Source: France 24

While Tunisian authorities continue to carry out mass arrests of people from sub-Saharan Africa as part of a campaign against irregular migration, there have been more and more reports of abuse experienced by Black Tunisians. Black Tunisian women activists are speaking out about this rampant racial profiling, denouncing the racist climate and showing support for the people targeted by the anti-migrant campaign. 

Using a hashtag that roughly translates as “carrying my papers, because you never know”, Black Tunisian women are denouncing the arbitrary arrests, racist profiling and identity checks that they have experienced since mid-February when the government launched a so-called security campaign aimed at clamping down on undocumented migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. 

Maha Abdelhamid, an organiser with the Tunisian collective Voix des Femmes Tunisiennes Noires (Voices of Black Tunisian Women), called on Black Tunisian women to share photos of themselves with their Tunisian identity cards.

The aim is to show their solidarity with sub-Saharan migrants, the targets of a wave of mass arrests and xenophobic political discourse. They also want to raise awareness about the violence experienced by Black people in Tunisia, citizens or not.

Black Tunisian activist Fatma Ezzahra posted on Facebook about an incident that occurred on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in the centre of Tunis on February 24. It began with a Tunisian woman verbally abusing her and it escalated into a physical fight. 

Ezzahra recounted that the woman called out to her in the street, believing that she was a migrant from sub-Saharan Africa. 

“I responded that I was Tunisian. She said to me, ‘In any case, you are not one of us and you’ll be deported along with them,” Ezzahra said on Facebook. 

The two women came to blows when Ezzahra said she would file a complaint with the police. 

Other Black Tunisian women also took to Facebook to post about the xenophobic or racist street harassment that they had experienced. 

This social media user posted about how a man on a motorcycle stopped to question her in the middle of a street.

Another man saw her and exclaimed, “You are still here, you [Black people]?

And a group of young girls shouted, “They [Black people] kill Tunisians!”

Another social media user said that two women in central Tunis mistook her for a foreigner. However, once she clarified that she was indeed Tunisian, the woman said, “We thought you were African, you know how they are getting on our nerves recently.”

On TikTok, another Black Tunisian said that he had been rounded up by police in Sfax on February 24, when he was just shopping in the market. 

“There was a bus and police were making all of the sub-Saharan Africans get into it. In the crowd, the police pushed me into the vehicle and told me to get in, despite my protests [...] When we got to the zone run by the Mahres National Guard [Editor’s note: Mahres is a town located about thirty kilometres south of Sfax], I explained the misunderstanding to the commander.

"After verifying my papers, he apologized [...] It was an accident but, from now on, I’m going to hide at home until the raids have stopped. Would they deport me from my own country?” he said in this video.

The man on TikTok says that the National Guard didn’t follow up on the matter. Ezzahra had the same experience with the police.

However, in 2018, the Tunisian parliamentadopted a law on the elimination of racial discrimination. People charged with discrimination could, in theory, be sentenced to up to a month in prison and a fine of 3000 dinars (around €890).

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