Sub-Saharans in Tunisia: The untruths expounded by president Kais Saied

Tunisia’s president has accused civil society of fomenting the country’s colonization by undocumented migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. Kais Saied denounces those who wish to « change the demographic composition » of Tunisia, evoking their « violence and criminality ». His proof? Contacted by Nawaat, the Interior Ministry affirmed that it does not have statistics regarding the number of migrants implicated in criminal activities. A glimpse at the facts exposes the president’s xenophobic fiction for what it is.

Racism and Sub-Saharans in Tunisia: Italian influence or nationalistic lobbying?

Tunisian president’s shocking statement on sub-Saharan Africans in the country sparked xenophobic violence, police arrests, and evictions against them. It reflects Tunisia’s non-receptive migration policies and a security-focused approach. The wave of repression is linked to EU externalization of migration policies, and it is possible that Italian pressure and lobbying by the Tunisian Nationalist Party played a role. In the aftermath of the statement’s release, the Presidency has taken steps to address the criticism that ensued.

Tunisian Nationalist Party: Government-authorized racism

A political party recognized by the Tunisian government is openly displaying its xenophobia and rejection of sub-Saharan migrants. « Racism is a heinous crime punishable by the law. This racist discourse includes the incitation of violence and violates the provisions under Article 9 of the law combating racial discrimination », one jurist says. And yet members of the Tunisian Nationalist Party are clearly benefiting from its ins with authorities, even receiving airtime on television.

« You’re telling me they’re blacks? »: Framing anti-Black racism in Tunisia

In a recent video diffused on different social media accounts, including the account of one highly-followed Tunisian Instagram personality, a crowd of Tunisians vehemently protest the presence of sub-Saharan African migrants in the country. The display of unabashed racism, especially by those who insist that their grievances have nothing to do with racial prejudice, is frighteningly familiar.

Feminist outcry against Tunisia’s electoral law

The new electoral law unilaterally decreed by president Kais Saied spurred outcry among women’s rights advocates in Tunisia. In protest of the new legislation, a feminist movement formed of nine associations staged a sit-in before the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE). As these activists voice demands for absolute parity between men and women in the public sphere, the president’s backwards approach to equality threatens to reverse women’s political gains.

Sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia: Marginalization of a replacement workforce

Some 57 thousand sub-Saharan migrants are currently living in Tunisia, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). To make ends meet, many of them take on precarious, underpaid jobs as builders, servers and agricultural workers. This demographic of foreign workers has replaced a Tunisian workforce that has shown itself reluctant to such economic activities. In the meantime, Tunisian legislation has failed to address what is becoming a dire socio-economic dilemma, as the absence of clear policy leaves free rein to all sorts of abuses against migrant workers.

Access to health care: It’s sink or swim for migrants in Tunisia

Tunisia is home to an ever-growing migrant population. And yet many migrants remain in an irregular situation. In the absence of a complete legal framework for refugees and asylum seekers, access to health services for this heterogeneous community is not only inadequate, but in some cases even non-existent. For certain migrants, their inability to seek proper treatment is a disadvantage with potentially fatal consequences.

Police Impunity & Soccer: Tunisia’s Ultras in the line of fire

« The Omar Laâbidi case has been pushed back to center stage thanks to the « Learn to swim » campaign, and to the efforts of civil society and “Ultras” (groups of soccer team supporters). This has roused the anger of Tunisia’s security apparatus, inciting its recourse to intimidation », says one activist. In the midst of this highly charged atmosphere, police officers are responding through the blows of their batons.

Documentary short film : « Black winter », a lookback at repression in 2021

On the 10th anniversary of the revolution, Tunisia witnessed what has become a usual spike in the number of protests carried out across the country especially during January. What distinguished 2021 from the rest was the diversity of backgrounds and motivations that propelled demonstrations. Among hundreds of Tunisians detained, many were minors; there were illegal night raids, arbitrary arrests, investigative reports that failed to respect detainee’s most basic rights; the suspicious death of a man in his thirties following his arbitrary arrest; another young man was tortured, one of his testicals removed. Neither the perpetrators nor those in power were held accountable for these repressive practices.

Siliana: A Decade After, Victims Still Demand Justice

Over several days in late November 2012, police used birdshot against protesters in Siliana, injuring hundreds of people including demonstrators, journalists covering the demonstration, and bystanders, according to an Amnesty International report at the time. One investigative report by civil society put the number of injured at 178, and at least 20 people lost eyes or sustained severe damage to their eyes. Now, a decade later, these people are still calling on authorities to cover their healthcare costs, extend their social benefits, and hold the officials responsible for the use of birdshot accountable.