Opinion | What’s Happening to Tunisia Is a Tragedy

Lots of my family and friends had been among the many almost three million individuals who voted for Mr. Saied. Higher him than his opponent, they mentioned, a candidate supported by a mix of the earlier regime and corrupt enterprise networks. But from the outset, I discovered Mr. Saied’s challenge terrifying. As a scholar of faith, I paid specific consideration to a lecture he gave in September 2018, when he was nonetheless a legislation professor, on the connection between Islam and the state. His political imaginative and prescient wasn’t simply antidemocratic. It was an anti-modern type of nativism, with every part subservient to the ruler.

Given his obsession with purity, the president’s crackdown on migrants is hardly stunning. In February, he invoked the good alternative conspiracy concept to accuse the nation’s small sub-Saharan migrant inhabitants of plotting to remake Tunisia’s id. His remarks set off a brutal wave of violence towards Black individuals within the nation, wherein scores had been injured, arrested and expelled from their properties.

Mr. Saied’s aim is to purify society from corrupt affect: Social hygiene, not social justice, is the purpose. The challenge is only moralistic, reasonably than procedural and political, and its phrases are outlined by Mr. Saied himself. He has methodically focused the independence of the judiciary, for instance, issuing decrees that give him the authority to dismiss judges. In one other decree, he ordered the prosecution of dissenting voices that might hurt “public safety or nationwide protection.” Civil liberties, political opposition and free speech are to be distributed with, recast as menaces to society.

To me, this all feels so sadly acquainted, recalling the darkish days of Mr. Ben Ali’s dictatorship. In April the youngsters of quite a few political prisoners, talking from Geneva, referred to as on the European Union to impose sanctions on Mr. Saied’s regime. Their testimonies struck a chord with me. I remembered the miserable Sunday evenings within the spring of 1994, when my mother and I ready the one basket of meals we had been permitted to take to my dad whereas he was in jail. I keep in mind the way it felt to speak to him separated by bars and armed cops.

And but this time round, it feels even worse. The aim just isn’t merely to crush dissent but in addition to dehumanize political prisoners and their households. In Geneva, Kaouther Ferjani delivered a chilling account about how her father, a former member of Parliament who has been detained, is being handled. Made to share an overcrowded cell with 120 inmates, he has fallen ailing and been repeatedly taken to a hospital. The destiny of Rachid al-Ghannouchi, a former speaker of Parliament and head of the Ennahda celebration who was arrested in April, is unlikely to be a lot better.