North Africa

Tunisia: lawyers strike amid crackdown on dissent

In an unprecedented move, striking lawyers from across Tunisia rallied in front of court buildings in Tunis, effectively bringing all proceedings to a halt. The unified action comes in response to what legal professionals are describing as a dangerous escalation by the government targeting their community. The Tunisia Lawyers Council called for a nationwide strike after police conducted a raid on the headquarters of Tunisia’s bar association and arrested Sonia Dahmani, a prominent attorney and critic of the government. The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) joined other civil society organizations in lending their support to the striking lawyers. (Photo: Abir Khlif/Jurist)

El Hamma

Synagogues attacked in Germany, Tunisia

Unknown assailants targeted a Berlin synagogue with Molotov cocktails, while rioters in Tunisia burned down the country’s historic El Hamma synagogue. There was no significant property damage at the Kahal Adass Jisroel synagogue in Berlin, but El Hamma in the Tunisian city of Gabes was effectively¬†destroyed. Although El Hamma no longer functioned as a house of worship, it held major symbolic significance for Tunisian Jews, who are still shaken from a May shooting at the Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba, the oldest in Africa. (Photo showing damage to Tomb of Rabbi Yousef al-Maarabi at¬†El Hamma synagogue¬†via RadioJ)

North Africa

EU-Tunisia migration deal amid rights abuses

Amnesty International condemned a new migration agreement between the European Union and Tunisia, saying it makes the EU “complicit in the suffering that will inevitably result” from what represents a “dangerous expansion” of failed policies. The deal commits the EU to providing ‚ā¨105 million (around $120 million) in aid to Tunisia to deter Europe-bound migration. The signing of the deal came mere days after Tunisian authorities forcibly deported hundreds of Black African migrants across the Libyan border, amid a surge of xenophobic violence. The UN condemned the Tunisian government’s actions as “cruel and inhuman treatment.” (Photo: US Navy via Wikimedia Commons)

North Africa

Tunisia: mass expulsion of Black African migrants

Hundreds of Black African migrants were rounded up from the Tunisian port city of Sfax, expelled across the country’s border with Libya and left stranded¬†in the desert, sparking street protests by the large community of migrants waiting in the city. According to reports, some managed to escape back to the Tunisian side after being confronted by Libyan militiamen, but the fate of all those expelled has still not been accounted for. ¬†The expulsions came after mobs attacked Black Africans in Sfax following the funeral of a Tunisian man who was stabbed to death in an altercation with migrants. Tensions have been rising for months in Tunisia, which has seen a sharp increase in people attempting to cross the Mediterranean from its shores this year. (Map: Google)


Politics, neglect hobble Italy’s migration system

The number of asylum seekers and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Italy has surged this year, according to EU officials. More than 56,000 people have made the journey‚Äďalmost double the total over the same period last year. The increase prompted Italy’s government to declare a six-month state of emergency in April, in part to address overcrowding at a center for those who arrive on the Italian island of Lampedusa. But experienced aid workers say the focus on numbers is distracting from the real issues: dire conditions in North Africa‚ÄĒmost recently Tunisia‚ÄĒpushing more people to take dangerous journeys at sea; and an Italian migration reception system near collapse due to years of politicization and neglect. (Photo: Sara Creta/TNH)

Planet Watch

Migrant fatalities surged in 2022: UN

The UN migration agency reported¬†that 2022 was the deadliest year yet for migrants crossing from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) into Europe. According to the report from the International Organization for Migration‘s Missing Migrants Project, a record number of 3,800 people died along these migratory routes last year. The report underscored the urgent need for action to improve the safety and protection of migrants. The data, though recognized as undercounted due to the challenges in collecting information, sheds light on the magnitude of the problem. The recorded deaths in 2022 represent an 11% increase from the previous year. (Photo: Flavio Gasperini/SOS Mediterranee¬†via InfoMigrants)

North Africa
migrant camp

Drones deployed in Libya migrant crackdown

Libyan politicians¬†wrapped up nearly three weeks of talks in Morocco meant to set a framework for the country’s long-delayed elections. Back at home, the country’s rival sides are both cracking down hard on migrants and refugees. The Tripoli-based Government of National Unity is using armed drones to target what it says are migrant traffickers bringing people in from Tunisia. In eastern Libya, authorities have reportedly rounded up some¬†6,000Egyptian migrants, deporting some and holding others in a customs hangar near the border. Some suspect that this has been driven by the political calculations of Gen. Khalifa Haftar, leader of the “Libyan National Army” that controls much of the country’s east.¬†Giorgia Meloni,¬†Italy’s far-right prime minister,¬†visited Haftar last month to talk migration control amid¬†an increase in people crossing the central Mediterranean. (Photo of migrant camp near Tunisian border with Libya:¬†UK Department for International Development via Jurist)

Greater Middle East
Tunisian Jews

MENA Jews: Zionism or indigeneity?

Amid deadly Israeli air-raids on Gaza, a terror attack targets the ancient Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia. The attack came as Jews from throughout the Mediterranean world gathered at Ghriba in the annual pilgrimage for the Lag B‚ÄôOmer festival. In Episode 173 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg recalls how the Jews of Djerba have been repeatedly targeted over the past generation, with this latest attack coming in the context of a reconsolidating dictatorship in Tunisia and a harsh crackdown on the opposition. Yet the Tunisian Jews continue to resist Zionist pressure to emigrate to Israel, instead embracing their North African indigeneity. This embrace is overwhelmingly returned by the country’s Arab and Muslim majority, in repudiation of extremists who would target Tunisian Jews to avenge Israeli crimes. Prominent Tunisians were among the Muslims who sheltered Jews during the World War II Axis occupation of North Africa. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo:¬†Rabbis at Djerba synagogue, 1940, via Beit Hatfutsot)

North Africa

Tunisia: protest xenophobic attacks on Black Africans

Amnesty International called on Tunisia to put an immediate end to racist and xenophobic attacks targeting Black African migrants. The wave of violence began in early February and was exacerbated by a racially-charged speech by President Kais Saied at a National Security Council meeting. President Saied’s statements sparked street protests in Tunis, in defiance of an official ban on demonstrations. Activists also opposed a widening crackdown on dissent since Saied seized near-total powers in July 2021. The Tunisian National Salvation Front has vowed continued weekly protests. (Photo: Chahd Lina Belhadj/Meshkal)

Watching the Shadows
internet ban protest

Internet censorship laws advance worldwide

The United Nations Human Rights Office expressed concern over Turkey’s adoption of legal measures “that risk substantially curtailing freedom of expression in the country.” A package of laws¬†passed by the Turkish parliament could see journalists and activists imprisoned for up to three years for spreading “disinformation.”¬†Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni meanwhile¬†signed the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act into law, which advocacy group Unwanted Witness called a “looming nightmare to the freedom of expression and speech.” Last month, Tunisian authorities promulgated Decree No. 54 on Combating Crimes Related to Information & Communication Systems, imposing five years imprisonment for spreading “fake news.” (Photo of Turkish free-speech demonstration via Wikimedia Commons)

North Africa

Tunisia: president dissolves Supreme Judicial Council

Tunisian President Kais Saied officially dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council, sending police to seal the chamber where the body meets. The Council’s head, Youssef Bouzakher, called the dissolution “illegal,” and said it is aimed at bringing Tunisia’s jurists under control of the executive. Established in 2016, the Council¬†is a constitutional body entrusted with ensuring the independence of the judiciary, responsible for appointing judges and taking disciplinary action. Bouzakher said the Council intends to continue working in defiance of the president’s announcement. The move is a further consolidation of¬†Saied’s power following his “self-coup” last year, in which Tunisia’s parliament was suspended. (Photo:¬†XLR Media via¬†Twitter)

North Africa

Tunisia: political crisis deepens

Tunisia’s former president Moncef Marzouki was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison, convicted of “undermining the external security of the State.”¬†The charge is evidently a reference to his calls on social media¬†for protest against current President Ka√Įs Saied, and for an end to French support of Saied’s regime. Marzouki calls¬†Saied a “dictator,” and accuses him of having conducted a coup when he¬†suspended parliament and fired the prime minister amid a wave of national unrest¬†in July. (Image: Pixabay)