Tunisian Islamist extremists are threatening and attacking freethinkers, a sign of increasing violence in Tunisia following the 2011 revolution.
Last week, Tunisian citizen Nacer Amari, a member of an organisation called Tunisian Freethinkers, announced on Facebook that the president of the organisation had been stabbed and assaulted by Islamic extremists outside a bar in Tunis.
The attackers, believing that they had not inflicted enough harm, continued to follow the victim, Hatem Al Imam, to his home, where they attempted to break in.
Below are graphic photos of Imam.
Ameri said that members of the organisation had been attacked in the past and that he has also received death threats.
Two other members of Tunisian Freethinkers spoke to me about their experiences with attacks and threats from extremists.
A Revolution Gone Wrong
Sarah Angel, another member of Tunisian Freethinkers, said that the growing extremism was a result of the “so-called revolution” in 2011 when President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted.
“Tunisia’s constitution is relative[ly new]… and we are a country that is ahead of humanitarian laws in the Middle East as a whole…[for]example… the first country to prevent polygamy. But after the so-called revolution, political Islam penetrated into the entire country in an unprecedented manner, assassinations accumulated like the assassination of Chokri Belaid, Mohamed Al Brahmi, and others without any consideration from the state.”
The impact of the revolution is still felt today. Angel also described past attacks she had experienced while she campaigned with the organisation for a secular state in July.
“In the media campaign, some persons threatened me with messages and Facebook and asked me to delete the video, knowing that 6 months ago they attempted to rape me in the street, but I defended myself, managed to escape and they arrested the responsibles and now they serving their sentences.”
She said that a day before Hatem Al Imam was attacked last week, she received a death threat on Facebook. I learned that these threats are common for members of Tunisian Freethinkers.
Lives on the Line
One former member, Nidhal Garsi, had to flee from Tunisia to Spain due to the threats he received.
At one point, he said, a person in his neighbourhood threatened to stab him in the head, forcing him to promise that he would stop writing Facebook posts about religion.
Garsi said that the secretary general of Tunisian Freethinkers currently fears for her life due to threats from Islamists. He said that police found photos of the secretary general, among photographs of other atheists, in the homes of terrorists. One of these terrorists, he said, was arrested; however there are more that have not been arrested.
Garsi and Amari shared their thoughts on the future of Tunisian Freethinkers.
Garsi said, “We will continue to fight for freedom of expression and individual liberties.”
Amari said, “We need support from other foundations and humanist organisations.”
Tara is a journalist and campaigner based in San Francisco, US