Are Sub-Saharan Africans being targeted in post-Ben Ali Tunisia?

A man being arrested in front of a building in Tunis where many students from Sub-Saharan Africa live. Screen grab from a video (below) filmed by our Observer.
 
 
A student from Sub-Saharan Africa living in the Tunisian capital called the police after a group of men started throwing stones at his apartment. However, after reaching out to the police for help, the victim was arrested. Our Observer, who filmed the incident, believes the arrest was entirely racially motivated and that such discrimination is on the rise in post-Ben Ali Tunisia.
 
The arrest took place during the night of April 29 in the neighbourhood of Lafayette, located in the heart of the capital. The majority of residents living in the apartment building - which many in the neighbourhood call “the blacks’ building” – are students from Sub-Saharan Africa enrolled in local universities.
 
In this video filmed by our Observer just after the building was hit by stones, her neighbour has already gone downstairs. People gathered at the foot of the building start insulting him. One of them can be heard yelling, "We're in Tunisia here!"
Contributors

“Racism has always existed here, but foreign students were better protected under Ben Ali’s regime”

Shanyacarter (not her real name) is a student from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has lived in Tunisia for five years now. She lives in the building where the incident took place, and filmed her neighbour’s arrest.
 
It all started with an argument between a Tunisian taxi driver and a Senegalese man who lives in my building, and who also happens to be one of my friends. He told me that the taxi driver called him a “guera guera”, meaning a monkey, and that they started fighting. The driver took out a baton and started to hit him, so my friend grabbed it away from him and hit him back. Passers-by intervened and broke up the fight, and my friend walked away. All this happened right in front of our building. The taxi driver later came back accompanied by several other men armed with batons and stones. They started throwing them at the building’s façade. However, what they didn’t know is that my friend’s apartment doesn’t open onto the street, and he wasn’t even home!
 
He kept repeating, “But I’m the one who called you! I’m not the one you should arrest!”
 
I live on the second floor. When my roommates and I heard all this racket, we rushed to our windows. That’s when the attackers saw that we were all black, and started hurling racist insults. None of their rocks reached my window, but they shattered windows of the apartment on the first floor. The student living there called the police. He then went downstairs to meet the police officers, thinking they had come to help him. But very quickly it became clear this was not the case. The police acted like he was the one who had caused the violence. He got defensive and kept repeating, “But I’m the one who called you! I’m not the one you should arrest!” Meanwhile, the attackers, who were standing just a few metres away, baton in hand, kept yelling racist insults.
 
From what I could hear, the policemen asked him to come with them for questioning. They ended up forcing him into their patrol car, as you can see in the video. [According to Raoul Fone, the former president of the Organisation for African Students and Interns in Tunisia, in these types of situations, the police sometimes take away the victim for their own protection. He believes this could be the case here.] At 0’33 minutes into the video, you can see one of the attackers hit my neighbour with a baton. [A policeman pushes the assailant away, but doesn’t arrest him.]
 
Video of the young man's arrest, filmed by our Observer. 
 
My neighbour was freed two hours later. The attackers didn’t get into any trouble at all for throwing stones and for trying to force their way into our building, which thankfully was well-locked.
 
The front of the building. Photo taken by our Observer a day after the incident. 
 
Photo of a broken window on the building's first floor. 
 
"I heard people yell: 'Ben Ali is gone. This is Tunisia, not Africa!'”
 
This incident is representative of the climate of insecurity we’ve lived in since the fall of Ben Ali’s regime. Of course, insecurity is a problem for all Tunisians, but I think that we foreigners who are black are particularly at risk. Racism against black people runs quite deep in Tunisia. [Editor’s Note: As of yet, the Tunisian authorities haven’t published any studies on racism in the country.] And recently, it’s become even worse, because many Tunisians believe that foreign students, especially black ones, were too well-protected under Ben Ali’s regime. It is true that the police often defended us when there were minor altercations. Black students make up the majority of the student body at private universities here, so the regime didn’t want to lose this source of income. Many people, however, now want us to leave. Monday night, I heard people yell: “Ben Ali is gone. This is Tunisia, not Africa!”
 
FRANCE 24 contacted both the local police station and the interior ministry seeking comment. They have not responded to our questions as of yet.

Comments

A true reflection of Tunisia

First of all I would like to really thank all the Tunisians who have apologized on behalf of their brothers responsible for this vicious act.
This incident is a true representation of Tunisia, I have been living here for a year as an expat, I come from a country where racism was present for centuries , since our democracy things have improved , there is abit still racism here and there but people are really trying to change their mindsets. I have been to many countries and experienced racism in some,but the kind of racism experienced in Tunisia is the worst I have ever had to deal with , it is extremely difficult for black africans to integrate themselves into their society. Everyday is a struggle for us,from the stares,to the insults,the laughs ,if only they could put themselves in our position for just one day to see how unbearable it is to live here. What I find hyprocritical is that Tunisians or Magherbians living in France call black africans their brothers or cousins yet they don't even treat us like human beings in their countries. Even the most racist French people would never treat us the way they do. Once my work contract ends ( if I don't leave before then as the situation is deplorable) I will never set foot in this country ever again and I will discourage people to visit the country...Sad sad story,a country with great potential but people are not ready to change their mindsets...

A REAL SHAME

It sucks that things like that happen in the 21st century! Tunisia and the 4 other Arabs country in Africa most know that they are not the only countries that have black migrants and some Black Country in Africa also have Arabs migrants from those countries. What will happen if same thing happen to an Arabic in Ivory Coast Senegal or Gabon? We are neighbors and we most learn how to respect each other and be proud of our continent and Make it the best place in the world. IT'S TIME FOR AFRICA TO PUT IT DIFFERENCE AWAY AND TRY TO UNITE. Today look at the economy of the black Africa with an amazing growth. It Show that we also put something on the table. People always show negativity of sub-Saharan Africa. IT"S MORE THAN THAT. I think it's time that we African North to South East to West start talking about things like that. Mostly the students in universities, it's a reality. What a shame. but I don't hate North African brothers they are always welcome in our countries. It's just a wake up call for Black Africans also to develop there countries high and highers than other. there is racism everywhere even in the Black Africa, some tribes don't like others. But it will end one day. Keep fighting. And all north African that are reading this it's not just about comments, but let put our hands together and fight this. We are all we got! Like Martin Luther King jr. say "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools". From a Ghanaian Brother always in the USA. I will form some discuss group About this in my university in our African Society. Hope Every body do the same in different countries! Even North Africans come together and join us!!! Thanks and one love!

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