Magharebia (Washington DC)

24 March 2014

Tunisians Denounce Racial Bigotry

Tunis — Tunisia on Friday (March 21st) marked the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

This year, black Tunisians staged protests in a number of cities to demand an end to prejudice and to reclaim their dignity.

According to a statement issued by organisers, the move was aimed at drawing attention to the condition of black citizens and raising awareness about the importance of establishing equality and social justice without any discrimination based on colour.

The protest started from the south and reached the capital on Friday.

Black minorities live mostly in southern Tunisian provinces, such as Gabes, Medenine, Tataouine, Kebili and Gafsa.

In Djerba, protestors carried banners reading, "Tunisia accommodates all", "No to Racism, Yes to Equality" and "I'm a Full Tunisian Citizen!"

Imen Ismail, an activist defending the rights of black citizens, said that racial discrimination did not stop after the Tunisian revolution.

She stressed the need to stop all racial practices against blacks and to establish equality among all Tunisians.

"People still give us that negative look," said Hinda Ghraoui, a housewife from Gabes. "We're subjected to verbal, racial attacks in our lives from our compatriots who have a different colour. We also suffer from discrimination in most fields."

"We've had no presence in political and leadership positions for years, and it's no coincidence, but a deliberate thing because of our skin colour," she added. "In recruitment interviews, we're not accepted."

Arbi Ghanem, a second-year university student majoring in marketing, said, "We suffer from looks of inferiority at streets and public spaces. We hear harsh words because of the colour of our skins. We're in pain and have a problem of integration with others. God created us equal, so why this contempt?"

He criticised the absence of provisions in the constitution incriminating racism and punishing perpetrators to uproot this phenomenon and enhance equality, justice and equal opportunities among all Tunisians.

The Tunisian constitution ratified in late January denounces discrimination and confirms in article 21 that all citizens have the same rights and duties and are equal before the law.

"Unfortunately, racism still exists in our country whether we like it or not," teacher Mostapha Abidi, 53, told Magharebia.

He noted, "Fortunately, it exists with only a few Tunisians who still don't accept differences and reject to mix, not just with people of other colours, but with people from other areas. This reflects the narrow-mindedness of some."

"They're Tunisians like us," he added. "Therefore, we have to give them the right to take part in public life without attacking their dignity or insulting them."

In his turn, journalist Mohamed Safina said, "Discrimination against black citizens in Tunisian society is a gaping wound."

"And in spite of the many social and cultural changes and the manifestations of openness in society, it hasn't been healed," he added.

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