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Tunisian MP urged to resign after calling dual nationals 'bastards' and 'scum'

Safi Said apologised for comments that triggered outrage among Tunisian diaspora
Safi Said's comments have been rubbished on social media as 'insulting' and 'racist' (AFP)

A Tunisian MP and former presidential candidate has been urged to resign after referring to Tunisians with dual citizenship as "bastards" and "scum," and for advocating that dual nationals be ejected from parliament.

Safi Said, an independent MP, made the remarks during a vote of confidence in the government of Prime Minister Habib Jemli on 10 January.

While they failed to register in the busy chamber, his comments quickly drew scorn on social media, with the veteran MP coming under fire from both his parliamentary peers and notable academics.

Former MP Karima Souid, who holds both French and Tunisian nationality, accused Said of "promoting divide and estrangement".

Communiqué du groupe de tunisiennes et de tunisiens libres de cœur et d’esprit ; #TwensaWnoss Tunis, le 14 janvier...

Posted by Karima Souid on Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Sociologist Vincent Geisser, described Safi Said's comments as "gross" and said that dual nationals had played a "key role" in upholding Tunisia's image abroad.

BÂTARD TOI-MÊME ! Un député tunisien, Safi Saïd a traité les binationaux de bâtard. Outre le caractère grossier de...

Posted by Vincent Geisser on Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Translation: Tunisian congressman Safi Said called dual nationals bastards. Beyond the gross character of such an insult, it is proof of his disregard for the key role played by dual nationals in defending Tunisia's image in their host countries and their strong patriotic feeling. We feel like answering Safi Said: "You're a bastard yourself!"

With remittances from abroad accounting for almost 5 percent of Tunisia's GDP in 2018, some stressed the economic contribution of dual nationals to their country.

Translation: When we look at the GDP proportion generated by Tunisians living abroad, we shouldn't insult them but give them more recognition and more attention in national politics.

For his part, Said, a leading intellectual who is credited with coining the term "Arab Spring" to describe the 2011 uprisings that began in Tunisia and spread through the region, apologised in a lengthy Facebook post.

Still, the controversy has continued to grow, with several NGOS and civil society groups condemning his remarks in recent days.  A collective of Tunisians living abroad, meanwhile, has decided to sue him. 

Many critics have also been tweeting under #TwensaWnoss, which means half Tunisian in the local dialect. In a statement, the TwensaWnoss movement decried Said's comments as "insulting" and "racist," and also called for his parliamentary immunity to be waved.

The hashtag has become the symbol of a campaign to affirm the identity of dual nationals, political activist Ahlem Hachicha Chaker told Middle East Eye.

"So basically he said dual nationals are not Tunisians, and we're telling them that they are Tunisians and a half," she said.

In a country where polemics about dual nationality often bubble to the surface, Chaker added: "We're keeping up the pressure. We're aware the assembly won't do much about it but it's a name and shame campaign. We want to make sure nobody else dares say the same thing again."