Tunisian activist lawyer Sonia Dahmani being arrested. Source: Screenshot of 'EditoTN', a channel focusing on the Maghreb region. - Photo: 2024

Lawyer Defies President of Tunisia as He Cracks Down on Free Speech

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | 12 May 2024 (IDN) — Authorities in Tunisia are tightening a noose around the necks of its citizens, persecuting those who criticize the government and jailing dozens of Tunisians on dubious and political charges.

A slender country wedged between Libya and Algeria; Tunisia faces a severe economic crisis. The president repeatedly accuses his opponents of conspiracy and fomenting social tensions amid rising food prices.

The president has scapegoated Tunisia’s small population of Black migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who have also faced abuses from the security forces.

Authorities have also effectively dismantled the country’s largest opposition party, Ennahda.

On 11 May, Sonia Dahmani, a prominent activist lawyer, was detained by masked security forces who forced their way into Tunisia’s Bar Association to make arrests.

Dramatic scenes on TV showed police forcing their way into the headquarters of Tunisia’s Bar Association to detain Dahmani. The arrest was caught on camera as she was bundled out of the Lawyers’ House, part of the legal union, where she had been sheltering.

During a discussion on whether the sub-Saharan African refugees and migrants transiting Tunisia would try to stay there and “conquer” the country, Dahmani shot back: “What kind of extraordinary country are we talking about? The one that half of its youth want to leave?”

Regional strike in all Tunis courts

Tunisia was not an attractive country to settle, she said, given the plummeting standard of living that was pushing its youth to leave.

Tunisia’s Bar Association has called for a general regional strike in all Tunis courts in response to the raid.

In comments that were made public, President Saied linked undocumented Black African migrants to crime and a “conspiracy” to change Tunisia’s demographics.

“Hordes of illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa are still arriving, bringing violence, crime, and unacceptable and illegal practices,” he said.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called Saied’s speech racist, saying such remarks violate the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which Tunisia is a state party. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Tunisian activist lawyer Sonia Dahmani being arrested. Source: Screenshot of ‘EditoTN’, a channel focusing on the Maghreb region.

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