Tunisia lawmakers reject motion on French colonial rule

The motion had been put forward by the small opposition Islamist party Al-Karama, which holds 19 of the 217 seats in parliament. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 June 2020

Tunisia lawmakers reject motion on French colonial rule

  • The motion had been put forward by the small opposition Islamist party Al-Karama
  • Only 77 votes were cast in favor of the motion

TUNIS: Tunisia’s parliament on Wednesday rejected a motion calling on France to apologize for crimes committed during and after colonial rule, following 15 hours of debate that ran into the night.
The motion had been put forward by the small opposition Islamist party Al-Karama, which holds 19 of the 217 seats in parliament.
The party’s lawmakers attended the session wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan: “Murder and torture, the brutality of French colonialism.”
Only 77 votes were cast in favor of the motion, far short of the 109 votes needed for it to pass — a tall order, given the deep divisions among lawmakers.
The motion called on France to apologize for “assassinations... rapes... the pillaging of natural resources” and an alleged list of “other crimes committed since 1881,” including supporting former president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
Tunisia was a French protectorate from 1881 until it gained independence in 1956.
A year later, it was declared a republic with Habib Bourguiba as its president.
He was overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1987 following allegations that he had become senile, and after doctors declared he was unfit to rule.
Then prime minister Ben Ali was appointed president, a post he held until he was ousted in the country’s 2010-2011 uprising.
The uprising was the trigger for similar revolts that toppled autocratic leaders across the region in a wave of protest dubbed the Arab Spring.


Displaced Yazidis head back to Sinjar as lockdown bites

Gole Zeblo Ismaeel, daughter in-law of Nayef al-Hamo, a Yazidi displaced man, hugs her neigbour before heading back to Sinjar following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and economic crisis, near Dohuk, Iraq July 4, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 07 July 2020

Displaced Yazidis head back to Sinjar as lockdown bites

  • Young men from my community who used to earn up to $17 a day working at restaurants and factories can no longer find work because of the lockdown’s impact on the economy

SHARYA: Hundreds of Yazidi families driven from their hometown of Sinjar in northern Iraq years ago are now returning as the impact of coronavirus lockdown measures makes their lives in exile even harder.
Many have lost their jobs and aid from donors in Sharya, where they have been living since they fled Sinjar in 2014.
Mahma Khalil, the mayor of Sinjar but now in exile in Dohuk in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, said more than 1,200 displaced families have returned from their temporary homes to Sinjar since June. Most had relatives their who serve in the military or police, he said.
Overrun by Daesh in 2014 and liberated by an array of forces the following year, little has been rebuilt in Sinjar.
Water is scarce and power intermittent in the city, whose former occupiers killed thousands of Yazidis and forced many women in sexual slavery.
Despite the devastation that makes the city still largely unfit for habitation, members of this ancient minority feel they have no other choice.
“The situation has become really bad,” Yazidi community leader Jameel Elias Hassan Al-Hamo said outside his makeshift home in Sharya, just south of Dohuk.
Young men from his community who used to earn up to $17 a day working at restaurants and factories can no longer find work because of the lockdown’s impact on the economy, Al-Hamo said.
As he spoke, men carried pieces of furniture, blankets and bags of food out of his home and piled them onto the back of a pickup truck.
The coronavirus outbreak has worsened Iraq’s economic crisis, pushing oil prices down in a country that depends on crude export for more than 90 percent of its revenue. Restrictions on travel and curfews have driven many out of work.
Al-Hamo’s daughter-in-law Gole Zeblo Ismaeel said that the monthly aid packages they used to depend on became scarcer as the crisis impacted the work of humanitarian organizations.
Another reason for their return was the restriction on internal travel between semi-autonomous Kurdistan and neighboring Iraqi regions, imposed since March to curb the spread of the virus.
Al-Hamo said that most Yazidi families in Sharya have a son enrolled in armed forces stationed in Sinjar, who have been unable to visit for weeks.
“Some haven’t seen their families for over three months now,” he said.
Although their hometown is destroyed, Al-Hamo said they have been promised support by local aid organizations upon their return and he believed soon he will be reunited with the rest of his family soon.
“I registered over 400 names and phone numbers of relatives, members of the tribe and of the community. They said that once we, the sheikhs and tribal leaders, go back, they will follow us,” he added.
Khalil said he has been pleading for funds from the central government to step up reconstruction efforts in Sinjar but he believed it would not happen any time soon.