Written by Jesse Moore
March 12, 2023
Tunisia, once the only Arab country considered to have bloomed in the Arab Spring, is quickly wilting, as I’ve previously described. President Kais Saied, a former law professor, performed a coup in 2021 by suspending parliament and assuming executive power in order to ‘save’ the country from the parliament that held ‘real progress’ hostage. Not much has changed since his self-aggrandizing revolution. The country is still plagued by a poor economy and leftover turmoil from the Covid-19 pandemic. Young Tunisians see no future in their country, prompting many of them to make the perilous journey to Europe. Once there, they will often find little hospitality. Right-wing populists spout conspiracy theories about a so-called “Great Replacement”, where black and brown immigrants are ‘reverse-colonizing’ Europe in order to dilute its ‘white’ population. Sometimes this racist conspiracy theory features a nefarious ‘other’ that directs this demographic war.
In his address to Tunisia’s National Security Council last month, President Saied echoed this narrative, claiming that there is a conspiracy to “change the demographic composition of Tunisia” by “settl[ing] irregular migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in Tunisia.” Saied’s remarks were a pathetic attempt to pin the country’s woes on the ‘other’, a well-worn fascist tactic that may be coming back into fashion. These comments by Tunisia’s president stoked fear about anti-black violence in the country and prompted protests in the capital, Tunis.
What did the ex-professor have to say about his role in stoking racist violence? “But I have sub-Saharan African friends!”
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