In wave of anti-Semitism, Russian mob storms plane ‘looking for Israelis’

Several anti-semitic incidents were recorded in the Caucasus, a Russian region made up of three majority-Muslim republics, on October 28 and 29. In one of these incidents, a mob stormed an airport to search for “Israelis” and “Jews” on a flight from Tel Aviv. Our team spoke to a researcher who said that while these incidents were sparked by the war between Hamas and Israel, there is also a more complex regional context.  

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A mob made up of hundreds of men flooded an airport in the Russian republic of Dagestan to search for “Israelis” or “Jews” on a flight from Tel Aviv. This was one of several anti-Semitic acts that occurred on October 28 and 29 in the Russian Caucasus region, which is majority Muslim. These acts were sparked by anger over the Israeli attacks on Gaza. 

A number of videos posted online show men gathered outside the airport in the capital city of Makhatchkala. They force open the doors of the airport, then flood onto the tarmac. Some of the men were wearing masks. Some carried Palestinian flags. Others could be heard shouting “Allah Akbar”.

This X post in French features a video of the moment that a group of men forced their way into Uytash airport in Makhatchkala, Dagestan on October 28. The men shouted “Allah Akbar” and pushed aside security forces as they entered. Some of them then spilled onto the tarmac.

Passengers on several flights were stuck inside the planes for several hours until the disturbance ended. 

The video on the left of this tweet was filmed on October 28. In it, a captain on board a plane that had just arrived at Makhatchkala Airport from Tel Aviv can be heard saying to passengers, “Don’t try to open the airplane doors, there is a mob outside that doesn’t know where you are from or why. Stay in your seat.” The video on the right shows men trying to force open airport doors.

Passengers getting ready to deplane see a mob rush onto the tarmac at Makhatchkala Airport on October 28, 2023. An employee tells the passengers to get back on board and they quickly turn around.

Men were also stopping cars that were leaving the airport in order to check who was inside. Security forces eventually arrived, arresting nearly 60 people. Nine police officers were injured, according to authorities.

On the same day, mobs formed outside two different hotels in another town in Dagestan, Khassaviourt. The mobs said they wanted to check the hotel guests to make sure they didn’t include any Israelis. 

“Get out!”, “Show your face!”, “Either we come in or you come out!” are some of the phrases you can hear people yelling in this video filmed in front of the Flamingo Hotel in Khassaviourt on October 28, 2023.

At a protest in support of Palestinians in Cherkessk, the capital of the Russian Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, some people called for the “expulsion of the Jews”.  

On October 29, the next day, a Jewish cultural centre that was under construction was burned down in Naltchik, the capital of the Republic of  Kabardino-Balkaria. Someone also spray-painted the phrase “death to Jews” in Russian on the building. 

This Jewish cultural centre under construction in Naltchik was set on fire on October 29, 2023. Someone also spray-painted the phrase “death to Jews” on the walls.

‘It seems that the initial intention was not to target local Jews’

Anna Colin Lebedev is a specialist in post-Soviet societies and a lecturer at the University of Paris-Nanterre. 

These incidents occurred in reaction to the current situation in Israel and Gaza. It seems that the initial intention was not to target local Jews. For example, there were no incidents reported in Derbent, in Dagestan, where there is a large Jewish community. 

In most cases, the mobs said they were looking for “Israelis”. In the case of the graffiti sprayed on the Jewish cultural centre, the term used to refer to Jews was “yahud”, which is an Arabic term. Arabic is not a language used in the region. However, there has been a mixing of the terms “Jews” and “Israelis” in the discourse. So, in the end, there is a blurring between opposition to Israel and anti-Semitism. 

In general, it is hard to know how widespread anti-Semitism is in Russia. To know that, there would have to be a record of anti-Semitic acts, but that’s not the case. That said, I haven’t heard of any major anti-Semitic actions in recent years. 

Moreover, the Jewish communities in the Caucasus spoke out after the incidents, saying that they had lived peacefully up until now and that they didn’t want that to change. Jewish people are native to this region, but there aren’t many of them. There are less than one thousand Jewish people in Dagestan, for example, out of three million residents, according to the latest census. In Russia, Jews are considered an ethnic, not religious, group. 

After these incidents, the Russian government said that the riots at the airport had been organised on the Telegram channel “Utro Daghestan” [Editor’s note: the channel has since been shut down]. The people in the channel are very clear about their solidarity with Hamas and Palestine, they refer to “our brothers in Hamas”.

That surely played a part, but it is more complicated than that. Aside from the question “who is behind this”, you also have to ask the question “how did this happen?” 

In Dagestan, there have been a lot of protests in recent years – against the military mobilisation for the war in Ukraine, against Covid restrictions, etc. 

Dagestan is a poor region with a pretty low level of education for Russia. There are many young people. And so what’s happening is a sort of dynamic of urban riots sparked by social media.

Russian authorities launched an investigation into public disturbances after the incidents that took place on October 28 and 29. The president of Dagestan indicated that they had been orchestrated “by the enemies of Russia”. The mufti of Dagestan, a Muslim legal expert who can rule on religious matters, called for calm. 

Anna Colin Lebedev continued:


After the wars in Chechnya [Editor’s note: the Second Chechen War started in 1999 and ended in 2009], Islam took two different forms in the Caucasus, especially in Chechnya, as shown by the work of my colleagues. 

First of all, there is the Islam of the state, which is loyal to Moscow. This is the Islam of the muftis, who have official government roles. But there is also a protest form of Islam that is linked to Islamist movements in Arabic countries. I tend to think that the latest incidents find their roots in this Islam, which is sensitive to the international situation.  

There were relatively few arrests at the airport, even though in Russia you can go to prison for a simple social media post. 

The people who were arrested were charged with “hooliganism” and “attempt[ing] to disturb public order” and not for “extremist acts” or “inciting racial hatred’’. I think that the security forces who intervened during the riots reacted in an ambiguous manner, uncertain what position to take: should they let the rioters do what they wanted, because Russia did actually receive a visit from a Hamas delegation [Editor’s note: on October 26], even if the people behind these protest movements don’t really seem to have any loyalty to the Kremlin? We’ll need to wait and see what happens within the legal system, but if the government shows signs of letting people get away with this, then we may be seeing other anti-Semitic incidents.

On November 3, Israel told its citizens not to travel abroad because of “an increase in anti-Semitism”, while tension related to the Israeli-Palestinian situation grows around the world.

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The Observers – Investigation: How a Haitian congregation tried to take down a gang

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On August 26, an evangelical pastor and his followers attempted to attack a gang in the north of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, armed with sticks and machetes. The gang retaliated with firearms, killing at least 21 people. What exactly happened that day? Why did ordinary churchgoers go to confront an armed gang? The FRANCE 24 Observers team investigated in this special program: “Haiti: Faith against bullets”.

“We’re at war! We’re going to attack them!” On August 26, Marcorel Zidor, also known as Pastor Marco, rallied his followers at the Piscine de Bethesda evangelical church in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This church has a significant platform with a Facebook following of more than 110,000 people. Pastor Marco’s aim was to confront the “Taliban” gang, led by an individual known as Jeff, operating in the Canaan district north of the capital.

Gangs hold sway over a major portion of Port-au-Prince, and the city’s residents bear the brunt of their violence, enduring massacres, rapes and kidnappings for ransom. At least 2,439 fatalities and 951 abductions were recorded between January 1 and August 15, according to the UN.

After mass on August 26, Pastor Marco and his congregation head for Canaan. Some are armed with sticks and machetes. On their way, they pass the police station in the Bon Repos district: it’s just one kilometre from Canaan, but the police let them continue on their way. 

Pastor Marco and his congregation walked from the Piscine de Bethesda evangelical church to the Canaan district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on August 26, 2023. © Observers

In Canaan, some of the congregation throw stones. The gang retaliates by shooting at them: it’s a bloodbath. Some people are also kidnapped by the gang, interrogated and then released.

At least 21 people killed by the gang

Neither authorities nor the church have released any official figures on the number of casualties. However, the FRANCE 24 Observers team was able to analyse footage and count the bodies visible in videos shot by the gang. We can confirm that at least 21 people were killed. But the death toll is likely to be higher, as some people are still missing.

Several potential reasons account for why regular churchgoers felt compelled to confront a heavily armed gang. Chief among them is what locals see as helplessness and inaction of the Haitian authorities when faced with these armed factions.

“We have a big security problem with the gangs. The government is not doing its job. It’s not taking responsibility. So private citizens are trying to do what the government should be doing,” notes Harold (not his real name), a member of the congregation.

This isn’t the first time that individuals have tried to take on the gangs directly. At the end of April, local residents began hunting down suspected gang members and killing them. We took a closer look at the “Bwa Kale” movement in a special episode of The Observers.

However, this is the first time that a pastor has called on his followers to attack a gang directly. Previously, some pastors had only encouraged individuals to defend themselves against such groups, despite the fact that religious individuals have also fallen victim to kidnappings.

‘He said: “Everyone who’s coming with us, pick up a pebble. It will protect you against the bullets”‘

We wanted to understand why the congregation would go up against a gang. So we took a closer look at Pastor Marco’s speech, where he told his church that God would protect them from the bullets. Aristilde Deslande, a Haitian journalist specialising in religion, explained:

Pastor Marco is in the category of pastors who are known as “prophets”. The same is true of the prophet Mackenson, for example. Their practices are a little different from those of other evangelical Christians in Haiti; they’re closer to vodou. For example, vodou preachers might give people pebbles to “resist bullets”. It’s like giving them an amulet. This is what happened on August 26, when Pastor Marco told his followers to use pebbles to protect themselves from bullets.

These prophets generally perform “miracles”. For example, there’s a video in which Pastor Marco tells his followers that if they want to speak English, all they have to do is put everything related to English on a USB key. He tells them that they then need to boil the key in water, and drink it, to speak English. Their miracles are usually fake…

Generally speaking, the people who follow these pastors have a very minimal level of education. So they can be easily manipulated. They trust these pastors, who have managed to procure a kind of leadership that is lacking at the state level, especially as many people are desperate, and cling to what they find.

In Haiti, the pastor’s initiative drew criticism, with some believing that he had acted irresponsibly, gambling with the lives of his followers. Others, like Harold, felt he deserved credit for having “tried”.

In the days following the massacre, the police opened an investigation at the Direction Centrale de la Police Judiciaire “to establish the responsibilities of all those involved in this affair”. It also stated that it had not been notified of the march and that the demonstrators had “bypassed the security arrangements […] set up by the forces of law and order”. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship announced the temporary closure of the church, but primarily to prevent reprisals against it by the victims’ families.

The pastor asserted that 95 percent of his congregation remained unaffected, contending that those who lost their lives had “lost their faith”.

We spoke to the pastor’s lawyer, Phizema Palvin, in mid-September. He told us that Pastor Marco said he would “continue on the same path, to oust the criminals”. A call for “revolution” is still up on the church’s Facebook page.

Palvin had promised that the pastor would grant our editorial team an interview, but in the end, he failed to show up.

“Revolisyon an kamanse” (“Let’s start the revolution” in English): this is the message visible on Pastor Marco’s church page. © Piscine de Bethesda.

Read moreHaiti: In the grip of the gangs

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‘They effectively stop the economy’: Deadly protests erupt over Cape Town taxi strike

Violence has erupted all around Cape Town following last week’s announcement of a disruptive taxi strike against new local legislation allowing authorities to impound irregular vehicles. In the absence of this critical mode of transportation, commuters living in nearby townships have been left stranded – an issue that has primarily impacted Cape Town’s Black residents.

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Shocking videos of buses on fire and civilian cars being hit with stones are circulating online following a taxi strike in Cape Town that has stretched on for more than a week.

The South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) announced a one-week regional strike on August 3 after local authorities passed a law that allows them to impound vehicles violating technical and legal requirements. 

The minibuses run by taxi companies are an essential mode of transportation for most South African commuters. Over 80% of public transportation users depend on taxis to get to their workplace, according to the national statistics agency. 

Taxi companies protested the law by blockading highways around Cape Town, keeping local buses and civilians from circulating in and out of the city. 

In the early days of the strike, workers from townships surrounding Cape Town were forced to sleep in bus stations, fight their way onto overcrowded buses or make their way through traffic jams on foot. 

Protesters torched police cars, taxis, buses and civilian cars alike. Some videos show them attacking civilian vehicles with stones. So far at least five people have died in the protests.

‘Violence affects the very people that support the taxi industry, the commuters’

While taxi drivers try to put pressure on the authorities to revoke the legislation allowing them to seize vehicles, working class people living in the townships around Cape Town are the most affected by their actions.

Geoff Mamputa, an independent mediator who has been working on the taxi conflicts in the Western Cape for years, told the FRANCE 24 Observers team how everyday people are being instrumentalised in the protests.  

If [the taxi drivers] stop these people that are providing essential services, they effectively stop the economy of Cape Town from functioning. It’s a way of putting pressure on the authorities. This only affects people in townships which is the unintentional aspect of it. Violence is being done against the very people that support the taxi industry, the commuters that use them to get to work. They are the ones that are suffering the most right now. The taxi drivers should take their anger against the State, not against the commuters.

Because of the central role of taxis in public transportation, rivalries between different companies are common and sometimes descend into violence to the detriment of commuters.   

‘The authorities are very reluctant to build working class housing within the town’

The taxi strike has had such an immense impact on Cape Town residents due to racialised urban planning that has continued even after the end of the apartheid in South Africa in 1994.

During apartheid, Black communities were deliberately banished from cities, but Mamputa explains that the high accommodation prices within the city perpetuate the same type of segregation. 

Most townships are at least 5 km away from Cape Town so these people are dependent on public transport. The authorities are very reluctant to build working class housing within the town. They are perpetuating the old apartheid way of planning. So people are being pushed out of town. Communities are not integrated. So you get different segregated communities: the White people, people who are mixed race, the Black, the Indian…

I was born in the city, but my family was pushed away by these policies. We moved and my father had to leave at 4am to get to work at 7:30am.

Now, commuters are forced to stay at home or walk considerable distances to get to work.  

My cousin walked from Woodstock in Cape Town all the way to Gugulethu. It’s 20 to 25 kilometres away. But she could not use the highway because it was blocked, she had to go through other suburbs. She left work at 4:30pm and arrived home at 8:45pm.

‘The taxi strikes became a political campaign’

So far discussions between the local politicians and SANTACO have had no results. The local councillor in charge of safety and security, JP Smith, threatened to “proceed with impounding 25 vehicles for every truck, bus, vehicle or facility that is burnt or vandalised” during the ongoing protests. 

While the national South African law on transportation allows public transport vehicles to be impounded for breaching licence conditions, taxi drivers claim that the current crackdown is overblown. 

The local Cape Town government has put together an ambitious public transport development plan to be implemented between 2023 and 2028 which would potentially diminish the central role of taxis in favour of trains and buses. Mamputa says that the authorities “have to get rid of the taxis” to implement their plan, which might be one of the underlying reasons for the crackdown.  

The South African Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said on August 8 the actions of Cape Town officials are beyond the law. With national elections taking place next year, Mamputa says that the taxi strikes have been turned into a political opportunity. The current governing party, the African National Congress, which has been in power since the end of apartheid, is strongly opposing the leading party in Western Cape, the Democratic Alliance (DA), a party which emerged after apartheid when a number of liberal, predominantly White parties merged. 

There are national elections this year so the whole situation became a political campaign. This is beyond taxis. Because Cape Town is run by a different party, the DA, which is a traditional White party, these ideological differences are now coming to a fall.

Despite the declared end date of the strike being August 10, the Taxi Council announced the continuation of the shutdown in the absence of a productive dialogue with the local authorities.

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Video documents female genital mutilation camp in Guinea

The video shows four little girls, one in tears, in what is referred to as a “camp for genital mutilation” in Conakry. Our Observer says that this is the first time a video of one of these places has emerged. While genital mutilation is banned in Guinea, it is still widely practiced. In the wake of the video’s release, activists, including our Observer, have mobilised and authorities have responded to the pressure by opening an investigation into the matter. Authorities have made one arrest and are still searching for other suspects.

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The video, which lasts just under a minute, shows four little girls sitting on the ground, in a row. One of them is crying, seemingly writhing in pain. There are also two adult women present – one of them elderly. Text in French appears on the screen reading “My mother worked hard this morning”. The person filming the video says practically the same phrase in Soussou at the start of the video – though she says “today” instead of “this morning”.

“Don’t cry, sit on the ground, be good,” the woman in black says in Mandinka to the little girl who is crying. 

“Look, the littlest girl isn’t crying, it is the oldest who is crying and she is also trying to cry as loud as possible,” says the woman in red to the same little girl, this time speaking Fula.  

We are only publishing an excerpt of the video. We’ve blurred the faces of the children and the two women.


“What gall to publish that”

The video was posted on TikTok the week of July 17. Negative comments immediately flooded the post and the entire account was quickly deleted. However, at least two women made copies of the video. 

Fafoune Konaté, who runs the TikTok account “Mme Diakité”, who has a lot of followers in Guinea, republished an excerpt of the video on July 19, featuring her commentary facing the camera. 

When contacted by our team, she replied:

The feeling that I had watching it… it was so strong. This little girl who was crying… I didn’t think that I would see that in the 21st century, I thought that mindsets were starting to shift. What gall to publish that. 

I underwent genital mutilation myself and it is something that you live with until you die. I was immediately traumatised seeing that.

A Guinean who lives in France – and wanted to stay anonymous – also saved an excerpt of the video, which she published on Snapchat. 

“This brought back horrible memories,” she said. “I published this video in a group for young mothers and a lot of people reacted. They insulted me and some people said that these women have the right to do what they want.” 

“There’s no doubt that this video was filmed in a camp for genital mutilation”

Kadiatou Konaté is the president of the Club of Young Women Leaders in Guinea, an organisation that works to prevent genital mutilation and forced marriage.

There’s no doubt that this video was filmed in a camp for genital mutilation, even if we can’t say for certain that it was filmed right after a mutilation. 

The girls are dressed in a way common for these camps. The colors might vary, but the style is the same — tops fastened at the back, then pagnes and scarves tied in their hair. Moreover, the way that the girls are all lined up on the floor is common, too – in these camps, all the girls undergo the process together.

Often, these camps are held during vacation at the home of a woman who will carry out the mutilation. She might have a dozen children there and they might stay up to a month. The woman feeds them and “instructs” them in traditional values like keeping your mouth shut and only speaking when you are given authorisation. However, sometimes there are lessons on good values for human relationships. 

Read moreThe fight to end female genital mutilation in Guinea during summer break

People and organisations who had seen the video contacted Guinea’s Office for the Protection of Gender, Children and Morals (Oprogem). 

Authorities arrested one person suspected of sharing the video in the town of Kindia. An investigation into the matter is ongoing, Dadou Camara, the prosecutor at the Kindia lower court, told our team. 

“According to the statement made by the person arrested, the video was filmed in Conakry,” he said. “We are keeping the person in custody because we have not yet located the women responsible for carrying out the mutilations. This video is a first, it is shocking, I’ve never seen anything like it.”


“Parents must understand that you can teach children traditional values without genital mutilation”

Genital mutilation has been banned in Guinea since 2008 but instances of the practice have not decreased, according to NGO Plan international. More than 97% of women have undergone this practice, according to the NGO. Kadiatou Konaté, of the Club of Young Women Leaders, explains: 

We mobilised because we want to at least prevent the people who make these kinds of videos from just uploading them online. The justice system has sentenced people in the past for carrying out mutilations but, often, people are given conditional sentences – often because the accused are elderly. But from our point of view, this is actually because there is still too much tolerance.

There are several reasons why genital mutilation is carried out. That could be for cultural reasons or tradition – some people say that their grandparents did it, people think they should do it. There could be economic reasons because it is a source of revenue for the people who carry it out. It can be related to ideas of dignity and honour. It’s also related to the desire of a patriarchal society to control the sexuality of a growing girl. 

Some people think that it will limit the risk of teen pregnancies. Some people think that husbands don’t like women who aren’t mutilated… People always find a way to justify their behaviour. 

Parents must understand that you can teach children traditional values without genital mutilation, because mutilation is abhorrent.

I do think that the number of genital mutilations is decreasing. It seems like the people who are doing it are hiding it and aren’t doing it in the open. More and more, people are realising that this practice can’t continue. 

Thank you to the Mandinka and Fula teams at RFI for translating the video.

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Video of two naked women being harassed draws attention to tribal conflict in India’s Manipur

A video showing two naked women being assaulted by a mob of men in Manipur, in northeastern India, has shocked the nation and brought renewed attention to a deadly tribal conflict. It has also prompted Prime Minister Modi to make a statement on the violence that is tearing Manipur apart. According to our Observer, the video is a stark reminder of how women’s bodies have been used as a “site of conflict” since martial law was imposed on the state in the 1970s.

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The 26-second video, which emerged on social media July 19, shows the two women, members of the state’s minority Kuki community, being assaulted by men of the majority Meitei ethnicity. The distraught women are pushed around and groped by their attackers, and then escorted towards an empty field. According to a police complaint, one of the women, a 21-year-old, was “brutally gang-raped in broad daylight”, while the other one managed to escape.

We have decided not to include the viral video in this article due to its shocking nature.

The Meitei make up 53% of the population in Manipur, a multi-ethnic state on India’s border with China and Myanmar that has 34 different tribal communities. Under martial law since the 1970s because of frequent ethnic violence, the state is currently governed by India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The incident happened on May 4, the day after deadly ethnic riots broke out between the Meitei who are mostly Hindus, and the predominantly Christian Kuki. The violence was sparked by a controversy over affirmative action: the Kukis, who already have “scheduled tribe” status guaranteeing them quotas for government jobs and university places, were protesting against a proposal to extend the same status to the majority Meiteis. 

At least 140 people have since been killed and more than 60,000 people have been forced from their homes. Meanwhile, police armouries have been looted, hundreds of Kuki churches attacked, and more than a dozen Meitei temples ruined, and villages destroyed. 

After months of silence, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally spoke out about the violence in Manipur on July 20. He responsed to the video by saying: “My heart is filled with grief and anger. The incident in Manipur is shameful for any civil society.”

On the same day, police opened a gang-rape case, arrested four men, and said they would be making more arrests soon.

‘Women’s bodies in Manipur have been used as a site of war since the 1970s’

Our Observer, Binalakshmi Nepram, who founded the Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace, has criticised authorities for taking so long to act, despite a police complaint having been lodged just days after the incident. She told us the video serves as a stark reminder of how women’s bodies in the northeastern state are being weaponised in the conflict.

It’s not the first time Manipuri women have been sexually abused, it has happened countless times and not a single person has been punished until now. Men have complete impunity in our state. 

The gruesome rape in the video that was published this week took place in May, but it’s taken a full 78 days for any action to be taken, for any arrests to be made, and for our prime minister to speak up. This, of course, does not inspire confidence in the authorities.

Women’s bodies in Manipur have been used as a site of war since the 1970s, when the counterinsurgency began. We have a martial law which provides complete immunity to armed forces personnel who are operating in the state of Manipur. As a result, there have been various charges of armed security force personnel committed sexual violence and rape on the bodies of manipuri women. 

For example, in 2004, a woman called Thangjam Manorama was brutally gang-raped by Indian paramilitary forces. She was shot seven times in the vagina to destroy evidence of rape. The failure to assign culpability in the rape and murder case led to widespread protests in Manipur. Five days after the killing, around 30 middle-aged women protested in the streets naked. That incident, just like the recent video, shocked the country and the prime minister of India was forced to acknowledge the violence.

The iconic nude protest by women on July 15, 2004 against the Indian Army after Thangjam Manorama was brutally gang-raped by Indian paramilitary forces.

I grew up in a state in which it has become normalised for men with guns to play with our lives. I hope that the bodies of our mothers, sisters and friends that have endured this pain will break through the consciousness of men, who will finally lay down their arms and start negotiating for peace. Because it is women who are paying the price for their violence.

‘The world knows about Ukraine, but the violence in Manipur is taking place behind closed doors’

Nepram also said the violence depicted in the video is emblematic of the near-civil war in the northeastern state, which “no one is talking about”.

The horrific and inhumane video has shaken up India. But brutal sexual assault and the rape of women are not the only crimes that are taking place here.

There have been beheadings, killings and many other atrocities, although videos of these incidents have not been released to the public. These countless crimes against humanity are taking place in the land of yoga, in the world’s largest democracy. 



Images of violence in Manipur againt people from the Meitei tribal group in a Kuki dominated area

I have seen too much violence and many of my family members have died in this conflict. But no one is talking about it. The world knows about the conflicts in Ukraine, Sudan and Myanmar, but the violence in Manipur is taking place behind closed doors. The Indian government doesn’t allow foreign press or humanitarian aid agencies to come here. 

We are being silenced. The history of Manipur is not in Indian textbooks. I have been threatened many times for speaking about this conflict. Our lives are not secure at all, but some of us have to speak the truth.

‘Violence in Manipur is the result of decades of neglect, discrimination and violent extremism’

Tensions in Manipur boiled over in May when Kukis began protesting against demands from the Meiteis to be given official tribal status. But this does not entirely explain the explosive ethnic violence that has engulfed Manipur, according to Nepram.

Although the demand for inclusion of the Meitei community as a scheduled tribe was the immediate trigger, the eruption of violence in Manipur has been the result of decades of neglect, discrimination and violent extremism in the region. 

The current crisis in Manipur reflects the complex dynamics at the heart of India’s northeastern state. Manipur joined India in 1949, over the objections of many Manipuris. It has experienced secession movements, ethnic rivalries, and serious human rights violations by India security forces and the military ever since then. 

Other elements are coming into play as well and worsening the situation. The Kukis say a war on drugs is being waged by the Meitei-led government to uproot their communities. Meanwhile, illegal migration since the coup in Myanmar in 2021 has also heightened tensions. There has since been more pressure on land use from a growing population and unemployment is pushing youth towards the various militias.

Last week, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Indian authorities to take action to stop the violence in Manipur and protect religious communities, especially Christians. India’s foreign ministry condemned the resolution, describing it as “interference” in its internal affairs.

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Footage shows sub-Saharan African migrants being attacked and expelled over 48 hours in Tunisia

During the night of July 3, Tunisians attacked the homes of sub-Saharan migrants in Sfax, the country’s second-largest city. The violence was sparked by the death of a Tunisian, blamed on three sub-Saharan Africans. Footage filmed by the assailants and residents shows the outbreak of violence. The police then picked up many of the migrants and abandoned them in the desert.

Tarak Mahdi, a Tunisian Member of Parliament, live-streamed and published the aftermath of an altercation between a Tunisian man and three others, who he said were sub-Saharan migrants in the city of Sfax. 

“Some Africans stabbed a man this evening,” he said to the camera. He then shows the body of a man lying on the pavement, blood running down the road. A woman comes from the end of the street and cries, “My son!” 

Mahdi explained that the man is in a critical condition, calling on the police to intervene immediately

“The Africans who stabbed him have escaped, so everyone needs to get involved.” 

Screenshot of the video posted live on Facebook by Tarak Mahdi on July 3 at 11:54pm. © Tarak Mahdi

The FRANCE 24 Observers team was able to verify around about a dozen videos filmed and shared online on this shocking night

Another video filmed at the same location shows uniformed National Guard officers and civilians questioning several Black men, who are then loaded into official vehicles. There is another crowd of young men there, some armed with rods. 

Later that evening, police vans were on patrol in Tunisia’s second largest city Sfax, where the incident took place. Videos filmed by local residents show police raids in various parts of the city, with crowds of Tunisians watching on. 

The footage below shows crowds of young men watching the police raid on a road linking the district of Sakiet Ezzit to Sakiet Eddaier (in the northeast of Sfax). Some had even climbed onto the roofs and walls of nearby houses. In the street, several official vans were parked, flashing lights, including one belonging to the special intervention brigade.

The crowd starts singing a verse of the national anthem, and applauds and encourages the gendarmes who maintain a security cordon between the crowd and the migrants being arrested. “There are over 200 people here”, says the person filming the video. 

Another video filmed on the notorious night in the al-Habib district of Sfax shows crowds applauding an arrest operation carried out by Tunisian police in the homes of sub-Saharan migrants.

The person filming exclaims, “Long live Tunisia! Sfax is not a colony. Get out, get out! Go home!” 

The crowd repeats a chant often used by football fans in defiance of the police: “We don’t f*ck with the police, we’re only afraid of God.” The chant their way of supporting those taking justice into their own hands.

‘All the Black people who passed by this area were stopped or beaten up’

On July 4, Guillaume (not his real name), a migrant from a sub-Saharan African country, reached out to the FRANCE 24 Observers team. He lives in Gremda. He lives in Gremda and states that on July 3 homes in his neighbourhood were attacked by groups of Tunisian men. 

He managed to escape and says he’s now in a safe place. He recounted what happened in shaky voice messages.

I can’t even raise my voice where I am talking to you at the moment. I’m very scared, many of my loved ones have been taken away by the National Guard in Sfax. 

On July 3, in Gremda, Tunisians came armed with rods and machetes [Editor’s note: several eyewitness accounts mention the use of knives, though the FRANCE 24 Observers team has been unable to verify this with visual evidence], during the night at the Café des Chinois [known to be a gathering place for sub-Saharans in Sfax]. All the Black people who passed by this area were stopped or beat up. They wounded several people with knives too.

Another of our sub-Saharan Observers in Sfax sent us this video filmed on the night of July 4, 2023. It shows a migrant’s flat being ransacked by a group of Tunisians who throw their belongings to the ground.

We couldn’t film the attack on July 4th because we were too scared. The assailants threw stones at our heads. They broke into our neighbour’s house, smashed her furniture and windows, searched the house and smashed the TV. They also set fire to the house. When the sub-Saharan neighbours called the police, they turned up but took away the sub-Saharan people who were outside, without checking their papers or letting them collect their passports. 

Luckily, I was able to escape into the night, I ran, I passed a car leaving the city and the driver let me in. I still can’t believe I’m alive.

A video filmed on the evening of July 3, 2023 by our Ivorian Observer Samuel (not his real name) in the Ghroubi district of Sfax shows a flat where several migrants were living completely ransacked. He claims that locals armed with knives broke into the flat.

‘They dropped us off in the mountains, then the police and the buses turned back’

An unknown number of sub-Saharan Africans were loaded onto buses. On the morning of July 5, our Observer Alpha (not his real name), from Guinea, sent us messages from “the desert” where he was dropped off. He had travelled all night in a bus accompanied by two other vehicles belonging to the Sfax regional urban transport company SORETRAS, also carrying sub-Saharan Africans.

Our Guinean Observer sent us this video on the morning of July 5 around 8:30am. After having travelled by bus all night, the police left them near the Algerian border. We have not heard from them since that morning.

They put us on a bus at around 10:30pm, then we took the road out of Sfax. At 11:45pm, the bus stopped 10km from the centre of Sfax, and we stopped on the road to pick up even more people. The bus was packed, and a second bus joined the convoy. They checked people in the street, and as soon as they saw a black person they made him get on the bus. They didn’t ask for any papers or residence permits making them get on. 

I said to the policeman before I got on the bus: “We’ve heard that you’re sending us to the Libyan desert or to Algeria”. The policeman told me no, that they were going to send us to a safe place. But this morning we were dropped off on what looks more like the Algerian border. We were dropped off in the mountains, and then the police vehicles and buses turned back. We’re walking towards the border, hoping to run into Algerian border guards or to enter Algerian territory.

Read moreThe growing xenophobic violence against sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia

‘If you make the mistake of hanging around near the police station, they’ll send you into the desert’

Those who escaped the police are now in hiding at home, like Paul (not his real name), a Cameroonian resident of the Ennasria district in the centre of Sfax.

This morning [July 5], at the post office in Ennasria, in the centre of Sfax, people who had come to withdraw their money via Western Union were taken away: the police came and rounded everyone up.  

But as I live in the city centre, I’m a little relieved: at least here, it’s not as easy for the Tunisian residents to make a lot of noise as in the outlying areas.

You have to stay in your house; outside you can be stopped by the police at any time. If you make the mistake of hanging around near the police station, they’ll send you into the desert.

The police do nothing to look for the attackers, absolutely nothing.

This video filmed by our Observer Paul on the morning of July 4 shows three police vehicles parked outside the post office in Sfax. Uniformed and plainclothes men stop a group of sub-Saharans before making them get into one of the vehicles.

According to the spokesperson for the Sfax justice ministry, 34 migrants were arrested the night of July 3 following altercations with residents in the Gremda district, where the initial murder took place. 

Also, four Tunisians were taken into custody for having given shelter to illegal migrants in Sfax. To date, none of the Tunisians involved in the violence have been arrested or questioned.

Read moreXenophobia grows amidst raids and repeated attacks on sub-Saharan Africans in Tunisia

On July 5, the public prosecutor’s office issued a warrant for the detention of a further 33 illegal sub-Saharan migrants at the Sfax court. 

These raids followed two shocking waves of xenophobic violence and deportations of sub-Saharan migrants. In February 2023, a speech by Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed prompted accusations of racism and xenophobia targeting sub-Saharan Africans in particular.

Read more‘They spit on us’: What’s really going on in the El Ouardia migrant centre in Tunis

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‘They spit on us’: What’s really going on in the El Ouardia migrant centre in Tunis

Issued on:

Officially, the El Ouardia migrant centre in Tunis is meant to serve as a reception centre to “welcome and orient” new arrivals to Tunisia. However, what is actually happening there has long remained opaque because NGOs and lawyers aren’t allowed access. The FRANCE 24 Observers decided to investigate the nightmarish conditions inside. Our source told us that about fifty migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, most of them Black Africans, are being arbitrarily detained in the squalid centre.

Léopold (not his real name) came from the Ivory Coast to Tunisia several years ago to attend university. When he graduated, he decided to stay and work in the country. He also got married and had a child. However, Léopold was not a legal resident of the country where he had made his home. And so, in 2021, he began sorting out his papers and regularising his situation.

However, before Léopold was able to finish the process, he was arrested alongside several other Ivorians when police raided the headquarters of the Association of active Ivoirians in Sfax (AIVAS) on August 21, 2021. He was placed in detention in Tunis.

‘There is a difference between what the judicial system decides and what the border police do’

A judge at the Ariana tribunal said that Léopold should be released on July 22, 2022. However, instead of being allowed to return home to his family, police brought him to the El Ouardia migrant centre in Tunis, where he has been arbitrarily detained ever since. He has received no legal or administrative support.

According to a judge, I was freed last summer. But there is a difference between what the judicial system decides and what the border police do.

From the moment I stepped into the migrant centre, I realised that the guards there were ready to harm us and it gave me a good indication of what to expect during my stay there. They spit on us, they called us “kahlouch” [Editor’s note: a derogatory term for Black people in North African Arabic] or “guirguira” [Editor’s note: a word that is supposed to imitate the sounds made by a monkey].

“Tunisia is our country, we’ll do what we want with you,” the guards told us.

This video was filmed from the back of a police car on February 27 by a person being taken, along with others, from Mornaguia Prison to the El Ouardia migrant centre. “We don’t know where they are taking us,” the man says. He was arrested along with others on February 13 during a campaign to arrest Black Africans.

Most of the people detained in the centre don’t want to go back to their countries of origin, but they are also being denied their freedom. I came to study in Tunis and then started working there. My family and my child are in Tunisia, I don’t plan on going back [to my home country].

Since February, police in Tunisia have been carrying out a campaign of violence and arrests of Black African migrants living in Tunisia. The campaign intensified in mid-February when Tunisian President Kais Saied called for the deportation of the “hoards of clandestine migrants” in the country.

>> Watch on The Observers: The growing xenophobic violence against sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia

‘Many of us were transferred to the centre from Mornaguia Prison because there is no room there’

Before the arrests began in February, there weren’t many of us in the centre. But since then, we’ve seen many people brought to El Ouardia even after a judge has ordered their release – like me. There are also migrants transferred to the centre after spending months in prison. 


There are about fifty men in the centre and four women.


“There are fifteen of us in this room,” says our Observer. The footage shows metal beds and mattresses on the ground. In another room (shown at right) ten people sleep on the floor. Screengrabs taken from videos sent by our Observer on March 9, 2023.


Many of us were transferred to the centre from Mornaguia Prison because there is no room there. One of the people who was detained there said that he spent six nights without a bunk, so, here, we take turns sleeping. 

There are so many of us in the dormitories. It’s chaotic. There are a lot of sick people who then spread their illnesses to others. A number of people ill with COVID were transferred here without ever being given a test.


In this video, a group of Black African migrants in Tunisia call for help from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in this video posted on February 26.


This video shows the men’s toilets in the El Ouardia migrant centre.
This video shows the men’s toilets in the El Ouardia migrant centre. Screengrab from a video sent by our Observer on March 9, 2023.


‘What happens in the centre rarely gets out’

Since I’ve been here, we’ve called on the authorities several times to give us papers. On February 27, those of us detained here in El Ouardia held a protest, calling on the UN High Commissioner to take an interest in our plight. 

Even though the centre is run by the National Guard [known as the gendarmerie], when we started protesting, they brought the border police in to shut down the protest. They handcuffed us, stripped us and beat us savagely. Some of the men here got terrible injuries including wounds and dislocated shoulders. 

But what happens in the centre rarely gets out.


@monsieurleministre25 ♬ son original – monsieurleministre

This man was transferred from Mornaguia Prison to the El Ouardia migrant centre. He protested the morning of February 27 along with other people detained at the centre, calling for restoration of their rights and freedom. “The police were deployed this morning to prevent us [from protesting]. They say that we aren’t in prison, but they are lying to us,” he said.


Officially, it’s a reception centre, though it functions like a detention centre’

The number of detainees fluctuates in the El Ouardia “Reception and Orientation Centre” – as it is officially known – according to Romdhane Ben Amor, the spokesperson for the Tunisian Forum of Economic and Social Rights.

There are migrant centres in each region in Tunisia. However, the El Ouardia centre is the only one run by the ministry of the interior, which means that it is the only one where migrants are being arbitrarily detained in this extreme way.

Ben Amor explained:

The Tunisian National Guard, and thus the ministry of the interior, transfers migrants to this centre from prisons and other detention centres before either deporting them or liberating them. According to the latest figures from the World Organisation Against Torture, one of the only NGOs that has managed to access this centre, 51 people are currently being detained there.

Between 2011 and 2013, the centre was open to humanitarian organisations. However, since 2013, only organisations that have an agreement with the Ministry of the Interior have been able to access it.

And, since July 25, 2021 [Editor’s note: the date when President Kais Saied suspended parliament], the centre has only been used for detaining migrants and operates at maximum capacity.


In this video, filmed on February 27, an Ivorian man shows the injuries inflicted on him by border police. “They stripped us to beat us, they beat us like dogs,” says the man.


The legal status of El Ouardia centre isn’t completely clear. Officially, it’s a reception centre, though it functions like a detention centre.  

‘It’s like they are in prison without any hope of getting out or getting a decision’

There’s also another aspect of how the El Ouardia centre operates that remains unclear. At El Ouardia, detention and liberation are administrative matters and not judicial. That means that a detainee can not appeal their case or ask for judicial support, like help from a lawyer. On the contrary, the decision to detain the person is taken by public servant. There is no guarantee that the person can contest the decision.

Unfortunately, the detention is arbitrary and the migrants who are detained have no information about when they might be released. As if they were in a prison, without any hope of getting out or judgment.


This video filmed in the El Ouardia migrant centre in March 2020 shows officials treating migrants roughly and grouping them together before deporting them to the border with Algeria.


When the people detained in the migrant centre try to insist that they have rights, they are met with violence, but that isn’t new. These police were transferred to El Ouardia in a punitive role. They aren’t used to working with migrant populations and use violence as a response to everything. 

The Tunis administrative tribunal declared in 2020 that the way that people were detained in the centre was illegal. And even though the Ministry of the Interior promised reforms under the Mechichi government, nothing has changed since.

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Treat perpetrators of domestic violence, not just victims

The first program for perpetrators of domestic violence was launched in Switzerland in the late 1980s. It wasn’t until the early 2000s and the creation of seven programs in five years that anything could be said about momentum.

Today, almost all cantons have a unit dedicated to treating those who have committed family or intimate partner violence. But their treatment has remained a blind spot in the fight against violence.

“Given the lack of resources, protecting victims takes priority. This makes sense, when you know how much associations had to fight, at the beginning, to obtain funding. Government authorities are struggling to come to grips with the issue. From a political point of view, it’s not a vote winner. But if we don’t do more for perpetrators, we’re not getting to the root of the problem,” says Anne Le Penven, Secretary-General of the Association Professionnelle Suisse de Consultations contre la Violence (APSCV), a violence counseling organization.

A reluctance that she explains is fueled by a form of taboo: “There is fear of giving too much space to perpetrators. But the goal of treatment is not to give them a platform, but rather to get them to take responsibility and, ultimately, to avoid recidivism.”

For a long time, treatment for perpetrators was rarely considered by the courts. Out of 10,879 people registered by the police in 2020, only 8.4% were ordered to undergo treatment, says the APSCV.

But the lines are shifting. The revision of the federal law on improving the protection of victims of violence, in effect since 2020, has led to an increase in referrals to domestic violence education programs.

Previously, authorities could suspend a case for bodily harm, threats, battery or coercion between spouses or partners at the victim’s request. And that was the outcome of the majority of domestic violence cases, which then ended up being dismissed.

Since the law was amended, the criteria have become stricter: In order for the court to suspend proceedings, the victim must not only request it, but the decision must be aimed at stabilizing or improving the victim’s situation.

In addition, judges may require the perpetrator to attend a “prevention program” aimed at reducing the risk of further violence.

“For a long time, it was wrongly believed that psychoeducational or therapeutic care had no effect if it was imposed. This is changing. Feedback from the field indicates that the courts are making greater use of this tool,” Véronique Jaquier Erard, professor at the Centre for Criminological Research (CRRC), reports. And when used more often, programs for perpetrators of violence become more professionalized. Several cantons, including Vaud, Geneva and Valais, also provide for a mandatory socio-educational interview whenever a perpetrator is expelled from the common residence.

Logically, this has led to an explosion of initial consultations. However, long-term therapeutic commitment is rare. Figures presented in the canton of Vaud in early 2021 show that only 30% of individuals accept a second or third session. Fewer still attend a full program.

Yet studies tend to show that these programs pay off, even when they are imposed. The latest of these studies comes from Zurich. In June 2021, the Zurich Sentence Enforcement Office presented the results of a comparison between men who had participated in at least 10 sessions of a prevention program between 2011 and 2016 to those who had received no measures and to a third group who had left treatment prematurely.

During the two years following the measure, recidivism among participants in the violence prevention program fell to 4.7%, as compared to 17.4% in the group of individuals who did not participate in treatment. This assessment only reflects incidents recorded by the police and, therefore, does not include any unreported instances of assault. However, the results of the assessment are clear: The Zurich program reduces recidivism by more than half, at least initially.

The same study also calculated the cost-benefit ratio of this type of preventive measure. A case of recidivism amounts to 150,000 francs (just over 150,000 euros), according to an assessment by the Federal Office for Gender Equality (BFEG), which takes into account the direct and indirect costs of an act of domestic violence. A therapeutic program costs between 3,200 and 4,100 francs. Conclusion: The participation of 100 people in this type of measure would result in savings of around 1.4 million.

“Making the program compulsory eliminates dropouts, which are frequent among voluntary participants,” stresses Véronique Jaquier Erard, who studied the evaluation of these measures on behalf of the BFEG. Her conclusions? “Groups for perpetrators of domestic violence are effective. But they are not suitable for everyone. Participants need to be properly selected and services need to be evaluated to ensure they meet participants’ needs. Professionals often don’t have enough resources to analyze the work they’re doing,” says Véronique Jaquier Erard.

Using the police as relays In Neuchâtel, a canton of 176,245 citizens, the Service pour Auteurs de Violence Conjugale (SAVC), a unit dedicated to perpetrators of domestic violence, constitutes one and a half positions shared by four people. As is still the case with many of these programs, financing for this unit was initially private: It was provided by Loterie Romande and the Philip Morris tobacco company. Since 2011, the unit has been affiliated with the Neuchâtel Psychiatric Centre (CNP) and its services are reimbursed by health insurance.

Providers’ main challenge is getting in touch with those needing their services. The SAVC works in collaboration with the Neuchâtel police: During interventions, law enforcement officers send them the contact information of perpetrators of domestic violence, with their consent.

Every Monday evening, at the the Service pour Auteurs de Violence Conjugale (SAVC) in Neuchâtel, participants meet with psychologists and discuss their problems confidentially and without judgement.

Every Monday evening, at the the Service pour Auteurs de Violence Conjugale (SAVC) in Neuchâtel, participants meet with psychologists and discuss their problems confidentially and without judgement.
| Photo Credit:
Benjamin Tejero/Le Temps

Psychologist Hilde Stein helped found the SAVC in 2006: “There is, on average, one police intervention per day for domestic violence in the canton of Neuchâtel. We should be seeing more than 300 people a year. However, the vast majority of perpetrators refuse to be contacted. In 2022, we met with 99 people. It's a drop in the bucket, but I think it’s still very important. Every time we have someone in front of us, we plant a seed.”

Regardless of the reasons that lead them to therapy, participants must all meet one condition before they can join the group: They must admit responsibility. “We will not work with a person who’s in total denial. At the very least, they must acknowledge that they are involved in the issue. At the beginning, many of them say that their being here is a misunderstanding.”

The vast majority of perpetrators have lived in an abusive family environment. “It’s a defense mechanism. But in the group, we don't dwell on that victim status. We focus on their behavior,” says Hilde Stein. In this context, group therapy is a powerful confrontation tool, observes the therapist. “Participants realize that what they have done is not acceptable. They progress by listening. They reflect on their actions without necessarily having to say so. They also find support and people to celebrate their progress. They’re not all going to leave transformed. But the group creates a dynamic of self-healing.”


“I have tools to help me take a step back.”

Forced to participate in group therapy following violent behavior toward his partner, Thierry* initially thought he had nothing in common with the other participants.

If Thierry went to SAVC group therapy every Monday night, it was only because a prosecutor ordered him to attend the program and because he stood to lose a lot by not complying, after a second “episode of domestic violence,” as he called it.

The first happened four years ago. “I slapped my wife during an argument. She filed a complaint with the police,” says the mechanic in his mid-forties. The authorities at the time directed Thierry to therapy. He didn’t feel he needed it.

The second time, he didn’t have a choice: Sentenced to 4 months in prison and 4 years of probation, the program for perpetrators of domestic violence was no longer an option. It was now an obligation, along with other rules of conduct, such as giving up alcohol. “I had been drinking when it happened,” he explains.

It was the beginning of winter. His wife suspected him of being unfaithful, and Thierry had felt “pushed to the limit” for several weeks. He brought up the monitoring of his cell phone and being criticized in front of his children and friends. As the couple returned home from an aperitif, a new fight broke out. He struck his wife in the mouth. During the fight, she ended up on the ground.

At first, he attended the group therapy sessions with reluctance. Resigned, he tried to “take away what he could,” but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he didn’t belong there. “Some of these people are sick. They break everything and often hit their wives. I was nothing like them. Then other men arrived, with a story similar to mine. I felt I was there by mistake. Our problems could have been resolved between us, at home, instead of calling the police.”

The sessions didn’t result in a fundamental change in his mentality. He still thinks his wife should go to therapy, too. “She knows what to say to hurt me. And I take it,” he says. But, in the long run, he ended up finding something he could take away from the program. “Now, when things get heated with my wife and children, instead of yelling, I try to take a step back. I have tools.”

*Name changed

Read all stories from the Towards Equality campaign here.

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Mob attacks two Tunis shelters for LGBTQ people from sub-Saharan Africa

A mob of men wielding sticks and knives attacked a shelter for LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa on February 23. Police called to the site arrested at least eight people from sub-Saharan Africa, even though they have refugee status and are therefore legal residents in Tunisia. This is the latest violence to occur in a climate of growing hostility towards Black Africans, spurred by a campaign of repression by the authorities and xenophobic comments made by the Tunisian president.

A group of men attacked a shelter for LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa in Ariana, a northern suburb of Tunis during the night of Thursday, February 23. For residents at the shelter, it was a night of pure terror. Many were beaten while others sustained knife wounds. About thirty people, including at least six people in possession of refugee cards from the United Nations, were arrested that night.

This wasn’t the first attack of its kind. A few days earlier, on Monday, February 20, another mob attacked another shelter for LGBTQ refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, this one located in Bab el Khadhra, in the centre of Tunis. 

The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke to two refugees who were there during the attack in Ariana on February 23.

‘The son of the landlord threatened to evict us. The next day, he returned with an armed mob’

Chiraz (not her real name) is a transgender refugee from a sub-Saharan Africa country. We are not using her real name to protect her safety. She was at the shelter in Ariana on February 23 when the mob attacked. 

On the evening of February 23, the son of the landlord came, wanting to evict everyone living in the shelter. The night before, he had stood in front of the building and threatened us.

This young man, who our Observers say is the son of their landlord, throws a stone at the person filming from the balcony. The young man shouts an obscene insult, telling the person to “go home”, an added insult to a refugee community. “I will f*ck you in the a**hole. Not tonight, but what until I catch you tomorrow, dirty f**,” he adds.

I don’t live in this shelter but we decided to gather together in one apartment for safety after the attack on another shelter for LGBTQ people from sub-Saharan Africa on February 20. 

There were about 35 or 36 of us in the apartment that night, all of us Black people from sub-Saharan Africa. The son of the landlord, who often says racist and homophobic things to us refugees, came the night of February 23 along with several other Tunisian men. They tried to open the door with a copy of our keys but then ended up breaking it down.

They grabbed my hair, hard enough to pull out some of my locks and they stabbed several people. Other people were beaten, punched in the face.

These photos show where Chiraz’s hair was pulled out. She also sustained injuries to her foot and leg. Her injuries were caused by Tunisian men who attacked the shelter on the night of February 23. © Photos sent by our Observer

‘Instead of arresting the men who attacked us, the police took us away’

The police came later but instead of arresting the men who were attacking us, they brought us to the Borj Louzir police station [Ariana, a suburb of Tunis, NDLR]!

At the police station, we showed them our refugee cards from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. However, the police told us they thought our papers had been forged.

This video, filmed the night of February 23, shows a mob of Tunisian men gathered in front of a building where refugees from Sub-Saharan Africa were living. You can also see two police cars as well as uniformed agents.

In order to get through the situation, I told the police that I was an artist from sub-Saharan Africa and claimed that my current appearance was an “artistic” look I was cultivating. I had to lie about my gender because I was worried about a transphobic attack from the police. Finally, they let seven of the eight of us who had refugee cards go. 

However, the people who didn’t have refugee cards remain in detention. 

A friend of mine who is transgender is still in detention, even though she has refugee status. According to my information, she’s been transferred to the El Ouardia migrant detention centre [Editor’s note: Formally, this Tunis establishment is known as a reception and orientation centre for migrants, however rampant human rights abuses there have been reported by both the media and NGOs].

I haven’t had any news from her since.

We are living in fear that we’ll be arrested or beaten in the street and, so, I don’t go out any more. As a Black trans woman, it is really hard for me to get housing in Tunisia. You come across landlords who want sexual favors or sometimes people will evict us when they realise that we are trans. Even with assistance from the HCR, it can take time to find housing. 

“Chiraz” was given a place in a shelter run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on February 28. The Tunisian office of the HCR also paid for the medical care of those injured in the attack. 

“Brian” (not real name) is another LGBTQ refugee from sub-Saharan Africa. He was injured during the attack on February 20 and is now homeless.


‘The police ripped up our refugee cards and called us ‘f**s’’

The day after the attack, I was at the police station all day. We were mistreated— they insulted us and made us sit on the floor. Officers ripped up the refugee cards belonging to some of the people who had been arrested. Luckily, I didn’t end up in prison, unlike some of my friends.  

Considering the situation right now, it’s already dangerous enough to just be walking on the street as a Black person. But now, when they see our refugee cards, then they know that we are homosexual or trans and they insult us, call us names.

Today, most of the people who were living in these shelters are on the street. About 15 of them are packed into an apartment that is still under construction. We are afraid and we don’t go out anymore.

We have been reaching out to our respective consulates and embassies for help but they told us that they can’t help us because we have refugee status from the UNHCR.

‘An Algerian LGBTQ refugee in Tunisia won’t feel targeted, but Black people are often the targets of attacks’

Alexandre Marcel is the president of the IDAHO committee (International Day Against Homophobia), an NGO that fights against homophobia in French-speaking Africa. The organisation is trying to provide legal help to the victims of this wave of repression in Tunisia.

When there are arrests of this type, IDAHO tries to figure out if it is linked to someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Many people have been arrested even though they are refugees. And sometimes the police confiscate their papers and their passports and rip them up.

The [xenophobic] statements made by the president have made things completely different and dangerous. It’s gotten so bad that some taxi drivers will take a Black man directly to the police station if he gets into his vehicle.  We’ve reached that point. 

A LGBTQ refugee from Algeria who is living in Tunisia won’t feel targeted, but Black people are often the targets of attacks and threats. The shelters where these people stay are discrete and not official. However, when the police stumble across them, they tend to blow it all up— destroying people’s homes and personal belongings.

This refugee sustained injuries to his face and hands during the attack on a shelter in Bab el Khadhra on February 20.
This refugee sustained injuries to his face and hands during the attack on a shelter in Bab el Khadhra on February 20. © Photos sent to us by our Observer

The HCR needs to open corridors for these people to travel to the west. These people have already experienced persecution at the hands of the state or the public. But the procedures to get to Europe or North America are difficult. You have to provide a lot of proof [of persecution] and that takes time.

The UNHCR should really enable people to apply for asylum in other countries from where they are being persecuted. Because, right now, if you want to request asylum, you actually have to get to the country where you want to be yourself and apply once there.

This post in French by Amal Bintnadia roughly translates as: “In front of IOM Tunisia – المنظمة الدولية للهجرة بتونس, hundreds of migrants, women and children, among them people with injuries, who were attacked, who saw their homes looted… they are asking to be repatriated and have been waiting weeks for authorisation from the IOM.”

‘We are calling on people to share any useful information with us’

Our team contacted several organisations dedicated to LGBTQ rights in Tunisia, but none of them had information about the fate of the undocumented LGBTQ people arrested on February 23.

Many migrants don’t know anything about their rights. Moreover, people within the LGBTQ sub-Saharan community are even more scared. As a result, the Tunisian NGO Damj, which is dedicated to fighting for minority rights, has been asking the public for help identifying people who need legal and social assistance. Najia Mansour, who runs the branch in Tunis and its environs, explains:

Even the president of Damj, who is Black, was attacked in the street. 

We’ve set up three emergency phone lines depending on the region of the country where people are located – one in Tunis, for people in the north, one in Sfax, for people in the south, and one in Kef, in the centre of the country. We are calling on people to share any information they might have about migrants in difficulty.

Often, we need to wait for a victim to be released from custody in order to provide them with legal support. For the time being, it is an imperfect system, but working – we will wait for the person to be released and then file an administrative complaint over the mistreatment and torture they may have experienced at the hands of the authorities. 

The FRANCE 24 Observers team tried to contact the police in Soukra and Borj Louzir, but they told us to contact the Interior Ministry. 

We tried several times to contact the Interior Ministry, but with no success. We will publish their response if they do get back to us.

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#Mob #attacks #Tunis #shelters #LGBTQ #people #subSaharan #Africa

Visiting El Salvador’s Slums, It’s Clear Bitcoin Country Must Go Further

This is an opinion editorial by Rikki, author and co-host of the “Bitcoin Italia,” and “Stupefatti” podcasts. He is one half of the Bitcoin Explorers, along with Laura, who chronicle Bitcoin adoption around the world, one country at a time.

A few days before this writing, El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele announced an immense police operation. San Salvador’s satellite city of Soyapango was surrounded by 8,500 military and 1,500 police officers, who went searching from house to house for gang members still hiding in the area. More than 150 arrests were counted.

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#Visiting #Salvadors #Slums #Clear #Bitcoin #Country