In what appears to be a widespread program of forcible reclamations, the government seized stretches of land near the capital which it claimed had been illegally appropriated by squatters.
Moving in yesterday, the state seized 3.5 acres of land in Ariana’s Mnihla region, where it claims citizens have been illegally constructing property for years, according to a statement from the Ministry of Domains of the State and Land Affairs. The land was recovered without incident, according to representative for the regional administration Ali Taher Mouala, and there was only one citizen residing on the property in a small house, who was given a period of time to move out.
The newly recovered land is planned to be used for the construction of several primary schools, Mouala said.
The seizure comes as part of a larger plan by the government to reclaim lost territory and “preserve the property of the national community,” which it claims has fallen prey to illegal squatters and fraudulent transactions in the years following the Revolution.
“No one should challenge the authority of the state,” said Mouala, who claimed that the majority of citizens occupying illegal land were either victims of fraudulent transactions, or business opportunists who intentionally laid claim to state property in earlier years when government forces lacked the necessary resources to regulate them.
The state also seized a number of properties last month, including a large swatch of agricultural land (14 ha) in the Sidi Thabet region on October 10.
On October 21, controversy erupted as the state demolished up to thirty unfinished properties in Ariana’s “Hay mostakbel” neighborhood, in an attempt to clear out a community it ruled had been residing on the land illegally.
While Ariana governor Saloua Khiari claimed the properties unequivocally belonged to the state, and that demolitions took place after a period of careful negotiations, local residents in Ariana painted a very different picture. Interviewed by Tunisia Live at the site, residents claimed to have been living on the land for decades. Some even produced what appeared to be official land deeds to support their claim to the land. According to residents, the Trabelsi family–widely suspected of corruption and state theft in Tunisia–facilitated a government seizure of the land in 2010.
While resident homes in “El hay mostakbel” have not yet been demolished, the government has announced plans to go forward with the demolitions in the future.
Asked why the government is only now recovering the state property, Mouala attributed the delay to a lack of resources and lengthy administrative procedures.
Rahma is preparing a master thesis in Anglo-American studies. She is interested in politics and foreign affairs. Since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution, she volunteered for several Tunisian associations such as ATIDE, Sawty and others. She writes articles about post-revolution Tunisia.