Eileen Byrne - Tunis

Words and pics
Based in Tunis.


ebyrne202@yahoo.com




Copyright © 2014. Eileen Byrne All rights reserved.

TUNISIA PREPARES FOR ELECTIONS

"Intikhabat" "Elections"  انتخابات 

Teaser publicity for Tunisian elections due later this year.

The ‘tick’ symbol with two dots — as used in a TV campaign running alongside the street advertising — can also be read as the last letter ‘T’ in the Arabic word for elections: “Intikhabat”. 

In Tunisia’s first elections under its new constitution, the vote to select a  parliament will be held on October 26. Almost a month later there will be a presidential election (the first since the 2011 revolution). A second-round run-off will be held in late December if the first round has produced no clear winner for the job.

Posted at 8:23am and tagged with: Tunisia, elections, tunis,.

TUNISIA PREPARES FOR ELECTIONS
"Intikhabat" "Elections"  انتخابات  
Teaser publicity for Tunisian elections due later this year. 
The ‘tick’ symbol with two dots — as used in a TV campaign running alongside the street advertising — can also be read as the last letter ‘T’ in the Arabic word for elections: “Intikhabat”.  
In Tunisia’s first elections under its new constitution, the vote to select a  parliament will be held on October 26. Almost a month later there will be a presidential election (the first since the 2011 revolution). A second-round run-off will be held in late December if the first round has produced no clear winner for the job.

KRAM, just north of Tunis

"Oh dear what can the matter be?

Trouble’s a brewin’ a way down in Battersea…”

Feb 26, 2014 — Angry young men in western Kram, a low-income neighbourhood of Tunis, took to the streets throwing stones and empty beer bottles at the police then dodging down side streets and alleyways to avoid getting nabbed. They set fires across the road to keep the police at bay, and got lungfuls of tear gas in return.

"The police are hitting people," they said in explanation. ("Al-hakim yadrab al-abed”). The spark had been the heavy-handed arrest of a local activist; rumours circulated that the police had beaten up not only the arrested man but also his mother. Streets were left deserted, strewn with stones. 

Back in 2011, Kram had eight “martyrs” — young protesters shot dead by the police — when the neighbourhood joined in the nationwide uprising that overthrew the Ben Ali regime. It is not about to forget its martyrs any time soon.

Posted at 9:06pm and tagged with: Tunisia, Tunisie,.

KRAM, just north of Tunis
"Oh dear what can the matter be?
Trouble’s a brewin’ a way down in Battersea…”
Feb 26, 2014 — Angry young men in western Kram, a low-income neighbourhood of Tunis, took to the streets throwing stones and empty beer bottles at the police then dodging down side streets and alleyways to avoid getting nabbed. They set fires across the road to keep the police at bay, and got lungfuls of tear gas in return.
"The police are hitting people," they said in explanation. ("Al-hakim yadrab al-abed”). The spark had been the heavy-handed arrest of a local activist; rumours circulated that the police had beaten up not only the arrested man but also his mother. Streets were left deserted, strewn with stones. 
Back in 2011, Kram had eight “martyrs” — young protesters shot dead by the police — when the neighbourhood joined in the nationwide uprising that overthrew the Ben Ali regime. It is not about to forget its martyrs any time soon.

Kram, just eight minutes from central Tunis. All roads end abruptly in the sea. There is space to sit and think and remember. The dawn is rosy-fingered, and the lone fisherman is up before anyone else.

There are two Krams. Eastern Kram, by the sea, has a cosmopolitan history. Sicilian and Spanish families used to live here not so long ago, as also in La Goulette (Halq al-Oued) just down the road. Across the railway line in western Kram, life is a hard scrabble for many. At least they have the beach in the summer.

Up the road to the north are the upper-middle-class villas of Carthage, discreet behind impeccably white-washed walls, often home to foreign diplomats and international NGO workers. The area is littered with Carthaginian and Roman archaeological sites. The Carthaginians chose their real-estate well. What was Kram in those days? Just a piece of marshland I guess.

Posted at 12:41pm and tagged with: Tunisia, Kram, Tunis,.

Yes, there are black Tunisians!

GHOSBA, Medenine region — Even after the revolution of 2011, many Tunisians in the north of the country are unaware that in the south-west there are whole communities mainly made up of black families. Ghosba is the largest, set on stony soil, with poor transport links and few jobs.

With little else to do, the young men sometimes get into fights at wedding celebrations with others from different lineages. This young man had been held in the police station for a couple of days. He arrived back home in style in the back of a pick-up truck, as the women and children came out to greet him.

There are also families of Berber origin, and the older women of Ghosba often wear the triangular brooches that go back centuries among North African Berbers (Amazighen).

Ghosba is known for its traditional wedding musicians, who used to compose new poems for each summer’s wedding season. The poems would retail political news for a population that was often illiterate. Seen here seated with his son, Mr Rahal recites some passages dating back to the time of independence from France in 1956. Tunisia’s first post-independence president, Habib Bourguiba, remains a revered figure for him.

The younger generation are not in a hurry to follow in the steps of their fathers and grandfathers as wedding musicians. The tradition is often seen as a heritage of slavery days — although the best-known groups on Djerba nowadays charge serious money to perform at weddings of the island’s elite.

Posted at 11:39am and tagged with: Ghosba, Medenine, Tunisia, BlackTunisians, Amazighen, Berber,.

MDOU, Gabes region — High-school students gather at the internet café in Mdou. The village lies on the approach road into the south-western Tunisian port town of Gabes. According to one account given by an elderly man there, Mdou was founded in the late 19th century, when the Turkish bey in Tunis outlawed the slave trade. A trader bringing a caravan of black slaves from Kebili, on the edge of the Sahara, for sale in Gabes got word of the decree and hastily abandoned the consignment of slaves he had bought in Kebili.

Today black families still make up the majority in the village. Young men say they face the same problems of unemployment as others across Tunisia’s inland regions. The 2011 revolution has at least brought freedom of speech, and a greater freedom to look at Tunisia’s diverse history.

The only politician to visit the village so far, locals say, was Hamma Hammami, leader of the left-wing Workers Party, during the autumn 2011 election campaign. Will the politicians show up in Mdou one more when campaigning gets going for the elections expected in late 2014? And will there be any more black candidates than last time around? Most parties still regard a black candidate as having limited chances, as centuries-old prejudices persist, especially in the south of the country.

Posted at 11:02am and tagged with: Tunisia, Gabes,.

MDOU, Gabes region — High-school students gather at the internet café in Mdou. The village lies on the approach road into the south-western Tunisian port town of Gabes. According to one account given by an elderly man there, Mdou was founded in the late 19th century, when the Turkish bey in Tunis outlawed the slave trade. A trader bringing a caravan of black slaves from Kebili, on the edge of the Sahara, for sale in Gabes got word of the decree and hastily abandoned the consignment of slaves he had bought in Kebili.
Today black families still make up the majority in the village. Young men say they face the same problems of unemployment as others across Tunisia’s inland regions. The 2011 revolution has at least brought freedom of speech, and a greater freedom to look at Tunisia’s diverse history.
The only politician to visit the village so far, locals say, was Hamma Hammami, leader of the left-wing Workers Party, during the autumn 2011 election campaign. Will the politicians show up in Mdou one more when campaigning gets going for the elections expected in late 2014? And will there be any more black candidates than last time around? Most parties still regard a black candidate as having limited chances, as centuries-old prejudices persist, especially in the south of the country.

A bright idea that didn’t catch on

Across much of north Africa, rural communities are made up of homesteads scattered across a wide area — rather than grouped closely in a village as in Europe. This makes it more difficult and more expensive for central government to provide basic services such as water, electricity and roads. So after independence in 1956, then-president Habib Bourguiba had the bright idea that country people should be persuaded to relocate into new housing where it would be easier to provide services.

It didn’t work. These houses in Kasserine state stand mainly empty, a monument to that failed initiative. Just a few of them are inhabited by some extremely poor families. Most of the locals prefer to continue in their independent homesteads on the hillside, with a distance between them and neighbouring families.

A local greets an official from the social affairs ministry’s regional office in Kasserine town. Until the 2011 revolution, a lot of ministry’s budget was channeled towards buying support at the grassroots for the party of the authoritarian ruler, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali (Bourguiba’s successor). Now officials want to make sure that such help as is available goes to the most needy families.

Transport into town is one of the things villagers want improved. There is no bus route into the regional capital of Kasserine, and taxis are expensive, this man explained.

Posted at 9:48am and tagged with: Tunisia, housing, Kasserine, public transport,.

Tunisia’s only surviving segregated cemetery

Sedghiane village on the Tunisian island of Djerba has a beautiful mosque. But it is also known for being the only village in Tunisia that still has segregated cemeteries — one for black residents, known as the ‘cemetery of the slaves’ (Jabana al-Abid), and one for white residents, the ‘cemetery of the free’ (Jabana al-Hurr). The ‘cemetery of the slaves’ is a little further from the mosque. Few of the graves there have headstones.

The taxi-driver who took me there was from the mainland, not from Djerba itself. He was shocked to learn of the segregated cemeteries, and was keen to help decipher the headstone. Later we spoke with a villager who said. “Well my father is buried in that cemetery, so I have no problems being buried there.” Other locals are unhappy with the status quo, but it’s still a sensitive subject in the area. All Tunisians are equal, but some are still a bit more equal than others — at least in Sedghiane.

Posted at 9:25am and tagged with: Djerba, Tunisia, racism,.

Where have all the young men gone? To city construction sites.

Kasserine region is in the centre-west of Tunisia, near the border with Algeria.

Many of the younger men leave to look for work in construction or other semi-skilled jobs in the cities on the coast, or even in Libya when conditions permit. After the revolution of 2011, there was easier freedom of movement, plus construction sector wages rose a little.

As recently as a couple of generations ago many of the communities in the  centre-west of Tunisia were semi-nomadic. They would migrate annually, along with children and livestock, to help out with the wheat harvest in north in the summer, then south for the dates, then eastwards towards the coast to pick olives. By spring they would be back on their own land to cultivate crops such as prickly pear — still sold as a snack on city streets each autumn.

In the 1970s work in Europe was an option, before changes to immigration laws there made it more difficult to come and go. Through the 1980s and 1990s there was a drift to the poorer neighbourhoods of the provincial towns and to the coastal cities such as Sfax and Tunis. So when a revolt began to stir in the provincial towns in December 2010 and January 2011, it found a ready response among city cousins, especially unemployed and under-employed young men in the poorer neighbourhoods of the capital.

Posted at 8:55am and tagged with: Tunisia, Kasserine, Tunis,.

In the Kheireddine Palace, old city (medina) of Tunis. Visitors view an exhibition of photos by young photographers, sponsored by the EU. The photos show life in the old city of Sfax, Tunisia’s second city.

Jan 21 2014.

Posted at 9:47pm and tagged with: Sfax, Tunis, Tunisia,.

Freedom" (“Hurriya”)
Jan 20 2014

One blustery evening, and the coverings started to break free.


Copyright © 2014. Eileen Byrne All rights reserved.

Posted at 9:01pm and tagged with: Tunisia, clocktower, freedom,.

“Freedom" (“Hurriya”) Jan 20 2014
One blustery evening, and the coverings started to break free.
 Copyright © 2014. Eileen Byrne All rights reserved.

Ministry of the Interior

Posted at 8:46pm and tagged with: Tunisia, Interior Ministry,.

Ministry of the Interior

Tunisia  July 27, 2013

Family members of assassinated politician Mohammed Brahmi in his funeral cortege as it passed through the capital heading towards the Jellaz cemetery.

Posted at 1:30am and tagged with: Tunisia, Brahmi,.

Tunisia  July 27, 2013
Family members of assassinated politician Mohammed Brahmi in his funeral cortege as it passed through the capital heading towards the Jellaz cemetery.

Tunisia, July 13 2013

Tunisians rally to protest the ouster of Mohammed Morsi as Egyptian president.

Posted at 1:16am and tagged with: Tunisia, Egypt,.

Tunisia, July 13 2013
Tunisians rally to protest the ouster of Mohammed Morsi as Egyptian president.

Advertising poster, Tunis, Tunisia  July 2013. The younger generation shows the older generation how to do it — a common theme of advertising in Tunisia right now.

Posted at 1:13am and tagged with: Tunisia, advertising,.

Advertising poster, Tunis, Tunisia  July 2013. The younger generation shows the older generation how to do it — a common theme of advertising in Tunisia right now.

Kram, Tunis  June 2013

The wall opposite had graffiti for “Che Guevara”….. du n’importe quoi..

Posted at 1:12am and tagged with: Tunisia,.

Kram, Tunis  June 2013
The wall opposite had graffiti for “Che Guevara”….. du n’importe quoi..