Four years after the death of a supporter, Tunisian youth shout their anger in the stadiums

In 2018, following a football match between the very popular African Club – one of the capital’s clubs – and the Olympique de Médenine, Omar Laabidi, a young supporter of the group of ultras called « vandals », had was chased by the police several kilometers from the stadium. According to witnesses, the 19-year-old was attacked and pushed into a river by the police. To Laabidi’s calls for help, the police would have responded with a cynical “learn to swim” and let him drown.

Since, “learn to swim” became a slogan chanted in the stadiums by all the fans to express their anger against the police repression, and to demand that justice be done, indicates the state daily The Press. The song horrifies the police and accentuates the violence on both sides, explains the French-language daily, which warns against a “social tsunami” came from the stadiums.

“An extremely tense context”

For several weeks, under pressure from civil society, the « Omar Laabidi » file has returned to the forefront, notes Nawaat. “This angered the security apparatus and prompted it to intimidate, explains an activist at the independent site. The police respond with batons in an extremely tense context.

On Saturday May 14, three Stade Gabésien supporters were arrested for having drawn the portrait of Omar Laabidi on a wall in downtown Gabès, in the south of the country. Sign of these tense relations with the police, Nawaat estimated at sixty the number of supporters of different teams who were arrested and then released, for having expressed their solidarity with the victim. Two of them were even arrested under the anti-terrorism law, “for posting photos on Facebook with the slogan ‘justice or chaos’. The judicial pole, however, waived any prosecution.

human rights monitors

“The State and the Ministry of Interior treat us as their enemies. You don’t know what insults and humiliations we suffer from leaving our home until we leave the stadium”, testifies, under the pseudonym of Bilal, a member of the ultra groups.

“They do everything for us to react. It ends in clashes in which they use and abuse tear gas canisters, truncheons, violence and torture. The supporters number in the thousands and we cannot control their reaction. But the Ministry of the Interior is doing everything to provoke us and drag us into violence.

On 8 May, observers from the Tunisian League for Human Rights were deployed to the Radès stadium, on the occasion of the derby in the capital between the African Club and Espérance Sportif de Tunis, to report to possible violations. An initiative much criticized by the police unions.

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