Lina Ben Mhenni was a Tunisian internet activist who maintained the blog “A Tunisian Girl,” where she documented a revolt against an oppressive regime and police violence. The images and articles Ben Mhenni shared helped drive the Tunisian Revolution of 2010–2011 and the Arab Spring that it jumpstarted. Ben Mhenni used her blog, as well as social media, to post photos of people who had been injured and killed by the police, as well as reporting news of a man who set himself on fire to protest police harassment as the revolution began. Her posts broke through the government media blackout, spreading information that enraged and inspired fellow Tunisians to demand an end to human rights abuses. Ben Mhenni’s reporting was also used by journalists abroad to gain information on the revolution.
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Died: January 27, 2020 (Who else died on January 27?)
Details of death: Died of a stroke resulting from complications of lupus at the age of 36.
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Other endeavors: Ben Mhenni spent a year in Boston, teaching Arabic at Tufts University. A transplant recipient, she competed twice in the World Transplant Games, winning a silver medal for athletic walking in 2009. She also worked with the World Organization Against Torture to obtain books for prison libraries — in 2019, she collected more than 45,000 books for prisoners.
Notable quote: “The social movement was spontaneous. There was no political party. It was just Tunisians. People were angry.” —from a 2011 interview with the New York Times
What people said about her: “Amidst a community of determined and brilliant activists, Lina stood out for her compassion, and her relentless dedication to advocating for freedom of expression and women’s and human rights.” —Electronic Frontier Foundation
“I am deeply saddened to hear that our dear friend Lina Ben Mhenni has left us. As a Human Rights defender, she personified the revolution. The vibrant civil society of Tunisian has lost one of its bravest freedom fighters.” —Fredrik Floren, Swedish ambassador to Tunisia
Full obituary: The New York Times