Magharebia (Washington DC)

12 November 2012

Tunisia: Local Jews Demand Protection From Extremists

Tunis — The government vows to ward off extremist threats and protect Tunisia's minorities.

Tunisia's Jewish residents say they are determined to stay in their country, even as security concerns mount.

Four Libyans and one Tunisian were arrested November 1st in Zarzis for allegedly plotting to kidnap "one or two Jews from well-off families to obtain a ransom", Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Tarrouche said.

The news came amid heightened concerns about the rise of salafist violence in Tunisia. Tunisian Jewish leader Perez Trabelsi warned that attacks on the minority group aim to "sow panic and fears in Tunisian Jews' hearts to make them leave Tunisia".

"We now feel extremely worried in Djerba and Zarzis," he said. "The Tunisian government has to provide more protection for us and to spare us the repeated threats which are made against us."

"However, this is our country and we won't leave it, and we have the right to live in it like all Tunisians," he added.

Trabelsi warned that such acts would "harm Tunisia's image overseas".

"Therefore, they must be stopped, and we have to live together regardless of differences between us," he said.

For his part, Interior Minister Ali Larayedh said late last month during a ministerial meeting that the authorities had foiled several terrorist attempts in which arms-selling networks were involved.

He added that the ministry was enforcing the law. The government's policy is not marred by ambiguity, and it is currently carrying out security campaigns against all breaches of law, Larayedh said.

In March, salafists staged several demonstrations chanting anti-Semitic slogans, which drew condemnations from the government and civil society groups.

"Threats made against minorities today are beyond imagination and expectations, as they have gone as far as planning to kidnap Jews and demand ransom for their release," Tunisian Association for the Defence of Minorities (ATSM) chief Yamina Thabet said at a November 4th press conference.

"We can never keep silent about that," she added.

Thabet demanded that the Constituent Assembly incorporate the rights and freedoms of minorities in the constitution. She called for consolidating all ways to provide security for both the majority and minority, which would ensure equality between citizens without any discrimination.

Tunisians denounced these recent threats against Jews and calls for violence.

"We regret such acts that have targeted our Jewish compatriots," Mohamed Alimi said. "Tunisia's Jews are in their country, Tunisia, and they have all rights, and we are all urged to protect them. They are Tunisians embracing the Jewish faith and they are free in that. Religion is for God, but our homeland is for everyone."

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