Saturday, January 15, 2011

To the barricades/"Don't Trust the Police"

Coming back from downtown today (more on that in next post) on every corner we saw huge groups of men boys and even a few women holding every manner of blunt object.

They were all wearing white arm bands that showed that they were with the army and protecting their neighborhood.

I had already gotten some axe handles and given them to some friends, and my one friend invited me to stand on his corner with him and his boys. His corner is a few blocks away from my house so I decided to go against my better judgement and go with him.

Walking to his corner was surreal. Every single corner had a collection of men, young boys and even a few women brandishing all sorts of weapons (except guns). They had built barricades out of random trash to block traffic and were standing around them.

When i got to his corner i was introduced to all the guys standing there. To say I was completely out of place would be a gross understatement, but they were generally friendly with me.

 Shortly after I got there learned some very disturbing news. Men in unmarked cars had been driving around Sousse and shooting random people out of their cars. Since these men were killing seemingly random people and since they had guns it was assumed by most Tunisians that they were probably former members of elite police/interior ministry units. These men are roughly comparable to the Republican Guard in Ba'athist Iraq and were the people who did the dirty work of the Ben Ali regime.

I've been hearing stories about them since I got here, and to put it mildly they are not to be trifled with. They have a lot to fear from a new regime, since they could probably be convicted of human rights violations.

Now the theory was they were murdering random people, to sow chaos and maybe bring about a return of the old regime.

My new friends and I stood around the barricade, axehandles in hand waiting for something to happen. I'm pretty sure we had all come there initially for the same reason, we didn't want looters taking any of our shit. But with this new information the stakes became much higher.

Finally at like 8 pm (as i'm writing it's 845) I got hungry. I also felt less brave now that my potential enemies were hardened, homocidal secret agents out for political revenge, not skinny teenagers trying to steal my laptop.

I decided to walk back to my house to make pasta. I was stirring the sauce when I heard loud, opposing gun fire come from the street where my friends were. If I had thought about it I would have stayed in the house, but i ran out to see what had happened.

My friends had not been shot at. Instead the mysterious assassins had murdered some people in the next town and got caught by the military coming into Khzema. Soldiers rolled up and explained.

Basically they said that they had caught one of the assassins and indeed he was interior ministry. The soldier then said that they were looking for the rest and that we should all watch our back. then he said the most chilling thing.

"Don't trust the police, don't trust ANY police, if you see them attack them"

A member of the Tunisian military just told a mob of stick wielding civilians to attack any policeman on sight.

gunfire is continuing and it seems different then last night.

last night it seemed very one sided, like security forces were firing on looters.

now it sounds more like a gun battle, where both sides are armed.

This is not good

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