Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tunisia Now Exporting “Jihadis”

    Tuesday, April 09, 2013   No comments

Tunisian families have begun to dread knocks on their doors, or late-night phone calls, fearing that the messenger will bear the news that their son has been smuggled out of the country to join the “jihad” in Syria.
Families here told IPS that they have no way of contacting their sons once they leave — whether by choice or coercion they will never know — for the warring nation nearly 3,000 miles away. At most, family members receive an inaudible telephone call from Libya, where the soon-to-be militants are trained, the muffled voice on the other end of the line saying a quiet and final goodbye.

After that point, no news is good news. If they are contacted again, it will only be an anonymous caller announcing the death of a son, brother or husband, adding that the family should be proud of their martyred loved one.

The next day, the family might find a CD, slipped under the door, containing filmed footage of the burial.

There are no reliable data on exactly when young Tunisian men began rushing to join the Free Syrian Army, currently engaged in a battle to depose Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, but experts and civil society activists are agreed on one thing: the number is increasing.

On Mar. 29, local sources reported that between 6,000 and 10,000 men have left the country, while the Algerian press say the number could be closer to 12,000.

Families tell IPS the self-proclaimed jihadists leave in secret, often under cover of darkness, and change their names en route so that Facebook and internet searches yield no results. They believe mosques and charity organisations serve as fronts for this “recruitment” process.

Widely considered the cradle of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has gained a reputation as a progressive country, bolstered by the strong democratic current that toppled former dictator Zine Abadine Ben Ali in January 2011. The election of the moderate Islamist party Ennahda in October 2011 further raised hopes that the country would stay on track towards a more inclusive future.

But beneath the moderate veneer, a strong ultra-conservative undercurrent remained, steered by Salafist-controlled mosques – like Fath, Ennassr, Ettadhamen, and the great mosque of Ben Arous located on the outskirts of Tunis – that are now serving as headquarters for the smuggling of fighters.


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