Nearly 30 family members of Tunisians missing in Syria, Iraq and Italy protested on Saturday evening in front of the municipal theatre in the capital Tunis, Anadolu news agency has reported. The protest was organised by the New Promise Organisation (NPO) and the Stranded Tunisians Rescue Organisation (STRO) for families who have lost contact with their sons in the three countries.
The protestors demanded that the Tunisian government and presidency should look more seriously into the disappearance of the missing citizens and investigate their cases.
The NPO is active in Italy and its head, Zeina Kasht, told Anadolu that the protest aims to send a message to the Tunisian authorities that the families of the missing young people need to be heard and have their demands met. "There is strong evidence that the Tunisian youth lost in Italy are still alive and that there are options to get them home," she said, calling on the Tunisian government not to "procrastinate" even more. "If the government refuses to respond to the protestors' demands," Kasht insisted, "they will escalate their activities."
Mohammad Iqbal Bin Rajab of the STRO said that the protest was organised in Ramadan to show the anger of the families of the missing people who are "too valuable" to be forgotten by the Tunisian authorities. "The organisers and families will escalate and intensify protests if the Tunisian authorities do not respond," he warned. Neither Kasht nor Bin Rajab specified the nature of possible escalations.
In 2003, many Tunisians left for Iraq to fight against the invading US forces; dozens did not return and their whereabouts are still unknown. Similarly, in 2011 young Tunisians left to fight alongside opposition forces against the Syrian regime.
According to unofficial figures, 43 Tunisians are detained in Syrian jails; it is estimated that 504 illegal migrants from Tunisia are missing in Italy.