Ons Jabeur issues message of solidarity amidst Tunisian president’s anti-migrant stance

Ons Jabeur

Ons Jabeur has issued a message of solidarity with sub-Saharan migrants declaring that she is proud to be both Arab and African.

Her message comes against the backdrop of a speech delivered by Tunisian President Kais Saied on illegal African migrants.

Jabeur included an image that was commisioned for a postage stamp in the 1960s that celebrated ‘Africa Day’.

“Today is Zero Discrimination Day. As a proud Tunisian, Arab, and African woman, I celebrate everyone’s right to live with dignity,” Ons Jabeur wrote on her Twitter account.

Late last month Saied went on the offensive against both his political opponents in Tunisia and against a perceived horde of migrants whom he says are pouring into the country to alter its demographics in what he characterised as a terrorist act.

“Hordes of illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa are still arriving, with all the violence, crime, and unacceptable practices that entails,” he told his national security council.

An otherwise novice politician Saied came to power in Tunisia in 2019 largely off the back of a campaign marked by xenophobic rhetoric.

His Parti Nationaliste Tunisien (PNT) won that election in a landslide but they haven’t been able to pull the country’s economy out of a nose-dive.

The latest comments by the president have further divided Tunisia and led to widespread protest action.

Meanwhile, state-run newspapers and television channels devote airtime to the latest international and domestic conspiracies they say are intended to destabilise Tunisia.

Also speaking out against xenophobia was ex-international footballer Radhi Jaid.

“I am African, not because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me.”

Tunisia is home to around 12 million regular inhabitants while the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights says it also has more than 21,000 nationals from sub-Saharan African countries many of whom live in informal settlements.

After the president’s comments migrants reportedly fear for their lives and some have flocked to the embassies of their country of origin in order to be repatriated.

According to reports from within Tunisia, a makeshift village of tarpaulins and blankets has sprung up outside the International Organization for Migration building in Tunis.

The free press and NGOs within Tunisia report that political opponents of the PNT have been arrested, often without charge and accused of terrorism.

Ons Jabeur is not currently in action on the WTA Tour after suffering an injury but might return in time for the Sunshine Double in the United States.

She has spoken out for oppressed and marginalised groups in the past and as a popular figure within Tunisia has been commended for her stance.

READ MORE: Novak Djokovic expects No 1 battle to ‘go in circles’ as he names a trio of challengers