I’m staying here for now, but the situation is extremely difficult. The MNLA rebels are barely active here anymore. The radical Islamists, on the other hand, grow in number every day, and impose their laws on us.
The city is very safe, very calm – almost dead – but we pay for this by being subjected to their annoying Islamic laws. Boys and girls can no longer spend time together in public. They’ve decided that when the schools re-open, they’ll separate the girls from the boys. There is no more music in the city; the sound of tendés [Tuareg drums] has disappeared. They’ve also shut off television signals. Only people with satellite dishes can still watch it. RFI [Radio France Internationale] was completely cut off for a while; they’ve only recently started letting some of their African shows get through. The city’s electricity is shut off from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and again from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. The city’s new leaders can do whatever they want, since they’re the only ones with the means to get gas for the generators.
“A few days ago, the Islamists set up a training camp on the outskirts of the city”
Timbuktu residents are facing a severe food shortage. It’s so bad that some of the young people join the Islamist groups, because at least then they know they will be fed. A few days ago, the Islamists set up a training camp on the outskirts of the city. Many foreigners are now living there. In the streets, it’s now common to run into Nigerians, Chadians, and Arabs [Editors’ Note: The AFP noted the presence of Tunisians, Algerians and Libyans]. Sometimes I can’t even recognise what language some of them are speaking. [According to RFI, Pakistanis speaking Pashto have also arrived in Timbuktu].
When Islamists attacked the mausoleum on Friday [radical Islamists set fire to the tomb of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar
, a Sufi saint; Sufism is considered heresy by Salafists], the faithful who were used to praying at the saint’s tomb wanted to revolt. They gathered at the cemetery next door. But quickly, they realised that they were no match for men with guns.
I closed my shop when Timbuktu fell [on April 1]. Since then, I’ve been waiting to see what happens. Some Tuaregs would like to buy my shop from me but for now, I refuse.