A lone cleaner mops the marble floor of the spacious lobby at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Sousse, Tunisia – but it’s an almost pointless task. The swimming pool is filthy and full of green water. The rooms are empty with not a single guest in sight. And the once teeming beach has no sunbathers.
This is where a Daesh gunman murdered 38 tourists in cold blood. Back in June, 2015, Seifeddine Rezgui paced down the beach and into the hotel precinct firing a rifle. A BBC Panorama programme that broadcast on 9th January 2016 showed the devastating impact his actions were still having on the lives of ordinary Tunisians today.
The tourists have gone to other resorts but the local people can’t move so easily. A woman gestured to the shop that once sold trinkets and beach gear now converted into appartments she can’t rent. A young man who worked as a beach attendant sees a life of unemployment stretching out before him. Hopelessness and despair are the bitter legacy of Daesh in Sousse.
Tens of innocent people were cruelly murdered and now thousands of Tunisians continue to pay a heavy price. Not that Daesh cares. No doubt it would argue that earning a living from tourism contravened its twisted and distorted version of Islam. It would regard the impoverishment of Muslims in Tunisia as some kind of victory. Daesh is already preying cynically on those young Tunisians who cannot find work or have less than glowing prospects.
What happened in Sousse fits into a depressing pattern with Daesh. Most of its victims worldwide are Muslims killed in senseless acts of violence. The objective is always to drive Muslims into a position where they are forced to make a stark binary choice between Daesh’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” and an increasingly desperate life. In other words, Daesh creates a hell for Muslims then claims to offer an escape route.
Some Tunisians have heeded the siren call of Daesh and gone to their deaths in Syria or Iraq. Most Tunisians, though, are loyal to the country they love. Five years after the Arab Spring they are striving to create a better society. Yet in Sousse, they face an over 90% drop in tourist numbers. Honest, hard working people have seen their life’s work destroyed by terrorists with guns.
For their sake – Daesh must lose.