The human tragedy in Tunis

The human tragedy in Tunis
Feature: Tunisians ask how the state allowed the massacre at Bardo, while friends of one of the gunman question his switch from "wine and women" to murder.
3 min read
02 April, 2015
Tunisians marched against terrorism after the attack on the Bardo museum [Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty]

At Charles Nicolle Hospital a few kilometres from Tunisia's Habib Bourguiba Avenue, there was chaos and carnage last Wednesday. Every few minutes an ambulance would pull in and doctors and nurses would gather around the vehicle, waiting to receive for the next victim of the Bardo museum massacre.

Mariam Mazoughi, 23, was there. She stood motionless, her eyes full of tears as she watched the body of her dead cousin, Aymen Morjan, being carried on the shoulders of his police colleagues in a casket covered with the Tunisian flag. 

His body was being taken from the morgue to a cemetery.

The terrorists kill the sons of normal people like us - where are the sons of presidents, ministers or politicians?
Mariam Mazoughi.

"We are an oppressed people. The terrorists kill the sons of normal people like us - where are the sons of presidents, ministers or politicians? Where is the state? Where is the president when we need him," she asked.

Mazoughi found out through media reports that Morjan, a counter-terrorism police officer, had been shot at Bardo museum. She rushed to the hospital to see his body.

She criticised state security and the interior ministry for not stopping the gunmen entering the museum, especially as the building is located next to the parliament and other ministries.

"I am shocked that this has happened in my country. I am shocked that two terrorists can kill so many people including my cousin. Tomorrow, politicians will hold up banners that we are fighting terrorism," she said ahead of a march last weekend. "If it is not Aymen it will be someone else. We are sick and tired from this nightmare. We are hopeless," she told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Inside surgery section A, head surgeon Mounir Benmoussa was taking a quick break after operating on five tourists from France, Japan and Poland.

He was tallying the number of injured and their conditions. Injuries ranged from those caused by bullets wounds to ankles, cheeks, hands, thighs, and backs, to minor injuries and shock.

"I treated patients who were shot at during the revolution in January 2011," he told al-Araby al-Jadeed. "As a doctor you go in and do your job like today we've been receiving patients and we don't know if more will come."

The gunmen

One of the named gunmen, Yassine al-Abeidi, lived in Karsh el-Ghaba, a well-to-do suburb about 20 minutes from the centre of Tunis. He worked in a travel agency.

One of Abeidi's old school friends, a 23-year-old who did not want to reveal his name, said Abeidi was riding his red Vespa scooter the last time he saw him.

"I remember seeing a news report about the attack in the cafe and his brother was sitting with us. He didn't even realise it was his own brother," he said.

Mourad Arouche, 33, said he used to socialise with Abeidi frequently as his house was a only a few doors down.

Yassine loved red wine and he loved women
Mourad Arouche, friend of gunman
Yassine al-Abeidi

"Yassine loved red wine and he loved women," he said.

He described how Abeidi would get drunk regularly and that he hardly prayed. Around the corner from his street he used to socialise and watch football with other youths from the area at Cafe Matinal.

Arouche said Abeidi became more vocal about the failure of the Tunisian revolution in recent months but in general he considered him apolitical.

He noted that in the early months of 2012 Abeidi became more religiously devout. When speculating on Abeidi's motivations he said, "these bastards must have paid him off to start shooting people. They are trading on the good name of Islam living in mansions and earning millions while they send youth like Yassine to their graves."