Editor’s Note: A version of this story first appeared in CNN’s Meanwhile in the Middle East newsletter, a three-times-a-week look inside the region’s biggest stories. Sign up here.
A viral video from late February showed a man decrying the incompatibility of Black African “values” with those of Tunisians. Asked by the interviewer if he had ever met any Africans, he retorted implying he knows them well “because my grandfather used to buy and sell them.”
The video has garnered more than 600,000 views on Twitter. It’s one of many circulating in Tunisia that has, in recent weeks, brought to the fore a racism problem in the country that has coincided with an influx of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa who use Tunisia as a transit point to Europe.
Some of the social media posts, shared in Arabic, English and French, have portrayed the migrants as invaders, criminals and rapists who seek to displace Tunisians. Many refer to the debunked but widely shared claim that there are 2 million sub-Saharan Africans in the country of 12 million.
The sudden rise in public expressions of racism occurred in the weeks after Tunisian President Kais Saied delivered a widely criticized tirade about undocumented migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. Tunisia, like other North African countries, is predominantly Arabic speaking.
On February 21, he described illegal border crossings from sub-Saharan Africa into Tunisia as a “