Kolna Tounes was founded in January by former members of Afek Tounes, one of many liberal political parties clobbered in elections last October by the moderate Islamists of the Ennahda (resistance) party.
Mr. Ben Ali’s fall has also allowed more hardline currents to emerge, including the ultra-conservative and sometimes violent Salafi movement and the Hizb-ut-Tahrir party. Both want a strictly Islamic state.
For Jlidi, a doctor in Tunis, those developments spurred to conduct politics by other means.
“When you work with people on the ground you can communicate your ideas on society,” says Jlidi. “Islamists occupied the mosques; we’re going to occupy the public space.”
Today Kolna Tounes has around 500 members and offices or representatives in 17 cities, Jlidi says. It has offered charity for the poor and small noninterest loans for business start-ups and backs cultural programs it says embody modern values.
Last month that brought Jlidi and other Kolna Tounes members to a farm near the village of Boukrim, northeast of Tunis, and into partnership with dance teacher Nawel Skandrani.
Mrs. Skandrani, a ballet dancer, crafted the workshop to teach children poise and self-discipline, and thus “some idea of what it means to be a citizen,” she says. “And to give them the possibility to dream.”
Most mornings last week, 34 school-aged children crowded into the farm’s barn, a one-story brick building fitted with a springy wooden dance floor, for lessons in dance and public speaking.