Writer: Rahil Methneni Translation: Omar Bihmidine Levant TV Exclusive
Kasserine, sometimes spelt Casrein which means “two castles” in arabic, is a fancy word connoting wealth. Who owns palaces but the wealthy? That is what the word should normally hint at. Yet, Tunisia’s Kasserine Governorate in the west-central of the country on the frontier with Algeria is rather notorious for death. Once a well known Roman town, Kasserine is home to two of the most famous Roman sites in Tunisia, Sbeitla and Haidra. The Triumphal Arch at the entrance to Sbeitla commemorates the four emperors that governed the empire in the year 300, just before the rule of Constantine I. But in modern Tunisia, the province has not got yet what it deserves. The town has suffered the most horrible terrorist attacks and crimes in the country over the last five years.
Think of the bloodiest day in Kasserine when a terrorist attack during Ramadan 2012 claimed the lives of soldiers. Think also of the killing of the teen shepherd Mabrouk Soltani, which was a tragic event. It seems that Kasserine residents are living between the palace of poverty and the palace of terrorism.
Once in the town, you will come across faces that have grown sick and tired of the tribulations of life, ramshackle buildings and dilapidated roads that haven’t been paved for many years. There seems to be no signs of life there. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to claim that death and life are the same in that corner. I still vividly remember asking a man in his twenties why Kasserine offered such a large number of martyrs during the revolution. “It is because life and death are the same here,” the young man responded wryly.
It is as though life wasn’t fair to the province. Along with poverty, terrorism is another harsh blow. Kasserine’s geography has made it easier for ISIS to breed and spread its militants. The Chaambi Mountains, part of the dorsal Atlas mountains, provide terrorists with more freedom to move easily and grow monstrously. From time to time, the Tunisian army chases them and makes efforts to uproot them, but in vain.
Tunisians in the town of Kasserine continue to suffer, due to the growing number of terrorists. With bitterness, residents talk about the death threats, attacks and harassment they received from the ISIS militants. They sadly admit that they can’t uproot this monstrous organization. The town residents add that terrorists are haunting their homes day in and day out. We all remember the beheading of the teen shepherd because of being accused of spying for the Tunisian army.
It is a pity that the people of Kasserine town are not leading a peaceful life despite the politicians’ pledges that go forgotten after the elections. Tunisians are still devoted to their home country, though. “We are ready to die so that our country will live,” the town residents still chant. Yet, when will the nation intervene to do justice to its people. So far, all that we have seen is people being taken to the graveyard, taking final rest from the tribulations of their lives.