Author Archives: huda mzioudet

About huda mzioudet

Tunisian nvestigative journalist, research fanatic.

Where ideologies mattered less: transitional justice reveals the other face of Tunisian dictatorship

A dysfunctional system

On January, 26, 2017, six Tunisians testified at the Truth and Dignity Commission in a public hearing session about the human rights abuses of the regime of Habib Bourguiba. The symbolic date marked the 39th anniversary of “Black Thursday” when Tunisian trade union UGTT staged a protest across the country, a protest that was violently repressed leaving over a hundred people dead, wounded hundreds more, according to non-official sources with several arrests of UGTT leaders.

Throughout the month of January, Tunisians commemorated three main events in their contemporary history: the “Bread Riots” of December 1983-January 1984, the 6th anniversary of the Tunisian revolution and the “Black Thursday” events of 1978. They came to represent a turning point in Tunisian history that has been revisited by witnesses of those events: trade unionists, students and political activists. The events marked the end of the autocratic regimes of Bourguiba and Ben Ali successively and contributed to the emerging of a more politicized civil society and unions ever since.

One exceptional character of Tunisian transitional justice lies in making economic corruption as one form of abuse suffered by Tunisians under dictatorship and used by the latter to silence dissent.

TDC’s public hearing sessions revealed to the Tunisian public another dark side of dictatorship which through the systemic economic corruption as a tool to perpetuate the autocratic regime, while keeping the country’s economy shackled and caught in a vicious circle of cronyism and clientelism.

Ahmed Ben Mustapha, was Tunisian ambassador to UAE between 2004 and 2006. On January 14, 2017, he testified about the Ben Ali’s regime’s rampant corruption where the economic model inherited from the Bourguiba era remained heavily dependent on the former colonizer, France and its economic system and to the EU’s dictated policies on Tunisia, since 1969.

Ben Mustapha’s testimony resonated with that of Gilbert Nacccache, a Tunisian left-wing political activist (of Jewish origin), 76 years-old, who was member of the Trotskyist student movement “Perspectives” in the 1960s and was jailed for his “dissident activities against the Bourguiba regime” between 1968 and 1979. He also deplored the state of Tunisia’s quasi-dependence on France, economically speaking, with the “liberalization policy” of Bourguiba’s Prime Minister in the 1960s, Hédi Nouira. Ben Mustapha went on to credit Tunisian economy lagging behind other countries in the region, including Morocco, to the policy that started under Bourguiba and continued under Ben Ali.

«What matters is get economic independence from Europe », Ben Mustapha he reiterated during his testimony at TDC’s public hearing session, stressing “the unequal relationship with the northern neighbors because of the unstudied and unequal openness to Europe that started in 1969”. He further deplored the presence of “a parallel diplomacy whereby a network was run by the clan of the Ben Ali among the Trabelsi family. This further contributed to the deepening corruption in Tunisia during the Ben Ali regime and the weakening of the state and its economic model, according to Ben Mustapha.

Alternatively, Naccache denounced the inefficient and bad economic choices of Bourguiba and the failure of the collectivist experience of Ahmed Ben Salah in the 1960s, rendering the Tunisian economy fragile while remaining under the patronage of France. Both Ben Mustapha and Naccache pointed out the necessity of Tunisians to know the truth about the former regimes in running the country’s economy.

“No real economic independence was achieved in Tunisia”, Ben Mustapha stated in his testimony.

Transitional justice also revealed the financial crimes of the Ben Ali regime. Amid the controversy following the “National Reconciliation Act”, an economic reconciliation bill that was adopted in July 2015, providing amnesty for public officials for acts linked to corruption and misuse of public funds, the bill was abandoned in October 2016 and revealed the major played transitional justice actors, including TDC in highlighting such crimes (although TDC also insists on repentance of perpetrators of crimes as a pre-requisite for reconciliation). TDC was put on a hard test about “its weakness at resisting” what its proponents referred to as “intimidation on the commission to downplay its role and smear its reputation in revealing the truth and bring perpetrators to justice”. The controversy surrounding Slim Chiboub, Ben Ali’s son-in-law who came to TDC and stated his readiness to testify about any wrongdoing he committed showed the “tight rope walker” attitude of the commission in its work as a transitional justice body. “Manich Msameh” (I will not forgive” in English), civil society campaign, was particularly critical of the controversial bill and of TDC.

“Whatever they do, truth can only be revolutionary”.

Tunisians discovered the intricacies of the security machine of the autocratic regimes of Bourguiba and Ben Ali in gagging the population. In fact, the systematic silencing of political opponents of the former regime from all ideologies has cemented alliances between some seemingly “ideological foes” during dictatorship. Tunisian leftists, mainly from the Extreme Left (Communists) and Islamists have both suffered the wraths of Bourguiba and Ben Ali’s repressive security apparatus in the Ministry of Interior.

As Naccache stated in his testimony on TDC’s first public hearing session that “truth is revolutionary”, truth was withheld from Tunisians for over half a century: historical narratives were manipulated by Bourguiba and Ben Ali.

In his book “Cristal” (1982, re-edited in 2011), he described “writing as a therapy” for him when he was jailed in a cell in the notorious Bourj Erroumi prison in Bizerte, northern Tunisia, in a setting where “paranoia gripped him” while knowing that his fate was sealed when he was kept in solitary confinement and the feeling of injustice overwhelmed him. It was the first literary depiction of torture of the Tunisian state regime. Naccache, an ardent left-wing political activist remains the “public conscience” of many Tunisians, particularly the leftists but also highly regarded by many Islamists, and constitute for some the “unifying figure” of the Tunisian Left.

The general perception that only the Islamists were the victims of the regimes because of the old fight for power and the influential role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region came into question with the building of an alliance between Islamists on the one hand and non-Islamists, including Communists, other leftists who were also victims of the regime’s security apparatus in its use of torture to intimidate and oppress. The bread riots of 1984, the Black Thursday of 1978 were events in which Tunisian intellectuals from the left, students, trade unionists were repressed violently by the regime. There were Islamist victims among the rioters too.

During their incarceration, Tunisian Islamists found themselves sharing the plight of persecution with their leftist counterparts. The testimony of Sami Brahem, a Tunisian academic and researcher who was jailed in the 1990s, when he was a student for his “Islamist leanings” brought to light the relationship he and his fellow inmates built with non-Islamist ones. He endured torture while he was moved to several prisons during his eight-year jail sentence. He reminisced about the time he would read Gilbert Naccache’s prison diary “Cristal” and its influence on him as a young student learning about the Tunisian leftist movement as well as on the philosophy of existence and justice, political engagement, freedom under authoritarian regime written in “a Sartrean logic with Camusian accents”.

What the TDC public hearing sessions have shown was the extent to which the former regime has gone to lengths “to falsify Tunisian history”, employing an efficient propaganda tasked with manipulating narratives. All those who testified insisted on the necessity of letting Tunisians know the reality of the regimes of Bourguiba and Ben Ali for a true reconciliation to occur between the victims and the perpetrators.

Link to the Arabic translation of the blog post

الدور الفرنسي وشبكات الدبلوماسية الموازية والفساد.. ما تعلمه التونسيون من جلسات هيئة العدالة الانتقالية

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First-Hand Accounts of the Humanitarian Situation in Free Tripoli

First-Hand Accounts of the Humanitarian Situation in Free Tripoli

 | 01 September 2011 | 

 

These accounts were written by Houda Mzioudet,a Tunisia Live reporter and fixer sent to help cover the events in Libya.

 

August 24th:  Two Swedish journalists and myself set off from Djerba to the Wazen-Dhehiba border crossing in the late afternoon.  Along the way, we encountered several Libyan families escaping NATO’s shelling of Tripoli, some Libyans seeking medication, and others visiting families in Tunisia. We also saw burnt tanks and other traces of fighting en route to Zintan, in the towns of Wazen, Nalut, Jadu, Kabaw. We stopped at Kabaw for the Iftar meal at 7 pm and talked to women there.  One was from Tripoli, escaping the Abu Slim neighborhood and seeking refuge in Tunisia with her children.  She told us that she had seen fights between rebels and Gadhafi loyalists, snipers killing passers-by, and loyalists cutting off water supplies.  Another woman, a psychology teacher, had just returned to her hometown of Rehibet from Nabel, in northeast Tunisia.

 

We reached the Az-Zintan military council compound around 10 pm, registered, and received authorization to travel to Tripoli.  We were escorted by rebels, as the road between Az-Zintan and Tripoli was not safe enough for foreign journalists to travel alone.  We spent the night at the press center residence for foreign journalists.

 

August 25th: We set off to Tripoli with at 10 am.  On our way to Bir Ghanam, we were escorted by the rebels at Yefren going to the battlefront near Tripoli Airport.  We finally arrived to our hotel in Tripoli, the Raddisson Hotel, at around 2:30 pm. Later in the evening, Mahmoud Chammam, NTC’s (the National Transitional Council) Media Minister gave an interview to foreign journalists about the Council’s expected press conference to be held later that night to announce the transfer of the NTC from Benghazi to Tripoli, however he gave no further details about the proposed move.  At the press conference itself, Ali Tarhouni, Minister of Oil and Finances, officially announced the transfer of the Council.

 

August 26th: We set off to Ghergharesh, a neighborhood west of Tripoli, to meet with locals lining up for bread at the bakeries.  There, we talked to two Egyptians, a Libyan, and a Moroccan woman who told us about the difficulties they encountered in getting food during the battle of Tripoli and how Gaddafi loyalists had cut off water supplies.  A local resident also told us about the committees that had been set up to protect neighborhoods from looting and how locals were forced to get water from the wells of local mosques.

 

We next visited the Bab Al Aziziya compound that witnessed fierce NATO strikes a couple of days ago.  Foreign journalists were already there watching rebels firing into the air in celebration of the victory over Gadhafi loyalists.

 

August 27th: We moved on to Firnej, south of Tripoli, where we visited a Libyan family whose members actively participated in the revolution.  They shared with us accounts of resisting pro-Gadhafi propaganda at work and school, making Libyan flags, and writing anti-Gadhafi poems, drawing on inspiration from the Tunisian revolution. We accompanied the eldest sons to Tripoli Medical Center where volunteer doctors showed us the morgue filled with the unidentified bodies of mercenaries and civilians. There, we spent some time talking to interns and other volunteer doctors at the hospital about the humanitarian situation since the beginning of the revolution, difficulties in saving lives while mercenaries stormed in and killed wounded people, NATO strikes, and the volunteers’ stoicism and courage in carrying out their duties.  Throughout the discussions, we could not help but be struck by the Libyans’ solidarity and stubbornness in ousting Gaddafi.

 

Finally, we left Tripoli on August 28th and met with an Az-Zintan businessman-turned-rebel commander on the way home.  We had a nice chat with him about the history of Az-Zintan’s struggle and about his future ambitions.

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Discovering the “Other” : an interfaith forum breaks down stereotypes beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

For the second consecutive year, the Muslim Jewish Conference (MJC) was held in the German capital, Berlin, with a particular presence of countries such as the US, Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, Tunisia, Morocco and Germany making up the largest delegations representing young people from civil society, academia, and the arts and culture fields.

Since its inception in 2009, the non profit organization has been running thanks to the generous support of international figures such as former US president, Bill Clinton, German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr.Frank-Walter Steinmeier; Dr. Mustafa Cerić, Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina, , Moroccan king advisor, Andrey Azoulay, among others who lent their support to the conference.

The leitmotiv of “promoting interfaith dialogue” in the face of the challenges of “Islamophobia and anti-Semitism” was a recurrent theme for this year’s edition of the Austrian non-profit organization, founded seven years ago by Ilja Sichrovsky.

With some 142 participants from over 30 countries during the 7th edition of the interfaith meeting of Muslims and Jews from across the world, that took place between the 7th and 14th of August. This year, they were also joined by unaffiliated people from the Christian, Hindu, Buddhist faiths as well as agnostics and atheists.

Headquartered in the Austrian capital, Vienna, its founder, Ilja Sichrovsky, an Austrian Jew, MJC represented for him a dream to bridge the gap between two faiths, communities, nations that have come at odds with each other especially since the beginning of the Israel-Palestine conflict in the early 20th century.

Through interactive sessions of introductions to Islam and Judaism interfaith, intra-faith discussions, panel on Israel and Palestine (with vivid stories of a Palestinian and an Israeli suffering and pain of loss of loved ones), memorial visit to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Juma’ah and Shabbat prayers (with interfaith celebrations of Tisha Be’av), including visits to a Berlin Synagogue, the conference brought together communities through diverse activities and knit-close interactions with one another.

Despite its focus on Muslims and Jews represented during the conference, other non-affiliated groups, belonging to other religious groups, including from different Christian denominations, Buddhists, Hindus and non religious including agnostics and atheists have attended the conference, which prompted some to question the “appropriateness” of the term « Muslim-Jewish » as a title for the conference.

The Muslim Jewish Conference has become the mecca for Jewish and Muslim young people from around the world, from different communities, racial, social, political and secual backgrounds, making it more diverse than the strict division of such communities.  With rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism across the world, participants were able to share their different experiences, often painful ones of racism for simply being a Jew or a Muslim.

Muslim-Jewish Conference, « a second home » :

“Building a safe space without a (hidden) agenda” is the motto that Ilja Sichrovsky, founder and Secretary General of MJC, keeps repeating when describing the rationale behind the establishment of the Muslim Jewish Conference.  In this conference, the aim was that “people agree to disagree”, stressed Sichrovsky.

With activities such as breaking stereotypes in a brutal yet funny way to debunk certain myths about different religious groups made participants feel comfortable with one another, the feeling of hostility slowly dissipating with such an ice breaker, getting to know about each other.

“MJC to me is a second home and the place I maybe feel most comfortable at,” said Yedidya Paris, a 31-year old Israeli participant from Tel Aviv, while highlighting the conference participants as being like a family members for him. In a world that is plagued with xenophobia and hostility towards anyone who is different, MJC helped him sharpen his curiosity about Muslim people, and getting to appreciate them.

This unique experience of being immersed in a week “full of inspiring conversations” where taboos in discussions are broken, including religion, identities and diving deep into personal stories, and challenges of life in general of being a Jew or Muslim in their different identity manifestations.

From « Us and Them » to « United Despite Differences » : empathy in joy and pain :

The MJC provided a unique opportunity for participants to attempt at “humanizing, empathizing and talking” to and with the “Other”, by putting a face to what one considers as « the enemy », was the sacred mission behind the forum.

Maroua Charkaoui, a 23 year-old Moroccan student, who is attending the conference for the second time (the first one being in 2015), credits the conference an experience for enabling her to open up to other cultures and respect of the « Other » « whom we only used to hear about or hear some of their views in media, talking face to face and discussing issues and coming up with solutions together, » she explained her work with her committee on power, religion and human rights.

In Berlin, the interfaith initiative of « Salam-Shalom Initiative », run by two young Germans : Anja Nana Saleh a Muslim and a Jew, Armin Langer, provided a free space for both communities to interact without fear. The “Salaam-Shalom Initiative » was featured during the conference, with founders presenting their case during an interactive workshop, where they showcased in a video project of some of their interfaith and intercultural activities in Berlin in particular as well as across Germany, helping ease the tensions between communities with regards to rising Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism, anti-refugee sentiment, Far Right threats and the effect of the conflict in the Middle East on Muslim-Jewish relations, building channels of understanding and meeting between them.

Sharing stories of pain and suffering, empathizing with the « Other » :

 

Some of the highlights of the conference included the emotional visit to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp memorial in Orianenburg (an hour drive from Berlin) where the participants were overwhelmed by feelings of pain and sadness at the level of human atrocities, especially for those who were visiting the place for the first time, while listening to the guide’s accounts of the atrocities committed on Jewish prisoners.

The experience was culminated by a communal readings from the Torah and the Quran for the blessing of the souls of those who perished in the camp. Muslim and Jewish participants were joined in the same feeling of pain and suffering, comforting one another during the emotional rememberance ceremony at Sachsenhausen, where 200 Muslims were also murdered during its 9-year activity as a Nazi concentration camp (1936-1945).

Muslim and Jewish participants also joined together during Jumuah paryers (with mixed congregations), the celebration of Tisha Be’Av and its spiritual meaning to reconnect with one’s history of pain, memory of suffering of exile and « the return to the land of Israel as the final deliverance ».

Co-existence against all odds :

But behind the “rosy” picture of interfaith dialogue lies beneath its murky surface the taboo, the almost exclusively unique subject of contention between Muslims and Jews, an eternal conflict that engulfed the whole Middle East in the vicious circle of violence, hatred, boycott and occupation ; « conflict », a term Yedidya Paris, and Boaz Morag Wolmark, 31, both from Tel Aviv, find quite “unsettling” for its “being one-sided” account of the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the emphasis on discussing the occupation, rather than the conflict, which is “only a result of the century old conflict”, according to Paris.

As a matter of fact, the discussion of the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict is usually reduced to the question of the occupation, according to Paris, thus becoming the elephant in the room of a much more complex reality on the ground. His opinion was shared by his committee fellow Wolmark, asserting the difficulty of engaging in an interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Jews “without getting to the main clash between the two religions – the conflict,” regretting that the discussion was one sided, with “Israel is occupying the West Bank and a Palestinian State should be established”, without expressing different opinions which many in the Israeli public hold (and even some Palestinians), according to him.

“Such an approach is counter-productive and its consequences are two-fold:, not addressing the core problem,which is the actual conflict between the two sides and, not acknowledging the Israeli narrative of the conflict, resulting in Jews being on the defensive”, explains Paris.

The passion stemming from some of the participants at MJC when discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stands in stark contrast to the taciturn, composed attitude of Wolmark, whose dispassionate depiction of the conflict and the history of the conflict as well as the establishment of the state of Israel, Zionism and the Holocaust gives a whole new perspective to a narrative that is “not taught in school”, he confesses.

Throughout the conference, the Berlin hotel witnessed up all night heated debates between Palestinian and Israeli participants to the curiosity of the other participants, while being confused, at the level of anger and frustration from both sides, with no doublespeak, just “dughri” in the words of Wolmark, all the time playing down the seriousness of the violence that could be felt from their heated discussions.

“As an Israeli (and Middle Eastern) we tend to say things as they are, sometimes even in your face : “dughri”, an Arabic word also used in Israel that says straight up things as they are, », Wolmark contended, adding that he enjoyed debating with Palestinians « talking about everything and everything.”, regretting that many participants were too polite to speak up their minds.

Wolmark’s feeling of frustration was that there was not enough “safe space” for him and like-minded self-identified Zionist Israelis, to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which oftentimes is compounded, confused with the Arab-Israeli conflict, inextricably linked to a century long history of wars, displacement, occupation, terrorism, frustration and hopelessness ; to such an extent the protracted conflict does not need an event such as the Muslim-Jewish conference or any other inter-faith dialogue events to alleviate the pains of Palestinians, as one Palestinian participant from Gaza stated. This latter has been attending the conference for the fourth time and felt nothing has changed in the region.

He spoke bitterly about his inability to visit his family in blockaded Gaza -while living in Europe- for the last five years, yet he managed to discuss with one Israeli participant issues, such as BDS (Boycott Divestment, Sanctions), while differing on its effectiveness to end the conflict.

His frustration was echoed by another Palestinian participant from Jerusalem, whose stance on occupation was as strong as his yearning for more fair and equal treatment as his fellow Jewish neighbors, before even thinking about the two-state solution as an end to the conflict. “That is all I am asking for equality and justice”, he reiterated.

Art as a message of reconciliation and hope :

When interfaith dialogue brings arts to the core of the discussion, it succeeds in making room for more creative ideas to share. With some artists from as far as Israel, the US, Tunisia, and Brazil, participants showcased their different artistic talents from musicians, to photographers and singers.

Youssef Ben Soltane, a 29-year old Tunisian dentist living in Paris, a wine educator ; also a passionate oenologist, and a worldly artist, who enjoys life and traveled throughout Europe was a participant in the arts and culture committee.

Recounting his experience of « belonging to several communities rather than one » is what led Ben Soltane to become involved in different types of projects, including voluneering work as a dentist providing oral health outreach in remote areas of Tunisia, fundraising for many charity projects benefiting schools and disadvantaged communities in Tunisia.

Whilst living abroad, he got involved in an interfaith art performance with Jewish artists in Budapest where he lived in the Jewish neighborhood of the Hunagrian capital, made many Jewish friends and « felt welcomed in their community, despite the moments where people reacted negatively to the fact that I was an Arab », he explained.

With similar upbeat feelings about intercultural and interfaith dialogue to Ben Soltane, Charkaoui stronlgly believes that such a dialogue is more than ever before necessary for peace and mutual understanding, by sitting down and discussing religion and other issues freely.

Youssef Ben Soltane’s performance of Leonard Cohen’s « Hallelujah » in Hebrew during the Muslim Jewish Conference 2016 in Berlin.

What Next ?

While the MJC forum seems quite a utopia for some, a dream for others for a better world, it managed to open up free spaces for debate with no fear of being judged, shunned or ridiculed for being different, thinking differently. When participants went home, most expressed mixed feelings of euphoria, and perplexity, while « letting it sink in, process it » because it was overwhelming for most of them, in particular first time participants.

“It is one week where you don’t stop engaging in conversation without hearing the words – Game of Thrones or Pokemon Go,” joked Paris.

 

shlomo

Prayer at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (Germany) @Daniel Shaked Photography https://www.facebook.com/MJConference/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10153503387991324

anja-armin

Salaam-Shalom Project founders with MJC members. @Daniel Shaked Photography https://www.facebook.com/MJConference/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10153503387991324

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Women in Tunisia: Four Years After the Revolution

By Houda Mzioudet/The Media Line

[Tunis] — In 1956, Tunisia gained its independence from France, installing President Habib Bourguiba as Tunisia’s new leader. Bourguiba established the Code of Personal Status, a series of unprecedented laws in the Arab world aimed at establishing gender equality, access to higher education, job opportunities, and the right to file for divorce. These laws enabled women and some organizations to contribute to the reduction of gender discrimination and abuse.
In the elections following the revolution, Tunisian women further improved their situation when they became twenty-five percent of the assembly that drafted Tunisia’s first constitution, a victory regardless of not having reached the goal of 50/50 parity. The obstacles Tunisian women have confronted in order to safeguard Personal Status Code rights reached its height when the moderate Islamist party, Ennahdha, offered a controversial bill for complementary roles between men and women within the family structure in the drafting the constitution. This caused outrage among many Tunisians.

Success for women’s rights groups in Tunisia materialized when the government lifted its reservations on the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) agreement. In November and December of 2014, Tunisian women participated overwhelmingly in the legislative and presidential elections, after which, the recently elected president, Béji Caid-Essebsi, credited his success to the one million women who voted for him.

Besma Khalfaoui, a lawyer, activist and wife of the murdered leftist political leader Chokri Belaid, was invited by Caid-Essebsi to the presidential palace, where tribute was paid to the martyrs and victims of the revolution, including her late husband. Khalfaoui praised the non-stop efforts of the Tunisian women throughout the uprising, citing their tremendous sacrifice. After the murder of her husband, Khalfaoui became a revolutionary icon for women’s equality and a strong critic of Tunisian Islamists.

The nation, however, has fared poorly internationally in gender parity, ranking 123rd out of the 142 countries surveyed by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report of 2014. Tunisia’s women face a number of challenges, such as impoverishment, domestic violence and police brutality.

Unfortunately, according to Ahlem Belhaj, president of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD), women still remain vulnerable as the laws that criminalize these acts have not been implemented. For Belhaj, the battle for female equality is yet to be conquered. She expressed her discontent with the discrepancy between the law and local practices, saying that, “What we have been fighting for since the revolution, regarding the principle of parity…to end discrimination against women has not been implemented at all.”

According to another member of AFTD, Neila Zoghlami, the presence of women in Tunisian media remains limited, as well as their role in the current government, where they hold no representation in key ministries. Instead, they are placed in charge of women and family affairs, social affairs and tourism.

Lina Ben Mhenni, a 2011 Noble Peace Prize nominee who was also actively involved in a campaign to free Tunisian filmmaker Inès Ben Othman, said, “Regression and retrenchment are imminent threats to our rights, as we have seen in other Arab countries…There is a still a lot of work to do and we still cannot talk about full impartiality between men and women in Tunisia. We are not immune to these threats, even with lucrative democratic elections.” However, she is confident that Tunisian women will defend their rights like they have done in the past.

Regardless of efforts and reforms, the ATFD still remains skeptical as to the full application of the UN agreement for full equality for all Tunisian women. The status of women in Tunisia is still not perfect – despite the inclusion of eight women in the Tunisian cabinet. And even though they seem to be on the right path, their efforts are not over. Hopefully, their efforts will be fruitful and will pave the road for equality throughout different Arab countries by showing that gender equality is not a farfetched idea.

This article first appeared in the Media Line news website on 20 March 2015. 

Photo courtesy: Houda Mzioudet

Tunisian women protesting on avenue Bourguiba, downtown Tunis

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Illegal immigration in Libya– a concern but “under control”

illegals

Sub-Saharan African illegal immigrants in Gharian’s Abu Rashada detention centre (Photo credit: Houda Mzioudet)

 

“They may return, be jailed and so on and so forth; that is life. But otherwise there will be no illegal immigration.”
“They do not want to send us back home. Look at the food here. They do not want to deport us. We are suffering here. We want to go back to our countries,” an angry Sub-Saharan African illegal immigrant told the Libya Herald from behind bars in the Abu Rashada detention centre for illegal immigrants in Gharian. Another one shouted: “Tell the authorities that people here want to go back home.”
Fifty-three young men from different African countries are crammed into what looks like a rectangular, medium-sized jail cell of the detention centre. Four or five other equally full mobile metal structures serving as cells hold more detainees. The 200 or so residents of the centre have been here between two months and a year awaiting deportation to their countries of origin. Most hail from Niger, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria and have one goal in common: they came to Libya for work to be able to support their famlilies back home. “You know we come from a very poor countries, that is why we came to Libya,” another one added.
Towards the end of the Libyan revolution, and since, there has been a massive surge of illegal African immigrants into Libya in the absence of secure border controls. Before that, during the revolution, there were signifcant numbers of mercenaries coming in to fight for Qaddafi.
Imed Sagher, in charge of the Gharian’s detention centre, confirmed the presence of some of Qaddafi’s mercenaries in the centre when it held between 1,600 and 1,700 people at its peak when it first opened in January 2012.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), based in Geneva, has helped send many of the centre’s immigrants back to their countries of origin, Sagher said. Some returned voluntarily on their own with IOM assistance. “But”, Sagher complained, “the process of repatriation has been slow” — as has been the case dealing with the Chadian embassy in Libya. Nigerian nationals have to be be processed through their embassy in Tunis.
“The IOM has to deal with their embassies to get them travel documents to be able to be repatriated quickly. Libya is a rich country and we sometimes repatriate them using Libyan government resources and even give them money, as long as they do not stay here,” Sagher explained. The Department for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) gives those who voluntarily return to their countries of origin $600 to start their own business in their homeland, he added. But “they may return, be jailed and so on and so forth. That is life.” he concluded, smiling.

“We want them to raise our spirits, thank us or at least ask how we are doing.“
“One hundred and twenty illegal immigrants cross the southwestern border of Libya daily. Sometimes 200 come in just one day,” Jomaa Saleh Wasini, a Libyan Tebu military officer and member of Um Al-Aranib Martyrs Battalion at the Al-Wigh Military Base, just north of the Libya-Chad-Niger border, told the Libya Herald. Libya’s 2,000-kilometer-long southern border, with Sudan, Niger and Chad, has recently become popular with hundreds of sub-Saharan Africans in search of job opportunities in Libya or hoping to go on to Europe. But entering Libya illegally is not without risk.
Wasini and his colleagues at the base return migrants entering Libya illegally to the town of Qatrun further north on the same day they are caught. Sometimes they are kept overnight in doorless, run-down rooms on the base and therefore have to be fed. Other times they are transferred to Sebha.

In June 2012, around 460 illegal immigrants from Chad were brought to Al-Wigh. Wasini expressed his gratitude for the IOM’s assistance to them: “They came five or six times to monitor the situation here. They helped us with our mission by providing the migrants with sheets and blankets.”
This work is being done by young and middle-aged volunteers – Libyan Tebus from the south-west. On our way south to the Al-Wigh Military Base, we met a 17-year-old who said he was on holiday from school and was volunteering, along with other former Tebu revolutionsaries to man the border crossing. The outpost was more like a hut, with almost no amenities to maintain it. There was a can full of water which one young man claimed they had to walk several miles to bring, a light bulb connected to an electric generator and a few chairs.

Wasini stated that he and his colleagues work in coordination with the DCIM and the Ministry of Interior (MI). They carry out daily patrols to prevent illegal immigrants coming into Libya and alcohol being smuggled from Niger and Chad. The Al-Wigh base has two warehouses where bottles of alcohol and around 20 kilos of drugs seized from smugglers were stored, waiting for Libyan authorities to come and eventually destroy them.
He said they use their own private resources to stop smugglers, many of whom are Libyans from towns in Fezzan such as Sebha. “In 2011, we captured 15 qintars [750 kilos] of drugs” Wasini insisted. And he expressed his frustration with the working conditions in the border post. He wished that the Libyan authorities would visit them. “We want them to raise our spirits, thank us or at least ask how we are doing.”
However, Libyan authorities, the successive governments of the National Transitional Council and the General National Congress, have found it extremely hard to protect the country both from the outside and the inside. The presence of militias in the main cities was seen to pose a stronger challenge.
However, that is changing. In January 2013, in the oasis border town of Ghadames, the Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan met with his Tunisian and Algerian counterparts for a regional summit on border control. Earlier, he had visited Niger, Chad and Sudan for talks on the same issue. A decision was taken to close the border with Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan and declare the south of Libya a military zone. This was a move towards insuring stability in an area that Libyan authorities had struggled to keep under control since the fall of Qaddafi’s regime.
This decision has been rejected by Libyan Tebus in the south. They do not see it as necesary or as a measure that can effectively work in the short or the long run.
“It is not an easy situation. Libya has lots of challenges as a newly-emerging democracy.“
According to an IOM project officer in Tripoli, “irregular migration” (the term used by the organisation) is not a problem by itself. ”The issue is that somebody is choosing that way of coming illegally. People have the right to move. We are assisting migrants by doing assisted voluntary return to their countries of origin if they voluntarily want to return. We do not take part in any forced removals but we understand every state’s right to choose who can be in their land and who cannot be.”
The IOM has developed software for a biometric system that can keep track of who is being detained and who is not. It is “for the residents’ well-being primarily and not for law-enforcement purposes,” the IOM official insisted.
“It is not an easy situation. Libya has lots of challenges as a newly-emerged democracy.”

It is a process. It takes time to put these facilities in place to have what migrants and detainees need there,” the officer concluded.
Besides assisting with the voluntary return of immigrants to their countries of origin, the IOM also carries out medical checks in detention centres to see who is fit to travel. This is in addition to spot-checks to the detention centres across Libya to monitor the situation and see to the needs of the residents. During the Libya Herald’s visit to the Gharian detention centre, we were told by Imed Sagher, the head of the centre, that the condition of the its “temporary” residents has improved significantly in the last few months.
In the period between 1 October 2011 and 31 December 2012, the IOM has assisted the voluntary return of 6,809 nationals from 20 sub-Saharan African countries. Most returnees came from Niger – 2,238. The number of all returnees was 1,876 by December 2011 and 4,933 more returned by December 2012. November 2011 saw the peak of migrants returning to their home countries.

In Murzuk, town council president Mohamed Adam told the Libya Herald that south-western towns are powerless in halting African migrants from entering Libya. While the town is not directly affected by the issue, it is a transit point for both seasonal migrant workers and illegal migrants who go to Sebha, then Tripoli and sometimes try to reach Europe. ”It is hard to deal with it. What shall we do? We have an immense Sahara desert of about 2,000 kilometres to Kufra in the east.”
Houda Mzioudet travelled to Al-Wigh, Murzuk, Qatrun and Gharyan in the period between January 27 and February 21, 2013.

This article first appeared in the Libya Herald news website on 3 March 2013. 

 

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Tebu volunteers in one of the makeshift border post in the south-western area of Um Al-Aranib | (photo credit: Houda Mzioudet).

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Journey Into the “Safest” Southwestern Libya Region

Libya’s southern borders cover over 2000 km with Sudan, Chad, Niger and Algeria stretching from from east to west, with the main oasis-town of Kufra in the southeast and the border town of Ghat near the Algerian town of Jannet in the southwest located in this vast Sahara desert.

The distance often made it hard for Libya to control its borders particularly against infiltration from illegal immigrants coming from neighbouring Niger and Chad and other Sub-Saharan African countries, and also from drug and alcohol trafficking.

For the last four decades the Libyan Sahara Desert has kept its secrets well hidden from Libyans as well as the outside world. In fact, former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi made sure he never revealed its secrets to anyone.

Ironically, he was buried in a secret location in this vast desert of thousands of sand dunes (his burial location is only known to Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the former president of the Libyan National Transitional Council).

In the last week of January I set off on a journey from the city of Sebha with Fathi Tebbawi and Abdurrahman Taleb, two Tebu young men originally from Kufra, currently residing in the southwestern city of Sebha, the largest Libyan city in the south, and headed towards Al Wigh to take a look into its military base.

In fact, the mere thought of setting foot in the Al Wigh military base before the Libyan Revolution was unthinkable. Al Wigh lies half-way to the Niger-Chad border (about 500 kilometres). After a few hours we arrived at the military outpost, which saw violent confrontations between pro-Gaddafi forces and Libyan rebels during the 2011 revolution.

The Military Base of Al Wigh is now run by Libyan rebels from the Tebu tribes, who, after the liberation of the country from Gaddafi’s rule, joined the Libyan Ministry of Defense as the Batallion of Um Al Aranib Martyrs.

They are tasked with the protection and guarding of southwestern Libya’s border from illegal activities such as drug, alcohol and human trafficking from Sub-Saharan African countries such as Mali, Niger, Chad, Ghana, Nigeria etc.

We arrived to the village of Gatrone in the evening, southeast of Murzuk on the way to the Niger border. Gatrone is a quiet and peaceful town. The non-asphalted roads, the houses in derelict and the heaps of garbage testify to the quasi-absence of any sign of development in this isolated desert border town.

“In Gatrone, it is considered hostile to come with a weapon. Locals have become tired with the war and weapons and are traumatized,” Fathi explained to me.

“I can assure you that the South of Libya is the safest place in Libya and I challenge Yusuf Mangoush, the Head of the Libyan Army, to come here and claim that the South is not guarded and that it is open to criminal activities”, he added vehemently.

The Libyan Sahara Desert stretches over about 90% of the country with cities like Sebha, Ubari, Kufra, Murzuk and Ghat being the largest population concentrations in the south. The cities are mostly surrounded by oases, which made economic activties around the cities flourish exponentially throughout the centuries. The Mountains of Acacus on the way between Ubari and Ghat stand majestically to the trials of time.

The city of Murzuk had particularly flourished during the 16th and 17th centuries with the Transaharan trade from West Africa (also known as the north-south trade across the Sahara).

Idriss Kashira, an assistant to the Murzuk City Council’s president, and a Tebu local of the desert town of 23,000 inhabitants, took pride in his city’s history as being “the crossroad of trade between Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Europe where Arab merchants traded in precious metals such as gold, ivory and also slaves.”

“It was the only urban center of southwestern Libya, long time before the city of Sebha came to exist,” he emphasized to me.

Murzuk society is a melting pot of Arabs, Tuaregs, Tebus and what is commonly referred to as Al Ahali (Arabic for locals), who are black Libyans of slave descent. The latter are the largest community of the city of Murzuk.

Zahra Ali Abderrahman is from the Ahali community. She has been a journalist before the Libyan Revolution and after the revolution, she became an editor-in-chief of the Arabic-language Murzuk Today newspaper.

Back to the Sahara Desert, Fathi drove us back with his 4WD on a desert road for almost an hour from Gatroon to Sebha, a route that he knew well its intricacies very. We arrived at 7:00 p.m. Fathi is among the few Tebu young men who actively participated in the Libyan Revolution, in some battlefronts in Eastern Libya (Brega, Ajdabia and Benghazi). His job now is to protect along with his colleagues the seven oil fields in southwestern Libya.

Fathi admits that Saadi Gaddafi, the son of the deceased Libyan dictator, in Niger still represents a threat to security by hiring mercenaries to sow trouble in the South. It is rumored that he married the Nigerien president’s sister-in-law, another Tebu man from the town of Ubari told me.

Fathi patrols the southwestern border of Libya day and night with Abdurrahman to ensure its security. In the meantime, Tebus soldiers in the border posts of Um al Aranib and Luweegh Military Base continue their work of spotting illegal immigrants from neighboring countries.

They record their names and later hand them over to the Libyan Ministry of Interior’s Illegal Immigration Service in Sebha; which in turn house them in a detention center in the city, awaiting their repatriation to their countries.

 

This article first appeared in the Tripoli Post newspaper on 17 February 2013. 

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Between democracy and ISIS: Five years since the Arab Spring

Five years after they toppled the tyrants of the Arab world, the youth of the revolutions find themselves caught between the hammer of unemployment and the anvil of ISIS.

TUNIS — When Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself in the Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid on December 17, 2010, few thought it would spark what would later become the Arab Spring. Five years on, with civil wars raging in Syria, Yemen, and Libya, and the so-called Islamic State positing itself as the alternative to democracy, the region has witnessed radical changes.

In late January of this year, Ridha Yahyaoui, an unemployed 28-year-old Tunisian college graduate from the town of Kasserine climbed an electric pole and was electrocuted after he found out that his name had been removed from the list of people promised a government job by the local authorities. His death sparked nationwide protests that reached the capital, Tunis. The message has not changed since 2011: unfulfilled promises of better job opportunities coupled with the stifled hopes of a desperate generation of young people in marginalized areas have added to the grievances of a population that continues to be ignored by the country’s political elite.

Young Tunisians’ disaffection with successive post-revolution governments has paved the way for an uncertain future, with many choosing to join the ranks of radical groups such as ISIS or al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups. According to a UN report published in 2015, as many as 5,000 Tunisians have joined ISIS in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Yemen, and Somalia.
Young Tunisians and Egyptians, whose revolutions inspired other youth movements in the region and elsewhere, were the new face of a generation of millennials — between the disaffected and depoliticized on the one hand and the energetic and hopeful on the other.

It is no wonder, then, that the Spanish leftist political party, Podemos, was inspired by the popular uprisings in both Egypt and Tunisia, and even surpassed the youth movements that toppled Ben Ali, Mubarak, Qaddafi, and Ali Saleh to become the one of the largest political entities in Spain. Podemos, founded in 2014, succeeded at confronting inequality and corruption in the European political arena, with a power base in the indignidados youth movement. Their Middle Eastern and North African counterparts, however, failed to live up to their desires of a free, democratic and equal society in their respective countries.

Tunisian exceptionalism?

Despite the chaos reigning in neighboring Libya, Tunisia came out of the quagmire intact. The small North African country remained a beacon of light, proving to the international community that democracy is more than just a myth in the Arab world, while undermining the axiom that Israel is the only democracy in the region.

Tunisia also remains the great hope for left-wing anti-globalization movements. During the 2015 World Social Forum, which was held in Tunis, an Argentinian social activist spoke about the role of left-wing social movements in the 21st century, stressing that Latin Americans consider Tunisia the only place in the region where the Left is still alive and kicking — where it is trying to preserve ideals of social equality and workers’ rights.
In December 2015, Tunisian Union Général des Travailleurs Tunisiens (Tunisian Labor Union), the oldest labor union in the Arab world, won the Nobel Peace Prize, which it shared with Tunisian Employers’ Association, UTICA, the Tunisian Bar Association, and the Tunisian League for Human Rights. The prize came following two years of incessant work to ensure national dialogue between the divided parties, following the assassination of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, two leftist political figures, in 2013.

The jihadist temptation

The youth of the region are caught between the hammer of long-term unemployment and the anvil of ISIS’ temptation. The International Labor Organization place the Middle East and North Africa in the category of highest unemployment rate in 2014, with a 40 percent rate in Tunisia among youth, and 60 percent for young graduates. These alarming figures vis-a-vis the only successful story of democratic transition in the region hides serious dysfunctions in the system, reflecting a deep malaise among young people who are trying to live a decent life.

Since appearing in Syria following Assad’s bloody repression of the Syrian revolution, ISIS has marketed itself as an alternative to the status quo of political regimes in the Arab Spring countries. For many young people in the region, jihadism was simply too tempting to miss out on.

There is a common notion according to which young people in the region are de-politcized. Yet their apathy is compounded with a deep sense of skepticism of political class elite — an archaic grou[ that is disconnected from the issues most pressing for young people — sometimes to the point that it views their constant calls for change with disdain. The establishment will not let go of the privileges it won through elections, in which they promised the people change, yet never kept those promises. Young Arabs who felt disenchanted took to the streets of Kasserine, Sidi Bouzid, Cairo on both January 14 and 25 — dates that had come to symbolize the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, respectively.
The lack of economic opportunities, political marginalization, and a struggling civil society trying to keep up with aspirations of the Arab Spring youth — in the face of state-sanctioned violence against them — are indicative of what some political analysts nicknamed the “Arab Spring disease.”

There is still hope in sustaining youth civic participation amid the tense atmosphere. But there needs to be a re-definition of leadership, away from the indoctrination of the old elite while highlighting civic participation as a means to counter radicalization.

In the meantime, young people in Kasserine, Cairo, Tripoli, Sanaa, and other places where the 2011 uprisings changed the face of the region continue their struggle for a better life, while challenging the grip of authoritarianism and terrorism.

This article first appeared in +972 Magazine blog on 16 February, 2016

tahrir

Celebrations in Tahrir Square after Omar Suleiman’s statement concerning Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. (photo: Jonathan Rashad/CC BY 2.0)

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الليبيون في تونس: التأرجح بين طيات النسيان والاعتراف

هل الجالية الليبية في تونس عبء أم فرصة اقتصادية؟

كلما حاول مرتضى ص (22 سنة) أن يمتطي سيارة تاكسي إلا وتعرض لعملية تحيل من سائق التاكسي وقد أصبحت هذه الوضعية المزعجة ملازمة لحياته اليومية في تونس العاصمة.

 

مرتضى شاب ليبي انتقل للسكن في العاصمة التونسية منذ سنتين مع عائلته وحاليا يدرس بجامعة خاصة. وقد حاول التأقلم مع الحياة السريعة والصاخبة نوعا ما للعاصمة وبالأخص مع النظام في العاصمة أين تحتل اللغة الفرنسية الحيز الأكبر من سبل التواصل الاجتماعي لسكان العاصمة خاصة في الأحياء الراقية مثل حي النصر والمرسى والبحيرة أين توجد جالية ليبية كبرة جعلت من العاصمة التونسية ملاذا لها للترفيه عن النفس بعيدا عن ضغوطات الأوضاع السياسية والأمنية في ليبيا خاصة بعد اندلاع الحرب الأهلية في صائفة 2014 بين مختلف الفصائل الليبية المتناحرة من تشكيلات مسلحة، نظامية وغير نظامية.

 

ويضيف مرتضى قائلا: “فكرت مليا في أن أبدأ دراسة الفرنسية في العاصمة. هل تعرفين مراكز أو مدارس تؤمن دروسا للمبتدئين مثلي؟ أنا أعرف بعض الكلمات لكن أرى أنني أستطيع التأقلم أكثر مع محيطي الجديد خاصة ع أصدقائي في الجامعة”

 

في غياب أرقام دقيقة لليبيين المتواجدين على التراب التونسي، تضاربت الأنباء حول أعدادهم بين الأرقام الرسمية التي قدمتها وزارة الشؤون الاجتماعية في بداية 2016 (و الذي قدره وزير الشؤون الاجتماعية السابق محمود  بن رمضان بحوالي 350000 ليبي مقيم في تونس) و غير الرسمية والذين يصل عددهم إلى حوالي 800000 ليبي بين مقيم (بصفة رسمية وغير رسمية)  ولاجئ (وهؤلاء عددهم لا يتجاوز 10000 لاجئ حسب بعض منظمات المجتمع المدني), أصبح مسألة الليبيين في تونس قضية مثيرة للجدل يتنازع حولها السياسيون و مختلف الممثلين والأطراف في المجتمع المدني. ومع تزايد تذمر الأغلبية من التونسيين خاصة في العاصمة التونسيين من تواجد الليبيين في تونس بسبب “مساهمتهم المباشرة وغير المباشرة في غلاء المعيشة وارتفاع أسعار العقارات” وجد الليبيون أنفسهم في ازدواجية الغربة والعزلة من جهة والنسيان وغياب الاعتراف من طرف الجهات الرسمية التونسية والليبية.

 

الليبيون في تونس: جدلية التوصيف القانوني.

 

يمثل الليبيون في تونس شريحة اجتماعية ذات خصوصية يصعب توصيفهم ك”لاجئين” بما أن الأغلبية القاطنة بتونس لم تبحث عن اللجوء القانوني في تونس كما هو الشأن مثلا للسوريين الذين فروا من أتون الحرب الأهلية و الذي يقدر عددهم ببضع آلاف و الذين تم تسجياهم كلاجئين سواء لدى منظمات الإغاثة العالمية أو السلطات التونسية  و من جهة أخرى لا يعتبر الليبيون مهاجرين بل إن حالتهم تتأرجح بين من هم في المنفى و اللجوء الاقتصادي بما أن الأغلبية شبه الساحقة منهم يعيلون أنفسهم و يساهمون بصفة مباشرة و غير مباشرة في الحركة الاقتصادية للبلاد. الكثير منهم يعيش وضعية “البرزخ” وكأنهم “تحت المراقبة” يفضلون أن يكونوا بعيدا عن الأنظار وخاصة السلطات التونسية الإعلام وتوجسهم منهم

يمكن تفسير هذا الاختيار غير الإرادي في كثير من الأحوال إلى تخوف البعض منهم من ترحيلهم إلى ليبيا بسب بعلاقتهم المباشرة أو غير المباشرة بنظام العقيد الراحل معمر القذافي ومنذ نشوب الحرب الأهلية بعد أحداث مطار طرابلس بسبب الانهيار الأمني والاقتصادي في البلد فلم يعد الليبيون يتوجهون إلى تونس بسبب صلتهم بالنظام القديم فحسب بل لأن الظروف السياسية والأمنية الصعبة دفعت بالكثير منهم إلى اللجوء لتونس ولو بصفة مؤقتة.

 

ثنائية التكيف والانعزال:

 

أما سهام ع فشعورها بالغربة في تونس زاد من عزلتها وصعوبة تكيفها مع المجتمع التونسي على الرغم من نجاحها في تكوين صداقات وشبكات تعارف مع التونسيين ولكنها تبقى محدودة في نطاق الجامعة أين تدرس إدارة الأعمال.

 

“على الرغم من أن والدي من أصول تونسية لكن أشعر ببعض العدائية من بعض التونسيين هنا” تضيف كما ترى أن بعض من التونسيين يستهينون بقدرات الليبيين ويظهرون عنصريتهم ضد كل ما هو ليبي من خلال إظهار كل ما هو سيء.

” يتهمون الليبيين بأنهم ساهموا في تأزم أوضاع بلدهم وبأنهم يؤثرون على زيادة الأسعار في تونس”

 

“كل مرة أستقل تاكسي يبدأ السائق في الحديث بطريقة سيئة عن ليبيا والليبيين وكيف أنهم أوصلوا بلادهم لهذه الحالة السيئة، ويؤلمني سماع هذا خاصة وأنه يأتي من بلد ديموقراطي كتونس” تستطرد سهام بنوع من السخط والحزن.

على الرغم من هذه العقبات استطاعت سهام التأقلم مع محيطها الجديد ونجحت في دراستها وحققت تميزا خاصا بنجاحها مؤخرا في امتحان المستوى الأول في اللغة الفرنسية بالمعهد الفرنسي بالعاصمة التونسية. كما لاحظت أنّ وجودها بتونس أثر في محيطها خاصة أصدقاءها بالجامعة إذ غيّروا نظرتهم النمطية عن ليبيا وأصبحوا يحبون الليبيين من خلال احتكاكهم بليبيين متعلمين حسب قولها.

 

مصائب قوم عند قوم فوائد:

 

لقد أصبح الليبيون محل اتهام من عديد التونسيين بسب غلاء الأسعار وبالتالي تأثيرهم غير المباشر على تدهور القدرة الشرائية لهم وعدم قدرتهم على التنافس ليس فقط على الأسعار بل أيضا على الإيجار ناهيك عن شراء العقارات الذي أصبح شيئا صعب المنال للتونسيين في ظل تقلص الطبقة الوسطى في تونس والتي تمثل حاليا 67 بالمائة من التونسيين (تقلص ب 13 بالمائة منذ 2010). كما أن تصوير الليبيين في تونس على أنهم يمثلون عبئا اقتصاديا في البلاد يؤشر إلى صعوبة استيعاب هذه الجالية كمصدر دخل اقتصادي خاصة في مجال الاستثمار العقاري والسياحة الطبية والتي يستحوذ الليبيون على أكبر نسبة من الوافدين الأجانب لتونس لمختلف المصحات للعلاج.

 

ولعل سخرية الأقدار شاءت ان تصبح الأزمة الليبية الحالية مصدر رزق لهذه المصحات خاصة في المدن الكبرى كتونس العاصمة وصفاقس بالتحديد حتى ظلت تجارة مربحة لبعض المصحات في الجنوب التونسي بالخصوص. لكن مع تأزم الأمور في الحدود خاصة على مستوى معبر راس جدير وجد الكثير من الليبيين خاصة ممن تعوزهم الوسيلة من الذهاب إلى وجهات طبية أخرى كتركيا والأردن بسبب فرض الأخيرتين تأشيرات على الليبيين منذ 2015، صارت تونس وجهة سياحية طبية لا مفر منه من مبدأ “مكره أخاك لا بطل”.

 

وتبقى المعاملة المتقلبة من طرف أعوان الأمن والجمارك التونسيين ما يضطر ابعض الليبيين من “مقاطعة الوجهة التونسية” والبحث عن “وجهة سياحية جديدة أكثر سلاسة في التعامل” هذا ما لمسته من خالد أ، شاب ليبي من طرابلس أتى لتونس للمرة الثانية في حياته، الأولى كانت في 2015 للحصول على تأشيرة للذهاب إلى الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية والثانية للذهاب مع أصدقائه في رحلة سياحية إلى الجزائر في يونيو الماضي.

 

” كنت متخوفا بعض الشيء من المعاملة في الطريق من أعوان الأمن التونسيين خاصة وأن أصدقائي في طرابلس حذروني منهم ومن حالات الرشوة والابتزاز لكن الحمد لله لم أتعرض لأي شيء من هذا القبيل” قال مبتسما. لكن هذا لا يخفي قرار بعض الليبيين مؤخرا خاصة مع انطلاق عملية البنيان المرصوص في مدينة مصراتة ضد عناصر تنظيم الدولة وقرار توجيه الكثير من المصابين في العملية إلى الجزائر بسبب “سوء المعاملة في المصحات التونسية” حسب البعض من مدينة مصراتة.

 

علاقات ثنائية متقلبة

 

ويرى السيد رضا السعيدي الوزير السابق المكلف بالأمور الاقتصادية في حكومة حمادي الجبالي أن العلاقات التونسية الليبية تبقى متقلبة بتغير الحكومات بعد الثورتين التونسية والليبية وقد خلق هذ التقلب نوعا من الحساسية حتى في التعاملات الرسمية مما قد يؤثر سلبا حتى التونسيين في ليبيا والذي يقدر عددهم بحوالي 110000 حسب أيوب الشرع منسق عام مجلس شيوخ ليبيا. وظهرت هذه الحساسيات منذ بداية بناء الساتر الترابي بين تونس وليبيا وما تبعه من تصريحات اعتبرها الليبيون “مستفزة” من الرئيس التونسي السيد الباجي قايد السبسي حول “تصدير ليبيا للإرهاب” في مارس 2016 وكادت أن تؤثر على التبادل الاقتصادي بين البلدين إذ أثارت التصريحات حفيظة بعض المسؤولين الليبيين. لأكن تم بسرعة تفادي الأزمة الدبلوماسية عند “تصحيح الخطأ من الناطق الرسمي للرئاسة والذي أكد ان التصريحات أخذت من خارج سياقها إذ أن السيد قائد السبسي قصد المقاتلين الأجانب الذين وجدوا في ليبيا موطئ قدم لهم ولم يكن يفصد الشعب الليبي حسب قول الناطق الرسمي.

 

كما ساهم إغلاق لمجال الجوي منذ 2015 على الطائرات القادمة من مطار معيتيقة (مع فتح المجال لمطاري المنستير وصفاقس فقط) في تأزيم العلاقات بين حكومة طرابلس في الغرب والحكومة التونسية وبدأت بوادر تحسن عند فتح المجال في شهر يونيو واستئناف الرحلات إلى مطار تونس قرطاج الدولي.

 

إعلام تونسي متحامل

 

يجمع الكثير من الليبيين أن الإعلام التونسي بنوعيه العمومي والخاص “متحامل جدا” ضد ليبيا والليبيين خاصة في تصويره للوضع في ليبيا.

وقد أعرب محمد، ح ناشط ليبي في المجتمع المدني من طرابلس عن سخطه تجاه الإعلام التونسية

” ما لا أفهمه هو الاتهامات المتكررة من المسؤولين التونسيين وزد على ذلك الإعلام التونسي بأن ليبيا مصدر الإرهاب وكأننا لسنا ضحايا الإرهاب، وقد نسي السيد السبسي لأن أكثر الإرهابيين في ليبيا هم من التونسيين”

 

وحسب العديد من الليبيين فإنّ الإعلام التونسي يقوم غاليا على عنصر الإثارة في تغطيته للأحداث في ليبيا وقد فشل في إعطاء المعلومة الدقيقة عن الوضع في الميدان وفي أغلب الأحيان يجنح لتحاليل “أشباه خبراء ” في الشأن الليبي حسب رضا السعيدي.

 

هاجس العودة

 

ويبقى المستقبل غامضا للعديد من الليبيين في تونس كغموض المشهد السياسي في ليبيا إد يبقى الهاجس الأمني الحاجز الأكبر لرجوع السواد الأعظم منهم.  وقد خيّر البعض منهم الاستقرار في تونس وحتى العمل ولو مؤقتا في اعمال مختلفة حرة كالبناء المطاعم لإعالة أنفسهم.

 

كما تجد بعض الأسر الليبية صعوبة خاصة مع من لديها أطفال يدرسون في مدارس ليبية وقد لجأ البعض منهم إلى تسجيل أبنائها في مدارس تونسية لعدم القدرة على دفع رسوم المدارس الليبية الخاصة.

 

ويبقى أغلب الليبيين في تونس معتمدين بصفة كبيرة على مدخراتهم والإعانات المتأتية من عائلاتهم في ليبيا وخارج ليبيا. كما تقلص دور السفارة الليبية في تونس في السنة الأخيرة حسب سهام فلم يعد يقدم الخدمات المطلوبة للمقيمين في تونس كما كان الشأن بعيد الثورة الليبية وهو ما يعكس الأزمة التي تمر بها السفارات الليبية في الخارج في ظل الانقسام السياسي في ليبيا.

http://ewanlibya.ly

ليبيون أمام القنصلية العامة الليببية بتونس العاصمة

 

Categories: Libya, Tunisia | Leave a comment

الانجليز و “الانتهازية” عبر التاريخ

مثّل قرار بريطانيا الخروج من الاتحاد الأوروبي صدمة كبيرة للجميع حول العالم و خاصة للجيران الأوروبيين والذي البعض منهم كان يتوقع هذا الطلاق بالتراضي مع الجار المتقلب المزاجي و المتنقل في القارة العجوز: ساق في أوروبا و الساق الأخرى في عالم ما وراء البحار و المحيطات عندما كانت سفن فرانسيس درايك و ولتر رالي و كابتن كوك و ديفيد لفنغستون تشق عباب الأطلسي للعالم الجديد و تسبر أغوار افريقيا و أمريكا الشمالية و أستراليا.

كان وقع الانسحاب كبيرا على قوتين اقتصاديتين في الاتحاد: ألمانيا و فرنسا حيث بدأ التخوف من اتساع رقعة البركسيت لباقي الدول الاوروبية و المخاوف الكبرى من النزعات الانفصالية لدى سكوتلندا و كاتالونيا في شمال اسبانيا و سعي الايرلنديين الشماليين للاتحاد مع أخوتهم في الجنوب.
و ليس غريبا أن يجد التوجه الانفصالي من أوروبا ترحيبا كبيرا من الكثير من البريطانيين خاصة من الانجليز في الشمال ممن يعتبروا أنفسهم ضحايا بيروقراطية بروكسال خصوصا من مناطق ذات أهمية تارخية كالبلاد السوداء و يوركشاير كلاهما مثّلا العمود الفقري للثورة الصناعية التي أدخلت بريطانيا من أوسع أبوابه إلى التاريخ الحديث كأكبر امبراطورية بعد الرومانية و الاغريقية و البيزنطية و الاسلامية، تلك الامبراطورية التي لم تغب عنها الشمس إلا عندما بدأ نجمها يأفل باستقلال أكبر مستعمراتها في العالم الجديد الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية في 1776 و شيئا فشيئا باقي المستعمرات في افريقيا و آسيا مع حفاظ البعض منها على نوع من التبعية السياسية و الاقتصادية مع الوطن الأم كأستراليا و نيوزيلاندا و كندا.
باختيار هذه القوى الاقتصادية و السياسية الوفاء للتاج البريطاني استطاعت انجلترا، و التي بثقلها السكاني استطاعت أن تخضع المناطق ذات النزعة الانفصالية في الجزر البريطانية ،باستئناء الجمهورية الايرلندية، كسكوتلندا و ويلز و ايرلندا الشمالية (و التي يصطلح على تسميتها بألستر لدى الموالين للملكية) لسيطرتها ، و أن تواصل تأثيرها الثقافي و الاقتصادي و السياسي على ما تبقى من امبراطوريتها العظمى مع منحها صلاحيات أقوى لها كدول مستقلة لكن في حالة تبعية للعرش البريطاني و لو شكليا في ما يسمى بدول الكومنولث أو اتحاد 53 دولة من ولايات الامبراطورية البريطانية سابقا.
فحتى خروج انجلترا من الاتحاد الأوروبي لن يؤثر في باقي المملكة حسب بعض المحللين لأنها لا تزال تتمتع بولاء دول الكومنولث الكبرى لها بالأخص استراليا و كندا و نيوزيلندا فلم الخوف إذن؟ ربما ويلز ستكون الخاسر الأكبر بسبب البركسيت لأنها انتفعت الأكثر من التمويل الأوروبي السخي منذ 1973 سنة التحاق المملكة المتحدة بالسوق الاوروبية المشتركة و لاحقا بالاتحاد الأوروبي.
لقد كان رفض انجلترا الالتحاق بالعملة الموحدة اليورو و فضاء الشنغن اختيارا استراتيجيا ذكيا حتى لا تضطر أن تلتزم بالقيود الاوروبية المفروضة ليس فقط على البلدان الأقل رخاء في الاتحاد كاليونان و اسبانيا لكن أيضا على الكبرى كألمانيا و فرنسا و لكي تواصل تمتعها باستقلالية تجعلها على ارتباط حميمي بأكبر فوة اقتصادية و سياسية و عسكرية في العالم: الولايات المتحدة الامريكية. و قد لا يخفى على الجميع الدور .الاستراتيجي لبريطانيا في تنامي دورالحلف الأطلسي في أوروبا الغربية و بعد سقوط الاتحاد السوفياتي في اوروبا و حتى تركيا
لطالما اتهمت فرنسا غريمتها و منافستها الشرسة تاريخيا في العالم بالانتهازية و استغلال الاتحاد الاوروبي كبقرة حلوب تدر عليها منافع تقوي اقتصادها دون بذل مجهودات كبيرة في تقوية الاتحاد الاوروبي. فهل يمكن تحميل انجلترا سبب الوهن في الاتحاد الاوروبي لوحدها؟
لكن السؤال الأهم يبقى ما تأثير هذه الانتهازية  تاريخيا على علاقات انجلترا بالقارة العجوز؟ ربما يبقى واحد من أهم الأحداث في تاريخ انجلترا هو إعلان التاج الانكليزي بأنه أعلى سلطة على الأرض لكنسية انكلترا و نبذ سلطة البابا في روما على يد الملك هنري الثامن الذي عين نفسه رئسيا لكنيسة انجلترا الجديدة في عام 1534. مثل هذا الانفصال بداية لعهد جديد في تاريخ المسيحية في أوروبا ، و لعل الطرفة التاريخية حول هذا الانفصال المتمثلة في رغبة هنري الثامن الشديدة في الطلاق من زوجته الأولى كاثرين الأراغونية بسبب عجزها عن انجاب وريث ذكر له مثّل ثورة كبيرة في عهده إذ استغل هنري خلافه مع بابا روما الذي رفض طلاقه من كاثرين و حال دون زواجه من آن بولين  لينتهز الفرصة لإعلان استقلال انجلترا من هيمنة الكنسية الكاثوليكية.

لقد كانا ثاتشر و تشرشل شخصيتان براغماتيتان انجليزيتان دافعتا عن خصوصية انجلترا ككيان مميزعن أوروبا القارة  فاخترع فطور الصباح الانكليزي و الشاي الانكليزي للتأكيد على هذه الخصوصية الثقافية المتجذرة في التاريخ.، وبما أن بريطانيا جزيرة فالعقلية الانعزالية رسمت أهم  معالمها ككيان سياسي و اقتصادي و ثقافي متميز و مستقل

Black Country: البلاد السوداء

أوروبا القارة: Continental Europe

tug of war

Source: The Economist

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عندما يذهب الشامي إلى افريقيا : Le Levant va en Afrique

تونس 17 جوان 2016: حوالي التاسعة و النصف صباحا

جلست في الصالة رقم 50 في مطار تونس قرطاج الدولي أنتظر رحلتي إلى بيروت و بجانبي فتاتان افريقيتان تنتظران أيضا  مثلي ربما رحلتهما الأولى إلى بلد الأرز. تصفحت الانترنت فقط لأضيع الوقت و بين الفينة و الأخرى أسترق النظر إلى وجوه المسافرين. أنا أعشق النظر إلى وجوه الناس من مختلف الأجناس و الأعراق . لكن هذه المرة تمعنت في الوجوه و كذلك جوازات سفر المسافرين: كانت جلها من بلدان افريقية فرنكوفونية. ركزت نظري على عائلتين ذات ملامح عربية : واحدة متكونة من سيدتين محجبتين و فتى، وتجلس غير بعيد عنهم فتاة افريقية طويلة القامة و ملامحها تدل على الأرجح أنها من السينغال وزادتها هيبة ضفائرها الافريقية و هي تمشي بأنفة غير معهودة  من خادمة مرافقة للعائلة اللبنانية. العائلة الأخرى غير تقليدية متكونة من رجل عربي الملامح في الستين أو السبعين من العمر مع ابنه الثلاثيني او الاربعيني وترافقه فتاة افريقية بشعرها الاصطناعي المنسوج (weave-tissage)

و سمرتها التي تتراوح بين الداكنة و الفاتحة بعض الشيء وكانا الاثنان يتبادلان أطراف الحديث  في انسجام نادر توحي بأنهما متزوجين حديثين. واصلت التمعن في مسافرين آخرين حتى وقع نظري على فتاة فليبينة كانت تجوب الصالة بطفل صغير في عربة أطفال تدفعها، بينما كانت الأم اللبنانية منهمكة بطفلين آخرين أكبر منه سنا.

فجأة أعلنت المضيفة التونسية عن موعد فتح باب صعود الطائرة فهرع الجميع أطفالا ,، شبابا و شيوخا للصعود و تتالت أغلب جوارات السفر بين السنيغال و بوركينافاسو و لبنان و كان بعض المسافرين مزدوجي الجنسية : لبناني و جنسية بلد افريقي. كان الأمر مدهشا، غريبا ، غير مألوف رؤية جنسيتين عادة متناقضتين متنافرتين من قارتين مختلفتين لا يجمع تاريخهما شيء إلا في تفاصيل الهجرة الشامية إلى بلدان افريقيا الغربية أو ما يسمى أحيانا بالشتات اللبناني في بلدان افريقيا الغربية

(la diaspora libanaise en Afrique de l’ouest)

كان الحديث بين المسافرين يدور باللغات العربية و الفرنسية و الانجليزية ، وحال وصولي لمطار رفيق الحريري ببيروت وجدت أن  كل اليافطات باللغات الثلاث شيء غير معتاد لم أره في ألبلدان التي زرتها في العالم

“Bonjour Madame”, “Sorry”, “انتي تتكلمي عربي؟”: lost in translation

كيف لشعب أن يراوح أو بالأحرى يتأرجح بين 3 لغات بلباقة قل نظيرها في أي بلد في العالم؟

بدت لي بيروت  كمدينة بلفاست عاصمة ايرلندا الشمالية: كلتا المدينتين شهدتا حربا أهلية ضروسا قتل فيها عديد الآلاف من الناس، لكن لا يوجد جدار السلام في بيروت مثل   بلفاست و الذي يفصل الاحياء الكاثوليكية عن البروتستانتية. كما أنه لم يتسنى لي لأن أشاهد ، إن وجدت اللوجات الجدارية التي بنت بلفاست شهرتها العالمية منها و جلبت سياحا من جميع أنحاء العالم لرؤية المتحف المفتوح  ،والذي يقص تاريخ ايرلندا النضالي ضد الاستعمار البريطاني و التضامن الايديولوجي مع اسرائيل لدى الملكيين البروتستانت أو مع فلسطين لدى الكاثوليك  الجمهوريين

لا يمكنني الحكم لأني لم ارى سوى جزء صغير من بيروت مقتصرة على منطقة الحمراء و ما جاورها

غادرت باريس الشرق الأوسط بعد يومين و نصف رحلة عمل إلى تونس و في مطار بيروت لمحت رجلا في اواخر الاربعين من عمره بدت على وجهه  الحيرة و شيء من الاحباط عندما كان يسجل أمتعته في رحلة الخطوط التونسية و كنت وراءه أنتظر تسجيل حقيبتي.

سألني باللغة الفرنسية إذا تكرمت و ساعدته على تسجيل وسادتين كبيرتين معي ،خاصة و أني سجلت حقيبة ظهر خفيفة و لم أكن أعلم أن لدي الحق في تسجيل حقيبة أخرى  مع الخطوط التونسية. طلب مني بلطف أن أساعده و إلا فإنه سيضطر لدفع مبلغ 105 دولار أمريكي لتمرير متاعه في التسجيل على الرحلة . قبلت طلبه و بدت ملامح الفرح و الامتنان على وجه الرجل سألته بالفرنسية : “من أي بلد أنت”؟

“أنا أصلي لبناني لكنني من مالي”

في الطائرة جلس بجانبي شاب شوري اسمه باسل و كانت ملامح التعب تبدو على وجهه: “غادرت اللاذقية منذ الساعة 2 صباحا لبيروت و سأتجه

“بعد تونس إلى داكار  أين سألتقي بسوريين هناك

وصلنا إلى مطار تونس قرطاج مع الساعة الرابعة مساء بالتوقيت المحلي و التقيت ب”آلان” المالي ،هذا هو اسمه،  في صالة الامتعة

آلان اشتغل منشطا موسيقيا في راديو في ابيدجان اكبر مدن ساحل العاج و لكن بسبب الاضطرابات الامنية في البلد في 2011 اضطر لمغادرة البلاد و ذهب لقطر أين اشتغل لبضع سنوات قبل أن يضطر لأن يغادر الخليح  مؤخرا

آلان: “لم استطع التأقلم مع العقلية العربية بصفة عامة

“آلان :”لم لا تعود و تسكن في لبنان؟

آلان: “لا استطيع لاني تعودت على العيش في مالي و ساحل العاج, زد على ذلك المستوى المعيشي غالي و الرواتب متدنية و صراحة لن أتأقلم مع العقلية اللبنانية . أنا ولدت ببماكو و عندما كنت صغيرا كنت اتكلم البامبارا و لكن نسيتها عندما كبرت ، درست علوم تسويق في جامعة مونريال في 1986 و رجعت و تزوجت لبنانية و رزقت باربعة أطفال و لكن الزواج لم يدم طويلا فتزوجت ثانية و ان شاء الله ارزق بطفل آخر و حاليا سأعود إلى أبيدجان للعمل. الناس يعرفونني هناك”

كان آلان متخوفا أن يضايقه أعوان الجمارك في مطار تونس قرطاج

“سألوني عن وجهتي و لماذا جئت لتونس بسبب جواز سفري اللبناني ربما لكن الحمد لله كمواطن مالي لا أحتاج إلى تأشيرة لتونس ”

“قلت له :” أنت محظوظ أنك عوملت أحسن من أبناء بلدك الماليين السود في تونس

آلان : ” صحيح للاسف شيء محزن

غادرنا المطار و وجد آلان أصدقاءه التونسيين في انتظاره للبقاء معهم أربع أيام (كان فرحا بأنه سيكتشف تونس لاول مرة) قبل الرجوع إلى الوطن الاخر في افريقيا

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صورة التقطتها حال وصولي إلى مطار رفيق الحريري ببيروت 

 

 

 

 

 

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