Thursday, September 8, 2016

face to face with tunisia


Asma Laabidi
Asma Laabidi was born in El Kef in northwestern Tunisia in 1989. She studied bio-engineering and works in audio-visual production. She is also a social and political activist and has been a citizen journalist.
Tunisia Black Man Gadames II
Fighting marginalization at home
Looking for Black Power
While many Tunisians consider their country tolerant, blacks say they face regular racial discrimination.
28/5/2013 | Tunis
"We are suffering from the policy of elimination and discrimination," said Maha Abdulhamid, a young black woman and unemployed graduate from Gabes, in southern Tunis, where many black Tunisians live.
Abdulhamid bitterly speaks about her feelings of elimination and discrimination on many levels. She cannot find work and her race, she believes, is an obstacle. She does not understand foreigners' amazement when she tells them that she is a black Tunisian. "The Tunisian media obscures us and no political position is given to black Tunisians so how would the world know there are black people in Tunisia?" she wondered.
Abdulhamid is a member of 'Adam for Equality and Development' (AED), an activist group working against racial discrimination. Along with 'Our Dream,' AED joined trade unions and political parties along Avenue Bourguiba in downtown Tunis this past International Workers Day and raised slogans somewhat new to Tunisians: “No To Racism.”
Elephant in the room
"Racism is alive and well in our country and we experience it every day," said Saadiya Musbah, chairwoman of 'Our Dream'. "More painful than racism itself is denying that it actually exists. It remains the elephant in the room."
'Wasif,' – a derogatory term white Tunisians use to refer to black Tunisians and (sub Saharan) Africans, which translates as 'slave' or 'servant'— is still used, Musbah said.  She argued that Tunisians' ignorance about the term's origin allows the word’s continued use without any understanding about its offensive nature.
"Tunisian Black women often do not have a choice but to marry black men since they, even those with university degrees, are rejected by white families as possible wives for their sons," Musbah explained.
Anti-racism campaigns
The protest on May 1st coincided with advocacy campaigns on social networks by Tunisian activists who denounced a taxi driver’s assault of a black passenger this past April. When the passenger escaped, the driver pursued him with some accomplices to the passenger's building where sub-Saharan African students live and allegedly shouted racial terms and threw stones.
Social network users and human rights activists in Tunisia condemned another incident when African travelers received harsh and inhumane treatment after an African young man posted an article on his blog complaining how officers at Carthage Airport allegedly discriminated against him because of his race.
Activists say they spot racial discrimination on a daily basis. They stress that such practices exist in kindergartens, schools and even in taxis. Local authorities have not conducted any studies about racial discrimination in Tunisia and the constitutional draft does not include any articles that criminalize racial discrimination against Tunisians or foreigners.
First Arab country
Tunisia marked, for the first time, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last March with the motto 'Tunisia thrives with all its colors.' Tunisia was the first Arab and Muslim country to abolish slavery by Ahmad I ibn Mustafa in 1846, who considered all those born in Tunisia to be free people.
Image: Eric LAFFORGUE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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