Creating new perspectives since 2009

Staff at a Tunisia autism centre investigated for abuse

February 20, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Children have fun at a fun-fair during Eid al-Fitr, celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan in Manouba, Tunisia on June 26, 2017 [Amine Landoulsi / Anadolu Agency]

The director and two employers at a centre for autistic children in Ariana in Tunisia have been placed in custody following a series of complaints of abuse taking place against children under their care.

According to the assistant to the public prosecutor at the court of first instance of Ariana, Moez Ghribi, “several parents lodged a complaint with the public prosecutor at the Ariana Court of First Instance who referred them to the judicial police to be heard.”

Yesterday, the prosecution ordered the opening of a judicial inquiry into the centre after video footage on social networks depicted “scenes of aggression and ill-treatment inflicted by a woman on one or more children” at an institution located in el Menzah 7, according to a statement from the Ministry of Justice.

The Ariana Criminal Police Brigade was tasked with conducting the investigation and summoning the director of the institution and other concerned parties. The video quickly went viral over the weekend causing widespread indignation at how the children were subject to shocking physical violence from the teachers.

Read: Tunisia to set up investigation units on violence against women

Officials in the government have reportedly applied for a court order from the family judge to place all children from the Ariana Centre for Autistic Children under the medical and psychological supervision of specialists from the Ministries of Social Affairs and Education.

The Ministry of Women, Family and Children is also providing psychological guidance for victims and called on parents to be vigilant and to monitor the behaviour of their children.

The centre will also be placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Affairs until the end of the ongoing judicial investigation and likely to be closed if the parties are found guilty.

In response to the abuse their children were subject to, a number of the victim’s parents organised a demonstration yesterday.

“We want a solution for our children,” one parent told Mosaïque FM. “When I saw the video, I did not realise it was my son,” she said, before breaking down in tears and adding “everyone involved in this case must be judged.”

This is not the first case in Tunisia; in November last year, a video surfaced showing a teacher abusing an autistic child at a centre created uproar forcing the centre to close following a decision by the Minister of Social Affairs.

Around 200,000 Tunisians are diagnosed with autism currently, according to Lilila Ktata Meziou, a member of the Parents Association of Autistic Infantile Psychotics.