to more tens of thousands of books for prisoners and set up prison libraries.

She wrote and spoke in Arabic, French, and English, and will be widely remembered: