TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Tunisians OvercomeTaboos to Find Love on the Web

Tunisians OvercomeTaboos to Find Love on the Web

no email ()
Sun, 30 Apr 2006 23:15:11 -0500

By Tarek Amara and Sonia Ounissi

Tunisian technician Momo Battar says he has dated many women but that,
without the Internet, he would never have found the woman of his

"She has her own particular enchantment and has found the way to my
heart," the 32-year-old says. "We will set up home and start a family

Battar's story is no longer a rare exception in Tunisian society,
where love was once considered taboo among the young, and picking
husbands and wives was the privilege of parents.

Improvements in living standards, advances in women's rights and the
influence of Western culture have prompted many young Tunisians to
look beyond their immediate environment for fulfillment.

Thousands have taken to the Internet to strike up relationships with
people in the next village or on another continent.

Some say it is cheaper than meeting in a cafe, others that the
anonymity of the Internet allows them to overcome shyness.

For 27-year-old barman Adnen, it offered him a ticket to Belgium,
where his new e-girlfriend awaits as he prepares the immigration


When Tunisia hosted an international conference on the Internet last
November, it pledged to create a cybercafe in each village and an
e-mail address for each person by 2009.

According to official figures, a tenth of Tunisia's 10 million people
are already Internet subscribers and 30 percent of citizens have an
electronic address.

About a quarter of the 20,000 users of popular French language chat
room are Tunisians, according to data on the site.

"I spend four hours daily chatting. It's not shameful to get to know
other people and form a relationship through the Internet," said Imen,
a university student.

"Technology was made to benefit from and that's what we're doing," she

Mimi, 28, said the Internet had removed borders and smoothed over
cultural and religious differences, giving her a wider choice in her
search for the ideal man.

"Tunisia's young are so open to different cultures with various norms
that relationships through the Net have become a fact of life," said
Mehdi Mabrouk, a sociologist at Tunisia's Universite Des Sciences
Humaines de 9 Avril.

He said some young people seek love on the Internet as they don't want
to unveil the hidden parts of their personalities.

"We must not forget that the Internet is a kind of mask, which
encourages a fair number of youths and adults to have such experiences
(of love) without fear of the results."


But even as love blossoms in cyberspace, critics of the government say
the authorities are muzzling other forms of Internet debate as never

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said last year that Tunisia has been
restricting access to parts of the Web and jailing citizens for
expressing their opinions on the Internet.

The government dismissed the report. "The access to the Internet is
free in the country. About 1 million users benefit from the services
of the World Wide Web," an official said.

Researchers from the group and the university-based Open Net
initiative tested access to 1,947 sites from around the world last
September and found that 182 of them were blocked to readers in

One cybercafe owner, who asked not to be named, said state repression
had played a part in the rise of dating chat rooms because the forced
closure of many news and information sites means love is one of the
few topics that can still be discussed.

In a sign the government had stepped up monitoring of the Web, six
people from the eastern town of Jerjis were jailed in late 2004 for
using the Internet for "terrorist" crimes. They were freed in February
under an amnesty for 1,600 detainees.

One year ago, a Tunisian court imprisoned lawyer Mohamed Abbou for
3-1/2 years for publishing controversial articles on the Internet,
according to lawyers and human right activists.

The government said Abbou was jailed for inciting the population to
break the law and violence against a female lawyer.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at . Hundreds of new
articles daily. And, discuss this and other topics in our forum at (or)

For more news headlines and stories from Reuters, please go to:

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: Cellular-News: "Cellular-News: Monday 1st May 2006"
Go to Previous message: Spam Daily News: "RIAA, MPAA Alert 40 University Presidents of LAN Piracy"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page