The Hood

Youth are visible through openings in a bright blue metal gate.

High School Zahrouni, Zahrouni, May 2017 |  Public infrastructures in working-class neighborhoods, including schools, are in very poor condition. Besides the decay of the equipment, young students in the area often feel there is a lack of support for their education. They lack time and space for creativity and entertainment; instead, use of cannabis is now ubiquitous in middle and high schools.

Four men and three dogs on leashes stand on top of a dirt hill overlooking the city behind them.

Friendly gathering of young people and their dogs on a wasteland away from the city, Mhamdia, April 2017 | Dogs represent the strength which is considered necessary to survive in dignity in these neighborhoods. They are generally animals from breeds that are said to be the most aggressive (Pitbull, German shepherd, Rottweiler, and others), trained to be watchdogs or to attack. Thus, the custom has been for the neighborhood’s “capo” (the boss) to keep a “dangerous” dog in order to enhance his image and increase his sense of control over the hood.

A close up of two hands, one hand holds a lit lighter to a palmful of hashish.

A young man makes a cannabis joint, Mhamdia, April 2017 | The consumption of Zatla (hashish) is part of life for Tunisia’s youth. It helps them to relax and mostly to escape from reality. The use of this drug is not reserved to popular districts but affects all kinds of young people here. Consumers are severely targeted by the police under Law 52, in place since 1992, which criminalizes the use or intention to use the drug. The law has been enforced heavily: 6,700 individuals were incarcerated in 2016 under the law, and many young people believe it exacerbates more problems than it solves.

Three young men embrace, laughing.

Friends hug, Mhamdia, April 2017 | These three young men are friends, all are unemployed. Despite the obstacles that darken their future, they are supportive with each other. Unity makes strength as they’re facing together a society that targets and excludes them. Solidarity and friendship allow them to belong when everything else remains unattainable. It allows them to build identity and dignity when it is constantly removed from their hands.

A man in a leather jacket stands in profile to the viewer with his hands in his jacket pockets, against a bright blue wall.

Portrait of Majdi M., Mhamdia, April 2017 | Majdi, 21, dropped out after his second year of high-school. Three years later, he still has not found a job. Majdi feels excluded from Tunisian society and dreams of leaving the country by any means. His body is marked by the burden of his plight: the skull tattoo on his neck represents the sense of living death, while the one on his chest depicts patience. Another tattoo hidden on his arm says: “only God can judge me”.

A boy stands with his arms flexed against a concrete wall with graffiti.

A boy tries to show his biceps. Mhamdia, 2017 | Growing up in an environment full of violence, teenagers are often influenced by older youth who adopt strength as a rule and a proof of virility. Built on this belief, many young boys start to smoke (cigarettes and/or cannabis), drink alcohol and some use drugs in an early age only in order to prove that they are mature enough and can enter into a “men’s world.” In this connection, bullying at school -both physical and psychological- is common in working class neighborhoods.

Three boys with backpacks on stand under a stop sign amidst dry shrubs and bushes.

Three boys pose in the street nearby Tunis, 2017 | Only a short walk in one of these neighborhoods is needed to notice the quantity of teenagers at work instead of school. Dropout increases for two reasons: either the socio - economic condition of the family is so bad that the child will have no choice but to work; or the child knows a lot of young people in the neighborhood who have graduated but are still unemployed, and becomes convinced that studying will not lead to a bright future.

Ongoing economic and social inequality, a legacy of the dictatorship, affects Tunisians across generations, but has particularly pronounced impacts on young people. ICTJ worked with four young photographers to confront the consequences of marginalization and explore its impacts on Tunisian youth. Their four photo galleries comprise the exhibition "Marginalization in Tunisia: Images of an Invisible Repression.” In this gallery, Emna Fetni explores the neighborhoods on the social and spacial fringes of Tunis.

About the Gallery

Young Tunisians have long suffered from social exclusion and a lack of opportunities. Their marginalization has resulted in elevated high school dropout and unemployment rates and has further deepened the generation gap. It has also created fertile ground for criminal and terrorist group recruitment: such organizations can offer not only financial support to marginalized individuals, but also a sense of purpose. Terror attacks in Tunisia have primarily been committed by groups based in working class neighborhoods.

To capture this "invisible repression" and the experience of marginalized youth, Emna Fetni embedded herself in the overlooked neighborhoods of Mhamdia and Zarhouni, located on the social and spatial fringes of the vibrant center of Tunis. She documented daily life in a place where you can find everything and nothing, and she precisely saw beyond the tattoos, smoke, hounds and ripped jeans of Tunisia’s youth. Something only their eyes and expressions can tell.

About the Photographer

Emna Fetni, 24, is a political science researcher and Tunis native. She is a music lover, an amateur photographer and is particularly passionate about cinema. Her interest in photography started two years ago, when she bought a camera and discovered it was her favorite means of expression. “It allows me to completely escape, to escape from the ugliness of the world and to grasp its beauty”, she says. Entirely self-taught, Emna spontaneously went out to the streets of Tunis and started taking pictures of strangers. Today, as a strong believer in the power of photography to raise the level of awareness in society, she is working on developing her photography skills in order to tell more stories through her camera lenses.

Explore the other three galleries that comprise "Marginalization in Tunisia: Images of an Invisible Repression"

Nedra Jouini on the psychological effects of marginalization
Ali Jabeur on the economic and ecological decline of the Gulf of Gabbes
Ashraf Gharbi on the challenges facing one couple who stood up to the dictatorship