ALGIERS | in the aftermath of the death demeaning to the United States from the Afro-American George Floyd and the blade of the bottom anti-racism which is sweeping the world, “Black Live Matters” only attracted little in the Maghreb, where Blacks face discrimination in everyday life.
In Algeria, in Tunisia or in Morocco, nationals of sub-saharan Africa who have come to study, work or try to rally Europe say that they suffer racism, “ordinary”.
“The death of Floyd has woken up the rage that slept in us,” said Fabrice, a Cameroonian undocumented migrants living in Algiers.
This agony shocking was “born of the hatred of the other color,” laments Bintou, a Malian who wants to leave Algeria.
However, the debate on racism and police violence initiated by the global movement “Black Lives Matter” (the life of Blacks account) born in the United States in 2013 and which served as a spearhead has not shaken the countries of the Maghreb.
Only Tunisia has seen a small demonstration at the beginning of June to denounce racism in the United States and elsewhere, the appeal of the tunisian association Mnemty.
According to its president, Saadia Mosbah, a Tunisian woman with dark skin, this mobilization is “a message to Afro-Americans from their Mother Africa to say: “We are with you””.
If there is no official census, foreigners from african countries (excluding Maghreb) is more than 200 000 in Algeria, and tens of thousands in Morocco as in Tunisia, according to NGOS.
Most are migrants passing through the desert in convoys of pick-ups, sometimes going beyond the borders on foot. Graduates or not, they are working without being declared, such as cleaning staff or workers in the CONSTRUCTION industry.
And if they continue to complain of the arbitrary police and xenophobia ambient, they are mostly concerned with their survival after months of confinement, which have exacerbated the precariousness of their situation.
“Worse than the blows”
Racism is most often verbal, but “sometimes the words hurt more than the beatings,” stresses Aisha, a Nigerian met in Algiers.
“Kahlouche (black in Arabic), Mamadou, Ebola, and now COVID-19 are all nicknames that we don”, plague the young mother. His 7 year old son has refused to return to school after being heard to say: “You’re not at home”.
“It is necessary to conduct a permanent struggle against these abuses of the language. Some Algerians are forgetting that they themselves are Africans,” argues the sociologist in algeria Mohamed Saïb Musette.
For him, the priority is to “decondition” the children face the latent racism that are also indigenous blacks. These are sometimes also known as “abid” or “oussif”, which literally means “slave”.
In the Maghreb, slavery has been abolished legally first in Tunisia (1846), and then in Algeria, colonized by France, partly in 1848, and finally in Morocco, under French protectorate, in 1922.
However, the treaty Arabic, tolerated, persisted in Algeria after 1848 and until the early Twentieth century in Tunisia, according to historians.
The discrimination does not spare the Maghreb blacks themselves, as evidenced by the Algerian Karima is forced to break up with her fiancé of color “in order not to be disowned by his people”.
Today, marriages with people of color are seen in a bad light. Very few television stars, senior officials or political leaders have the dark skin, deplores the sociologist of algerian.
Amina, a Oranaise black of 35 years, recalls with bitterness that he was “caillassée” in front of the university.
A sign that the situation is changing, a coalition of moroccan associations launched in 2014 the first campaign against the racism against sub-saharan migrants. The slogan was “Massmiytich Azzi !” (literally “Do not call me black”), “Azzi”, with a pejorative connotation.
In Tunisia, in response to the aggression of wild against sub-saharan Africans, Mnemty has obtained the adoption in October 2018 by the tunisian Parliament of a law which penalizes for the first time hate speech.
The Parliament of algeria did the same in April last.
Despite these advances, the institutional discrimination remains strong: in Algeria, as in Tunisia, apart from the students, it is almost impossible for Africans foreigners to regularize their status. Only Morocco has regularized some 50 000 people from 2014, mostly from West Africa.
“Without papers, he cannot claim their rights”, says Fabrice, who lives in Algeria for 20 years, half of his life. Now, he has “no other desire than to leave” in Europe, joining his wife and two children who made the crossing on a boat of fortune via neighboring Tunisia.