Largely thanks to Black Tunisian activist Saadia Mosbah, Tunisia has officially criminalized racism.
Tunisian parliament passed the “Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination” act in 2018, but little has been done in terms of implementation until now. This week, the nation’s Council of Ministers approved a new decree that created a “National Commission for the Fight Against Racial Discrimination”. The newly founded commission will spearhead the implementation of the 2018 law.
Despite Tunisia being the first Arab nation to abolish slavery in 1846, the need for an anti-racism committee has persisted. Whilst data on hate crimes is non-existent, Mnemty, an anti-racism group in Tunisia, reports to receiving daily calls about racist incidents.
As civil rights activist and law professor Jawhar Ben Mbrak pointed out in an interview with Arab Weekly: “Racism in Tunisia is latent. It is not distinct, not discernible by most Tunisians.”
The proliferation of violent racist incidents has long-been a continued issue in the North African nation. In 2016, a Black Tunisian woman made headlines after being verbally abused in the downtown district. Despite reporting the crime, the woman was turned away by police who cited ‘a law of specific law’. Later that same year, three Black Congolese students were stabbed in a train station.
An Al-Jazeera documentary, entitled ‘Tunisia’s Dirty Secret’, delineates the subtle ways racism manifests itself in the North African country—and needless to say, the new National Commission for the Fight Against Racial Discrimination is much needed.