A poisonous dictatorship has been built in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab spring

Sihem Bensedrine

I was relieved when Hervé, a young man from Ivory Coast who occasionally helps me around the house, finally called. It had been four agonising days of radio silence. Since his landlady had evicted him, he had been wandering the streets of Raoued, a suburb of Tunis, trying to avoid the marauding gangs. This was right after President Kais Saied had delivered an incendiary speech against migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

I asked Hervé why he hadn’t called me for help. He said he had heard the police were threatening to punish those who help black migrants and didn’t want to get me into trouble.

A poisonous atmosphere has descended on Tunisia. On 21 February, at a national security council meeting, Saied launched a tirade against black immigrants, whom he blamed for “violence, crimes and unacceptable acts”. He claimed that “successive waves of illegal immigration” were part of a secret plot to dilute Tunisia’s Arab-Islamic identity into “a purely African country”….