Persecution of Non-Muslims (Tunisia)

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Note that the persecution of apostates and the persecution of homosexuals are covered in separate pages

Ghriba synagogue suicide bombing kills 14 German tourists, five Tunisians, two French nationals, and wounds more than 30 others

The Ghriba synagogue bombing was a deadly bombing carried out by Niser bin Muhammad Nasar Nawar in Tunisia on the El Ghriba synagogue.

On April 11, 2002, a natural gas truck fitted with explosives drove past security barriers at the ancient Ghriba Synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The truck detonated at the front of the synagogue, killing 14 German tourists, five Tunisians, and two French nationals. More than 30 others were wounded.

Although the attack was initially called an accident, as Tunisia, France, and Germany investigated, it became clear the attack was deliberate. A 24 year-old man named Nizar Nawar was the suicide bomber, who carried out the attack with the aid of a relative. Al Qaeda later claimed responsibility for the attack, which was reportedly organized by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

In March 2003, five people were arrested in Spain who were believed to have financed this attack. In April 2003, a German man named Christian Ganczarski was arrested in Paris in connection with the bombing. He was arrested by a joint intelligence operation, in the frame of Alliance Base, which is located in Paris, and transferred to Fresnes prison in Paris. In February 2009, Ganczarski was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the bombing. A Tunisian who had been living in Canada since 1999, Niser bin Muhammad Nasar Nawar, was alleged to have planned the attack.
Ghriba synagogue bombing
Wikipedia, accessed February 2, 2011

Arsonists set fire to a synagogue in the southern Gabes region, burning Torah scrolls

Arsonists set fire to a synagogue in the southern Gabes region of Tunisia, a leader of the local Jewish community said Tuesday.

"Someone set fire to the synagogue on Monday night and the Torah scrolls were burned," Trabelsi Perez told AFP, criticising the lack of action by the security services to stop the attack.

"What astonished me was that there were police not far from the synagogue," added Perez, who is also head of the Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba, the oldest synagogue in Africa.
Synagogue torched in Tunisia: Jewish leader
Agence France-Presse, February 1, 2011

"Jews wait, the army of Mohammed is coming back": Jews in fear after anti-Jewish rally outside the country's main synagogue. Muslims threaten to slaughter Jews

Tunisian Jews have raised concerns for their community's safety following an anti-Jewish rally outside the country's main synagogue. Jewish leader Roger Bismuth met this week with interim Prime Minister Mohammed Ghanoucci and requested better security.

Dozens of Islamists demonstrated outside the synagogue last Friday and shouted, “Jews wait, the army of Mohammed is coming back,” and “We'll redo the battle of Khaybar” - a reference to the slaughter of Jews in what is now Saudi Arabia at the hands of Mohammed's army.
. . .
Concern for a repeat of last Friday's threats is particularly high Friday as Muslim leaders give their weekly sermons, an event extremist preachers may take advantage of to incite against Jews.

Tunisia is home to approximately 1,600 Jews, down from 100,000 in the 1950s. The Jewish population is one of the largest in the Arab world. Most Tunisian Jews live on the southern island of Djerba.
Anti-Jewish Demo Raises Fears for Tunisian Jews
Maayana Miskin, IsraelNationalNews, February 18, 2011

Young Polish missionary and priest killed in Tunisia. Found with his throat slashed

A young Salesian priest from Poland has been killed in Tunisia. According to a memo issued by the Salesian Info Agency, the young man was Father Marek Rybinski, a missionary working in Manouba. His body was found in the Salesian school in Manouba and there is no clear indication of the motive for the murder. Father Rybinski had not been seen since yesterday morning at around 10 when fellow priests went to visit him. Having missed his presence at evening prayers and at mass this morning, Don Lawrence Essery, the director of the Silesian mission to Manouba, searched his room and then alerted the local police force. Investigators found Father Rybinski in a store room with his throat cut. He is the second religious person to have been killed in Tunisia in the recent past.

Violent Muslim protesters armed with iron bars, teargas, and razorblades, brake into film screening (by atheist filmmaker who received numerous death threats) and attack theatergoers, threatening a "massacre" of infidels

Police were slow to respond to violent protesters who broke into a Tunis cinema showing a controversial documentary on June 26, 2011, and who attacked theatergoers, Human Rights Watch said today. The dismissive response by the police to requests for assistance was a failure to protect the right to free expression, Human Rights Watch said.

Several dozen protesters forced their way into the screening of a film on atheism in Tunisia, Secularism, If God Wills. The film was part of a cultural evening at the AfricARt Cinema, sponsored by the Arab Institute for Human Rights and organized by Closing Ranks (Lam Echaml), a collective of Tunisian associations and creative artists. The evening's program, called "Hands Off Our Artists," was presented in support of Tunisians who have been assaulted, threatened, and denounced by persons who consider their artistic creations offensive to Islam.

"Tunisian police should have moved quickly to protect the audience and organizers of the film," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The government - including the police - have a duty to protect the right of Tunisians to create and view art, whatever its point of view and however offensive it may be to others."

The police nearby were aware of the threat to the film screening but took no action to deter violence and responded to the attack without urgency, Human Rights Watch said. Police who visited the scene before the protest suggested to the organizers that they cancel the film, the organizers said, rather than move to protect the cinema from potential violence. Artists who tried to summon the police when the attack began said they were met with dismissive comments about their purported opposition to the former government and the security forces.

Online commentators, including on Facebook, have vilified the documentary under its former title, Neither Allah Nor Master (Ni Allah ni Maître) and its director, Nadia al-Fani, a Franco-Tunisian, largely because al-Fani has openly declared her atheism in interviews on Tunisian television and made it the subject of her film. Al-Fani has received numerous online death threats.

Organizers of the event told Human Rights Watch that they had provided local authorities advance notice of the event, as required by law. One of the organizers, Mounir Baâziz, the president of the Association of Tunisian Filmmakers (Association des Cinéastes Tunisiens), said that a colleague had phoned the police earlier in the afternoon when the organizers noticed some men outside the cinema who aroused their suspicions. At about 4 p.m., two plainclothes policemen arrived. When the organizers told them the subject of the film, the policemen advised them not to show it, Baâziz told Human Rights Watch.

A short time later, a crowd of men and women formed in front of the cinema chanting "Allah is Great," and "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger." Some carried black flags bearing the latter phrase. The protest, which lasted about 30 minutes, can be seen in a video clip posted online.

Although the theater is less than 100 meters from the nearest police station and the interior ministry headquarters and the street is typically heavily policed, police did not arrive to protect theatergoers until after the protesters had smashed the doors and assaulted patrons inside.

Mohamed Bahri Ben Yahmed, a filmmaker who belongs to Lam Echaml, told Human Rights Watch:

At about 5:15 p.m., the persons who were shouting outside the cinema all of a sudden surged toward the entrance, smashing the glass doors and display cases. A minority of them forced their way inside, hitting some of the artists present who tried to block their passage, including Mounir Baâziz. One of them sprayed Habib Belhadi [director of the AfricArt cinema] and Sadok Ben Mhenni [one of those present for the screening] with some kind of teargas spray. I was terrified and ran inside the theater, while the attackers climbed the stairs.

Belhadi added, "There were probably 60 or 80 of them outside. When I tried to prevent some of them from entering, they sprayed me with teargas, and another hit me with an iron bar." Belhadi sustained moderate injuries from being struck in the face and sprayed in the eyes with the teargas. Belhadi's account was given to a Tunisian radio station.

Ben Yahmed told Human Rights Watch, "One of the theater's employees ran inside the theater and shouted, ‘Get out, get out, they are attacking us! Leave through the emergency exit!' There was turmoil inside the room. We were terrified. Some of the people ran away, but many others stayed."

At around 5:30 p.m., Sondos Zarrouk, general secretary of the Tunisian Association for the Promotion of Film Criticism (Association Tunisienne pour la Promotion de la Critique Cinématographique), went to the local police station known as "al-mintqa." Zarrouk told Human Rights Watch that she shouted to the policemen present, "They are attacking us! They are attacking us! There are Islamists attacking the AfricArt!"

Zarrouk said that the policeman on duty replied, "I don't care! It's between you and them."

The actress Najwa Miled, who was attending the event at the AfricArt, went to the police station to join Zarrouk in seeking help. Zarrouk recalled, "The policeman responded to us, ‘Ben Ali was protecting you, and you kicked him out.' Then he told us, ‘We don't go anywhere without getting orders beforehand, because whenever we move, you film us beating people.'"

The two women pleaded with the police until a group of about 10 police officers accompanied them back to the theater.

Baâziz, who remained at the theater, said that six to eight protesters, some armed with iron bars and others with razor blades, went to the projection room. He said that they shouted, "Infidels! You are not Tunisians!" and, "You show this film and there will be a massacre!"

At around 5:50 p.m., a high-ranking officer arrived, followed five minutes later by about eight police officers. They arrested several protesters, who offered no resistance, witnesses said. By 6 p.m. anti-riot police with clubs stood outside guarding the cinema.

The cinema was then able to show the film.

Muslims take over a Christian basilica and attempt to turn it into a mosque, preparing the place for Friday prayers

A group of Salafist Muslims took over a Christian basilica in the Tunisian town of Kef with the aim of turning it into a mosque, media reported Friday.

The daily La Presse newspaper said police dispersed about 20 people from the Roman site, who argued that it was a place of Muslim worship before it reverted to a basilica in 1966.

“Muslims went into the basilica to prepare the place for Friday prayers,” interior ministry spokesman Hichem Meddeb told AFP, adding that he was not able to confirm they were Salafists.

“Police dispersed them without any trouble, talks took place with the governor and they have been invited to make an official request to the faith ministry,” he said. “As things stand, the monument remains a basilica.”

Two atheist authors convicted of blaspheming Islam and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, and to a fine of 1200 Tunisian Dinars

On 28 March a primary court in the coastal city of Mahdia, sentenced two atheist friends, Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji, to seven and a half years in prison, and to a fine of 1200 Tunisian Dinars (around USD $800) each, over the use of social networks to publish content deemed blasphemous. Mejri,and Beji were put on trial following a complaint lodged by a group of residents in Mahdia.

Private radio station Shems FM reported that Mejri and Beji published cartoons insulting the Prophet.

While Jabeur Mejri is in prison, his friend Ghazi Beji, who was sentenced in absentia, is at large. He fled to Athens to avoid prosecution. According to Beji wrote a book called “the Illusion of Islam”, and published it on the internet. His friend Mejri, wrote another book and “cursed the government, Islamists, Prophet Mohamed, drew a pig sleeping on the Kaaba [a sacred building for Muslims], and expressed his hatred towards Arabs and his love to Israel and its prime minister Natanyaho [sic]”.

Mejri, and Beji were convicted of “insulting others via public communication networks”, and spreading publications and writings that could “disturb public order” and “ moral transgression”.

The League of Tunisian Humanists condemned the sentence and complained about the “unclear circumstances that surrounded the trial, since one of the defendants fled”.

Olfa Riahi, a blogger and a journalist, who broke the story on the Tunisian blogosphere, told Index on Censorship that she is looking forward to see more associations getting together to support Mejri and Beji. “Many associations have started to react, but I would like to see [human rights group group] Liberty and Equity, as an association with an Islamic background, reacting too”, she said.

Bochra Bel Haji Hmida, a renowned Tunisian lawyer and women rights activist, will defend Mejri and Beji in their appeal.

Though the 2011 uprising has permitted Tunisians to freely express themselves, and criticize the political system; Islam has turned out to be a red line for the predominantly Muslim country, where censorship is taking on a religious tone.
Tunisia: Two atheist friends convicted for blasphemy
Afef Abrougui, UNCUT, April 5, 2012

Muslims destroy crosses in cemetery, smear feces on a Russian school and a church fresco, and demand that a priest convert to Islam or take down his church's crosses and pay jizyah

Non-Muslim places of worship are being targeted by still-unidentified individuals. After the attacks perpetrated against the Orthodox church on Avenue Mohamed V, the Russian school located behind the church as well as the Christian cemetery of Montplasir in Tunis have been vandalized.

The walls of the school were smeared with fecal matter, as also a fresco of Saint Siberian [sic] located in the back courtyard of the Orthodox church, while the cemetery's crosses were destroyed....

According to the newspaper Le Maghreb, a Salafist burst into the church during April to deliver a letter from an Islamist party called "Hizb Allah" [not to be confused with the Lebanese party of the same name], inviting the archpriest to convert to Islam or to take down his church's crosses and pay the "jizya", a tribute that non-Muslims were required to pay at the beginning of the Islamic era [and oftentimes since then].

We note as well that the prosecutor of the Republic has ordered, Thursday April 5, an investigation to be opened within the context of the complaint filed by the ATSM regarding the calls made to kill Jews, according to the declaration of Ms. Thabet Thursday on Mosaïque FM.