The Tunisian President’s speech against immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa “marks a sad day”, considers the non-governmental organization Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES). “There has been a criminal agreement since the beginning of the century to change the demographic composition of Tunisia and since 2011 there are parties that receive large sums of money to install immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa in Tunisia,” said Kais Saied.
The statements by the head of state, who started a process of concentration of powers a year and a half ago, are described as “very dangerous” by Tunisian journalist Wejdene Bouabdallah. On Twitter, political scientist Mohamed-Dhia Hammami refers to a “scandalous speech” that reflects “conspiracy theories” spread in the average.
Pointing to several examples on social networks and in mainstream media, Hammami writes that “the statements in which Saied decided to use all forces, including the military, to attack black immigrants, occur in the context of a hateful media campaign”, an “anti-black fascist campaign”. Also on Twitter, Shreya Parikh, who investigates issues of black and Arab identity, writes that Saied “is repeating racist theories of the great replacement theory type that many Tunisians have been repeating for years”.
Éric Zemmour, the far-right commentator who last year ran for the French presidency, seized on Saied’s comments to underscore what he says are the merits of the theory of the “great replacement” of the French population by the Muslim population (with former settlers to colonize the former colonizers), which he has been proclaiming for a long time.
“The Maghreb countries themselves [que, em princípio, fariam parte deste “ataque” demográfico a França] are starting to sound the alarm about increased migration. Now it is Tunisia that wants to take urgent measures to defend its people”, wrote the Frenchman on Twitter. “What are we waiting for to fight the Great Replacement?”
Insisting on the “need to quickly put an end” to the arrival of “hordes of illegal migrants”, Saied said that the presence of these immigrants in Tunisia is a source of “violence, crimes and unacceptable acts”. “The undeclared objective of successive waves of illegal immigration is to consider Tunisia a purely African country with no links to Arab and Islamic nations”, he also defended in this speech during a meeting of the National Defense Council.
“The fact that the President of a country that is a signatory to international conventions on immigration makes such statements is extremely serious”, said the spokesman for the NGO FTDES, Romdhane Ben Amor, quoted by international agencies. “It’s about a racist approach like the campaigns in Europe… this presidential campaign seeks to create an imaginary enemy to distract Tunisians from their basic problems”, he pointed out.
Plunged into a deep economic and social crisis, which has only worsened since Saied dissolved Parliament and assumed executive power on July 25, 2021, Tunisia has been the scene of demonstrations that demand the removal of the head of state. The opposition renewed this demand after the December legislative elections, the first since 2021, and where only 9% of voters voted.
Lack of basic goods
However, according to the monitoring group of average Middle East Monitor, foodstuffs such as sugar, flour and cooking oil are no longer available in stores, “in part because of the desperate state of Tunisia’s finances”. At the same time, the Government continues to detain and prosecute dissidents.
In 2018, after a successful transition to democracy, Tunisia was the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to enact a law criminalizing racial discrimination, a text voted by a large majority of deputies and which was considered a fundamental step to combat racist acts against sub-Saharan foreigners and the black minority, attacks that continue to be frequent.
According to figures cited by the FTDES, there are more than 21,000 sub-Saharan Africans in Tunisia (a country of 12 million inhabitants), most of whom are in an irregular situation and are waiting for an opportunity to try to reach Europe. Black Tunisians make up between 10 and 15% of the population – according to a survey carried out last year by the BBC, 80% of Tunisians consider that racial discrimination is a problem in the country.
After the dissolution of Parliament, recalls Reuters, the first black Tunisian deputy, Jamila Ksiksi, warned that with the political crisis it was likely that discrimination processes would take longer in the courts.