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Is Tunisia Safe following the Sousse Beach Attacks?

Are you ok?

Finding a text on my phone is not an unusual experience when travelling. However finding a text on my phone from a work colleague asking me ‘whether I am ok in light of today’s events’ is somewhat more alarming, especially as I have no idea what she is talking about.

Sousse beach attacks

A quick Google search informs me that, a few hours south of us in Sousse, armed gunmen have raided the beach posing as holidaymakers and killed 28 western tourists. Reports talk of one young boy watching as both his parents and grandparents were shot and killed. In the immediate aftermath, stories are piecemeal and rapidly changing as news emerges. It’s shocking news, and immediately puts a dampener on the day thinking of innocent people slaughtered indiscriminately.

ISIS are claiming the usual rhetoric of an ‘holy war’. What kind of God sanctions this type of killing?

Sousse beach attacks
Peaceful Tunisian beach scenes

 

I later find a card under our hotel door, advising us against the trip we were planning to Sousse the next day, but reassuring us we are ‘safe’ here. I’m sure those tourists in Sousse believed the same thing so it is of little comfort, but more to the point, how safe are we?

 

We are certainly given the impression that safety is a high priority with numerous roadblocks, security guards in abundance and iron gates barring the way to luxury hotels. The events this week might suggest that these measures have little impact. After all, what can one lone security guard at a hotel do to guard against one or more assailants who have no concern for their own lives? How can the police possibly protect us from terrorists masquerading as tourists?

Sousse beach attacks

They clearly can do something, as a previous botched attempt on the same Sousse hotel in October 2013 testifies, but no police or security force can protect against every possibility.

Foreign office advice

The Foreign and Commonwealth Website indicates the possibility of further attacks in Tunisian tourist areas incited by social media. Checking the site before our departure made no reference to any risk in the main tourist areas, so should one incident make the country dangerous and off limits to tourists?

 

Terrorists can, and do, strike at random in many cities we would consider safe – Paris, Tokyo, and New York being just a few examples. Between 2012 and 2013, the Global Terrorist Index referenced a whopping total of 55 countries reporting deaths from terrorism.

 

The Index ranks Iraq top for the highest terrorism impact, with Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria in close contention. Perhaps not top of people’s bucket list destinations, but alarmingly the United Kingdom ranks 27th, the United States 30th and Tunisia is in 46th place. Egypt, India, Turkey, Thailand and Greece, all popular holiday destinations for Brits, rank higher than Tunisia but I doubt the grieving families will care.

Sousse Beach attacks
Deserted Hammamet Beach

It is too early to tell yet whether the attacks in March, at the Bardo museum in Tunis, or the Sousse beach attacks, will reduce tourist numbers. Logic suggests it will, as a mass exodus gets underway.

 

Thomson, First Choice And Jet2 have cancelled all their holidays to Tunisia for the coming week, and comments are appearing on news feeds suggesting many others will change their plans to avoid the country. New arrivals report planes departing virtually empty.

Sousse beach attacks

Today, around our hotel pool, you would be forgiven for thinking that nothing had happened. The squeal of children playing blends with muted conversations and the pool waterfall provides a relaxing soundtrack. The animation team continues their relentless quest to involve as many unsuspecting guests in a never-ending programme of activities. We are even herded en masse for a group photo, with football style singing to boot, almost as though to demonstrate to the international community that fun is still to be had in Tunisia.

The fear here in the hotel seems to be the reserve of the staff wondering if they will still have jobs in a month. Indeed, today they are finding out which individuals retain their jobs, but the outlook is bleak. If tourists do not come, the hotel will be forced to close in a few weeks.

Deserted Hammamet Medina immediately after the attacks
Deserted Hammamet Medina immediately after the attacks

Out in the town it is a different story. Wandering the chic streets of Yasmine Hammamet, it is easy to believe you are in a ghost town. Modern, stylish buildings have hollowed out basements where shops should be parading trinkets, colourful pots and other paraphernalia from the region. Other than shopkeepers trying to entice you with their wares, there is barely a soul to be seen. Even in the super swanky marina, it’s hard to find any movement other than the fluttering of sails and flags. It’s as though all this was built in the hopes of a gold rush, which never materialised.

Sousse Beach attacks aftermath

So the question remains, is it safe? Well undoubtedly the answer is ‘not if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time’ but that could just as easily be a tube in London, as it could another city or beach in Tunisia.

Am I safe?

Perhaps more to the point, do I feel safe here? I’m certainly not lying awake at night wondering if armed gunmen are going to burst into my room.

 

Am I bit more cautious right now? Probably. We had plans to travel to Sousse, El Djem and to some other destinations along the coast, and they have been put on hold. Part of me thinks the likelihood of another incident is small, and I am letting the terrorists win by staying in my hotel. The other part of me says, ‘yes but the terrorists won’t shed a tear for me if I’m gone,’ while our family will have to live with our recklessness, should we venture out and come to harm.

I think the true question should be is anywhere safe anymore?

Pin this in memory of those who are victims of terrorism

Pinterest terrorism
Source: Pixabay

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About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of TravelTheGlobe4Less. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 80 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money saving travel tips

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5 comments

  1. Sorry to hear you were caught up in all of this Anne, but glad to hear you are safe.

    I had friends out in Tunisia at the time and I was desperate to hear back from them that they were okay. Thankfully they were.

    That terrorism index is very interesting. I wonder how it is scaled, especially since high profile incidents like this one in Tunisia (and the one a few months earlier) had a high casualty rate. I dare say the scale of security steps and response teams is another factor for how “safe” somewhere can be.

    As you say though, it could happen anywhere. It doesn’t even have to be terrorism. There is a lot of gun crime around the world, drug gangs in Mexico, nutters with guns in the US, plus employment disputes or religious festivals all around the world. These can all be catalysts to put you in danger.

    Sadly, the fact that tourism has taken an immediate dive in Tunisia following this event is a gesture that the terrorists are winning. They are effectively killing the livelihoods of so many in the tourism industry. This will harm the economy in the country and can lead to political instability. This is just what ISIS want as it will be one of their next targets.

    As much as people fear it, the best way to fight terrorism is to not let it stop us doing what we want to do. If that is going on holiday in a Muslim country then so be it, we should holiday there.

  2. You bring up some interesting points here. If you look at it from a numbers standpoint, the chances of another attack anytime soon are slim. In fact, the chances of a terrorist attack happening anywhere outside the Middle East is pretty slim (in terms of percentages).

    Yet we’re still afraid, and I think that’s the evil genius behind terrorism. Even though the probability of an attack may be low, our fear of the probability of an attack is very high.

    My heart goes out to those who lost their lives at Sousse.

    • Totally agree. Even though rationale told me that the chance of a further attack was unlikely, we were still ultra cautious, avoided the beach and didn’t participate in the cultural sightseeing we wanted to do as much as we would have liked. However that’s a small price to pay to be safe. My heart breaks for those families and all they were doing was enjoying an hard earned break!

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