The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has begun establishing roots in Tunisia to add territory to their caliphate in the Middle East. It appears they already possess admirers in the country, which is a hotspot for international tourists.
An all-girls high school in Kairouan celebrated after they all completed their sports exams for the year. At the Dakhla, the students unveiled “huge football stadium-style banners handmade by the future graduates.” The girls brought pro-ISIS banners to the event. One banner included “an image of sword-wielding IS executioner on their banner next to drawings of hostages in orange jumpsuits, some with slit throats” along with “a man being engulfed in flames,” similar to the death of the Jordanian pilot.
Two other high schools used banners with ISIS and Adolf Hitler propaganda. Some students waved the ISIS flag while others showed off images of the terrorists. Some banners stated “We only obey God’s power” and “Al Qods [Jerusalem], here we come.” Students unveiled a flag with Hitler “making the Nazi salute next to a German flag.”
Translation: Hitler & ISIS are the guests of honor at the celebration
— Erwann Gaucher (@egaucher) April 24, 2015
Tunisian media outlet Business News published a scathing article against the students over their behavior. The author reminds the reader that the country excels in “education and democracy” ahead of “other Arab and African countries.” The publication also blasted the education system:
Those who displayed a banner saying “We will not accept that governance of Allah.” Do they know what it really means? Those who exhibited the portrait of Hitler as a hero. Do they know the history of World War II? Have they read Mein Kampf?
The answer is probably no. It is ignorance that pushes children into the arms of extremists of all kinds. When we let kids access YouTube and Facebook it is not surprising to see them use foreign references in their living environment. They do not have the intellectual equipment needed to distance themselves from those characters. This is why Hitler and ISIS become heroes in their eyes.
In August 2014, spectators at a soccer game in Tunisia displayed a huge ISIS flag. The Tunisian government also arrested 100 people who had links to ISIS in February. Then, in March, terrorists attacked the Bardo Museum in Tunis and slaughtered 19 people, including 17 tourists, and wounded 22 more. The Islamic State took credit for the massacre. They also took over the town of Tataouine, which inspired Luke Skywalker’s home planet in Star Wars. Thankfully, though, the famous set is in Tozeur, which is 204 miles west of Tataouine.
The terrorist group recently “published videos taunting the government, shared pictures of some of its fighters brandishing guns and made fun of a Tunisian tourism campaign.”
“The Islamic State is only a few kilometers from you [Tunisia], we are coming,” one militant proclaimed in a video. “Brothers, come to Libya. Don’t be humiliated by the [Tunisian] dictators. Muslims have their own state now.”
American officials spoke to The Daily Beast about ISIS in Tunisia. One claimed the country “is an environment that ISIS can excel in.” Yet, they are approaching Tunisia differently than other countries. Instead of their usual “bold announcements” or even taking over “an existing local terror group,” the militants choose to make “a series of suggestive announcements to inspire Tunisians to join them.”
“There are signs they are pushing toward making it official,” explained Aaron Zelin from the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs. “They want to build up momentum and excitement.”