It was 1pm when the ‘beards’ broke down the hotel doors. Some of them went upstairs to ransack the rooms, while others went to destroy the kitchens and attack the bar. They broke everything and even stole money and some of my personal belongings, since I live in the hotel. The clients were traumatised. We even had to bring a couple of tourists to the hospital because they were in shock.
Boxes of alcohol thrown into the hotel's fountain.
“Despite the threats, the government had encouraged me to keep my bar open, telling me they would ensure my security”
This was not the first time that Salafists have targeted my hotel. Several days before Ramadan, in July, they sent me death threats. They warned me that if I continued to sell alcohol, they would attack me and my hotel. I filed a complaint and the public prosecutor launched an investigation into the threats, which has apparently not led to much… When my hotel was attacked, I recognised some of the faces. They belonged to the men who had threatened me about a month and a half ago. They are acting with complete impunity.
The vandalised hotel bar. All photos courtesy of our Observer.
I never thought about closing my bar – except during Ramadan – specifically because the government had assured me that my bar and I would be safe. The governor and the police chief encouraged me to stay open, saying that they would ensure my security and that of the bar. When I filed a complaint the first time, they told me Islamists would not attack me because I had a license and because the hotel is far from the city centre. I’m actually based near the entrance to Sidi Bouzid, which is not at all residential. I thought I would be spared.
“I feel like the police and the government have completely abandoned me”
I feel like the police and the government have completely abandoned me. Yesterday, we called the police as soon as the Salafists broke into the hotel. They were there for more than 30 minutes, destroying everything, and the police only arrived after they had left.
I am seriously considering paying for a private security company, like in Iraq, to protect my establishment. If the authorities can no longer guarantee our safety, we will all eventually be forced to hire private security to defend ourselves.