Tunisian President Saied Must Revoke Racist Remarks

Testimony by United Nations Watch to 52nd Session of the Human Rights Council, UPR outcome of Tunisia, delivered by Elijah Frankel on 24 March 2023:

Thank you, Madam Vice-President.

I am honored to deliver this speech concerning the human rights record of Tunisia. Hailed as the birthplace of the Arab Spring, the Tunisian people can be proud of their human rights activism. Unfortunately, though, in recent years, the government has clamped down on dissent, and violated the fundamental rights of its citizens.

Specifically, we are gravely concerned with racism against Black Africans in Tunisia.

Although the country became one of the first in North Africa to enact laws penalizing perpetrators of racial discrimination, on February 21st, Tunisian President Kais Saied delivered a speech spewing blatant racism and perpetuating the idea that black African migrants are seeking to replace the native Tunisians.

He said, “hordes of irregular migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa” are “unnatural” and serve to “change the demographic makeup” of Tunisia. This hate speech has since led to unnecessary violence.

Just three days later, on February 24th, a 22-year-old Cameroonian asylum seeker named Manuela was attacked by a group of six men who shouted racial slurs and insults at her. She was stabbed in the chest and suffered horrific injuries.

Tragically, this racism is pervasive.

And so we ask Tunisia: When will your President condemn this racism, hatred and violence? When will your President apologize for his incitement, and instead uphold his commitment to non-discrimination, as his country, in the report that is before us today, claims to respect?

And we ask this Council: When will you take action to address the Tunisian government’s support for racism? When will you condemn President Saied for his hate speech and incitement to violence?

The Tunisian people have long struggled for democracy and freedom. So let us now stand with them, to work toward a future where all individuals, regardless of race or ethnicity, are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

I thank you.


UN Watch