Tunisia’s Spies

Tunis Al Khadhra (Tunisia, the green) ruled under oppression and tyranny for the last 23 years under Ben Ali’s corrupt regime and his wife’s mafia, the Trebelsi family has finally tasted the sweetness of freedom. No one would have ever thought that a revolution such as this one would have been sparked just by one slap in the face of a fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi. Within the last two weeks I had the opportunity to visit family and friends in Tunisia and witness the conditions that the recent revolution has left behind.

Under Ben Ali’s regime, people were not able to speak out against the corrupt government or even practice Islam fully and comfortably.  Citizens were expected to conform to the Western/European lifestyle and to obey the regime.  In my own personal experience, like many other people, I would attend the local mosque on a daily basis.  Under Ben Ali’s regime, police and government spies were sent in the mosques to keep an eye on “suspicious” looking people. This would mean that if you kept a beard according to the Sunnah or wore a thobe, or disagreed with anything the corrupt Sheikh of the mosque would say, you were considered a “suspect” or even a “threat” to the government and be locked behind prison bars or even disappear for good.

Ironically enough, I was spied on by two men who appeared to be religious.  They kept beards, wore thobes, and always greeted me with the Salaams. At first, I never would have thought they were among the sell outs and the hypocrites.  They seemed well intentioned and kind.  When I first met them, they began asking me small simple questions such as “what’s your name?” and “your dialect of Arabic sounds a bit different. Where are you from?”. They seemed happy with my presence seeing that I was amongst the religious Muslim youth that lived in the west. They own a small corner store across the street from my grandparent’s house and would always seemed kind enough to invite me to their store every time they saw me.  As time went on I began to grow a little suspicious and weary of the two men.  I noticed something kind of strange.  They began to make it obvious that they were spies.  Later on I was shocked to find out they were nothing but hypocrite spies that were keeping tabs on me as well as one of my friends.  My friend who was also being spied on and one of my uncles had then warned me about speaking to them or going to their store if they ever invited me ever again. From this point on I tried to avoid the two men whenever I saw them at the mosque. Even though Ben Ali and his regime have been overthrown, the two men are still attempting to spy on the religious youth.  I guess the corruption and hypocrisy still runs through their blood.

Furthermore, there are now weekly educational lectures being held at the mosques currently.  This all would have been illegal under Ben Ali’s regime. All thanks to the recent revolution, this has all changed.  People are now attending the mosques comfortably knowing that there would be no more hypocrite spies. Knowing that there would be no more pre approved sermons and speeches written by the government that would be given to the Sheikhs. Knowing that the corruption was no more.

Sadok Ben Abdallah is currently studying Graphic Design at the University of Minnesota Duluth.  He was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is of Tunisian descent. 

3 Responses to “Tunisia’s Spies”
  1. amilcarcc says:

    This is an interesting article. I would take issue with your point that people were expected to conform to a Western European lifestyle. I would argue that all Tunisians (and foreigners as well for that matter) lived under constant surveillance by the ancien regime.

    I’m curious, who do you think the people who were following you were? Are they just rogue holdovers from Ben Ali, or are they connected to the new salafi groups that have sprung up?

    • Sadok BenAbdallah says:

      Well to answer your question, I myself am a Salaafi. I personally know a ton of other Salaafi Muslim brothers in Tunis and they’re all good, honest, and well intentioned people. However, with regards to the two men that were spying on me, they were fake Salaafis. They’re connected to wealthy families that have connections to police and the government. Some of them are pressured and threatened by the police to spy and others are in fact hypocrites and fake Muslims unfortunatley.

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