Comments from Tunisian president Kaïs Saïed over the presence of sub-Saharan migrants in the North African country and his talk of a “criminal plan” to change the nation's demographics have provoked a row. Students who come from sub-Saharan Africa now say they are living in fear and have been told to stay indoors to avoid being targeted. Meanwhile some migrant workers have been forcibly evicted from their homes. Lilia Blaise reports on a controversy in Tunisia which is also being exploited by France's far-right failed presidential candidate Éric Zemmour.
The washed-up corpse of an infant girl (photo) was found on December 24th on a beach in Tunisia’s Kerkennah Islands, in almost identical circumstances as that of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, found on a beach in Turkey in 2015. Both drowned during an attempted crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. But while the shocking photo of the little boy’s body made headlines around the world, that of the unidentified little girl has prompted no such interest, nor any political reaction, highlighting a creeping indifference towards such tragedies. Nejma Brahim reports from Tunisia, where she spoke with those who routinely face the horrors of the Mediterranean ‘graveyard’.
It was ten years ago this month that the desperate act of self-immolation by street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid prompted not only the so-called “Jasmine Revolution” that would topple the regime of strongman president Ben Ali, but also set in train the “Arab Spring” revolt that spread across North Africa. Mediapart spoke to three young men from Sidi Bouzid who took part in the 2010 protests over Bouazizi's plight, and who reflect on what has become of their revolt that created hope of a new democratic future for their country. Lilia Blaise reports.
The authorities in Tunisia have been overwhelmed following the shipwreck off neighbouring Libya on July 1st 2019 which left 90 migrants drowned. Graveyards are full, migrant reception centres cannot cope and there is no overall integration plan to welcome migrants into society. The Tunisian government is also critical of the inaction of European countries over the issue. Lilia Blaise reports from Medenine in south-east Tunisia.
A number of fatal road accidents in April 2019 highlighted the plight of many female agricultural workers in the North African country. These women, who have long been regarded as a source of cheap exploitable labour and many of whom live in poverty, are effectively forced to take perilous journeys in the backs of pick-ups and lorries to their place of work. They are now hoping for changes in their work and living conditions. Lilia Blaise reports.
On December 31st 2018 the independent body charged with tackling the abuses committed during the former dictatorship in Tunisia and helping victims was formally wound up after four and a half years of work. But despite the Truth and Dignity Commission's official status it has not received much support from the key organs of the state, including the presidency, in particular on the key issue of corruption. Lilia Blaise reports on the legacy of the commission's work.
Many families in Tunisia take great pride in being able to send their children to university in France. Already the recent fall in the value of the dinar has made it harder for Tunisians to afford to study in French establishments. Now plans by the French authorities to increase tuition fees for students coming from non-EU countries threatens to shatter the dreams of many Tunisians hoping to study in France. Lilia Blaise reports.
Migration has fashioned Tunisia for over two decades, most notably after the uprising that sparked the Arab Spring in 2011, when tens of thousands left a country riddled with unemployment and inequality once old restrictions were lifted. Now Tunisia finds itself in a double bind. It is resisting pressure to house migrants from other African countries trying to reach Europe via its territory, even as a new exodus of its own citizens gathers pace, prompted by economic, political and social distress. Rachida El Azzouzi reports.
Austerity measures imposed in Tunisia at the start of the year in a new public finance law, and which follow a multi-billion-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund, sparked demonstrations across the country earlier this month that were marked by violence. The protests were mostly mounted by the younger population, particularly affected by rising living costs and unemployment. The unrest has rocked the government, whose authoritarian reaction has prompted some observers to draw parallels with the events that led to the downfall in 2011 of Tunisia’s former dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Lilia Blaise reports from the capital Tunis.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) last Friday announced a ban on all women and girls travelling with Tunisian passports to the Gulf state on its national airline Emirates and sister carrier Etihad, citing fears of a terrorist attack. While the ban was lifted after just hours, following outrage in Tunisia and from passengers stranded worldwide, the Tunisian government responded at the weekend with a ban of all UAE flights to and from Tunis. But the events are far from an anecdotal spat, for behind the row is the far deeper conflict of a power battle in the Middle East. Lilia Blaise reports.
The recent decision to end the ban on Tunisian women marrying non-Muslims has been broadly welcomed by progressives in the North African country. But that move followed a controversial law to pardon corrupt civil servants, judges, minsters and ambassadors who served under the regime of ousted strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Meanwhile the current president Béji Caid Essebsi is publicly debating the need to change the country's 2014 Constitution to increase “stability”. Lilia Blaise reports.
Facebook has become one of the foremost media in Tunisia, an alternative to controlled official information; it played an important a role in the 2010 uprising that led to the Arab Spring. But while it remains a tool for mobilising people, it is also now used for the more mundane and trivial, including trolling, rumours and rants. More disturbingly, Facebook has also been be turned against human rights activists, who are sometimes treated by the authorities in the same way as apologists for terrorism. Lilia Blaise reports.
Three new arrests were made on Sunday as French investigators attempt to establish whether Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the 31-year-old Tunisian who drove a heavy truck into Bastille Day crowds in Nice on Thursday, killing 84 people, received help from accomplices in preparing the massacre. Fresh evidence emerged this weekend suggesting he had carefully planned the attack, including CCTV footage of him reconnoitring the scene earlier last week. But despite a claim by the Islamic State group that Bouhlel was a "soldier" for the jihadist group, his motive remained unclear. Meanwhile, French health minister Marisol Touraine said on Sunday that “about 85 people” were still hospitalised after the carnage on July 14th, of which 18, including a child, were in a life-threatening condition. Graham Tearse reports.
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