Since the terrible events on Friday 26th June, I’ve read A LOT of articles, seen a lot of dedicated news programmes and heard the majority of information from witnesses lean toward a negative outlook on the local people, hotel staff and police/security.
A friend of mine, Debbie Wildi, was in Tunisia, only 2 miles away from where the terrible massacring of innocent tourists occurred. She has given me permission to tell her side of the story, focusing on the security, staff, and local people, after the incident, and how unfair she feels the negativity toward them has been.
Debbie and her family were on day 9 of their 11 day holiday to Tunisia when the attacks happened. Although they were safe being 2 miles away, the impact afterwards was greatly felt across the town.
During their stay, the family got to know and fall in love with the locals, and prior to the attacks Debbie found out a great deal regarding the reasons they celebrate Ramadan. They explained to the family, they do it to experience hunger, so they can empathise with people poorer than themselves. With any money they save from not eating, they give to people less fortunate.
Debbie mentioned to me prior to me writing this article, that she has friends who are Muslims here in Britain, so they know a lot about the Islamic religion. The Islam we unfortunately see during incidents like the Friday attacks is not the Islam she knows. Islamic people are kind and gentle, not evil and fake as reported in the news.
During their stay in Tunisia, Debbie and her family were told by local people how their hatred for ISIS, is as strong as ISIS’ hate for “real” Muslims. They are locked in a battle against each other.
As Friday’s events unfolded, and came to an end, Debbie recalls how amazing the local people, and hotel staff were in comforting people caught up in the emotional aftermath of the attacks. She told me how the local people protected the tourists, they, and the staff from the hotel, comforted Debbie and others when they were at their most vulnerable and frightened, even when the staff and local people themselves were in as much shock and possible danger as them. Debbie remembers an emotional call home to her mother, where, as the true horror of the events were emerging, emotion overwhelmed her. A staff member from the hotel, gently removed the phone from Debbie, and reassured her mother that there were now police on the beach, her daughter and family were safe, and comforted her as she cried down the phone. He saw an innocent, frightened woman, visibly distraught and felt it was his duty to reassure her, comfort her, hug her when she cried, and later on, make them laugh to lighten the mood.
Within that hotel, staff from the kids club hid their own fears as they played with the children and took their minds off of what was happening just 2 miles from where they were.
The following day, families from nearby hotels were transferred to the hotel Debbie was staying in. They were scared, bewildered, some even seperated from their families, and the staff stepped up once again, welcoming them in and supported them when needed.
Debbie mentioned there were no holiday reps, but she feels the staff and local people were support enough for her and her family. Waiters, waitresses, bar staff, chamber maids, managers, anyone who could help and support the families, did. They could have gone home, hid away with their families, some far away from Sousse where it was known to be safe, but they didn’t.
The terrible outcome of the attacks on Friday, are not just with the families and the victims.
The total amount of people staying at the Rhia Palms Hotel is now 25. There were 600 on Friday. This means the innocent staff from that hotel, have no one to cook for, clean for, or serve. Those members of staff have been given the terrible news that they will not be required to work for the hotel from next week. There is no benefit system, food is very expensive, simple provisions like soap cost so much after the president of Tunisia raised costs of even these basic items.
Debbie wanted to make it very clear, the things she has described, are not to force people into booking a holiday, or staying at the hotel, she understands first hand how frightened people must be. She does however, want people to understand, the Tunisian people are not the enemy. Their love for the holiday makers that visit their country, is as strong as it appears Debbie’s love for them is. Tourism is their livelihood, but they also seem to have a genuine connection with those people who enable them to live their lives.
Very few tabloid newspapers or news channels have shown the local people in a positive light. I think I personally have only seen one article about the local people, where they formed a “human shield” because it gave the tourists a chance to survive. They put their lives on the line, in the hope the gunman wouldn’t shoot them.
Unfortunately, media propaganda, majorly sways toward not showing Muslims in a good light.
Debbie felt the need to tell her story, to show how these brave, innocent people made them feel safe.
She assures me, they will go back one day, that she will never forget, and she will be eternally grateful for these precious people who made visiting tourists their priority.