A picture of Tunisian President Kais Saied in the process of "bowing" to French President Emmanuel Macron has sparked widespread controversy in Tunisia, especially after it was promoted by the French media as an attempt by Saied to express his gratitude to France after granting his country a loan of €200 million. The picture was taken at a reception during the Francophone Summit on the island of Djerba.
France's BFM TV website used the headline "Tunisia: A 200-million-euro loan from France" indicating that the loan will help Tunisia, which is suffering from a stifling economic crisis, with its international debt exceeding 100 per cent of its GDP.
"The French channel used a painful and humiliating image in a malicious way and is linking it to the €200 million loan that Tunisia obtained from France," said Hisham Al-Ajbouni, a senior official in the Democratic Current Party in the North African country.
"If one does not stand for something, one will fall for anything," commented the head of Al-Majd Party, Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Hani. "An insulting image of the President of the Republic and an insult to Tunisia, was chosen by the French to document the meeting of the two presidents, Saied and Macron [who] looked as if he was the owner of the house and imposed the European Union flag alongside the French flag, while the flags of the Arab Maghreb Union, the Arab League and the African Union were absent, and the [Tunisian] flag appeared alone."
Rafik Abdel Salam of Tunisia's Ennahda Movement expressed his surprise that, "This strange creature only speaks to us in the language of yelling, threats and intimidation, and we only hear hurtful words from him, but then he stands before his master, he bows, he becomes polite, and his tongue is kind."
The former director of the presidential office, Nadia Okasha, had previously sparked controversy in audio leaks in which she is heard to say that President Saied "fears French President Emmanuel Macron, and this is what prompted him to quickly kiss his shoulder at their first meeting (in 2020)." That meeting was also controversial in Tunisia at the time.