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Abolition of the legacy of slavery: ‘Atig’ no more

23 January 2022

On the occasion of the National Day of Commemoration of the Abolition of Slavery in Tunisia, which corresponds to 23 January 1846, we offer this documentary: ‘Abolition of the legacy of slavery : ‘Atig’ no more‘.

The film was produced by Minority Rights Group International and realized by Arroi Baraket and Slim Kacem Roots, who collected statements from members of the Dali family on the island of Djerba in southern Tunisia: Hemdane Dali, Hedia Dali and Kerim Dali, as well as from Hanen Ben Hassana, the family’s lawyer.

The Dali family has been fighting for years to abolish the traces of slavery that persist to this day. In October 2020, a historic judgement was given in favour of Mr Hemdane Dali, 83, from Djerba, who claimed the right to remove the name ‘Atig’ (meaning ‘freed by’) from his family name in all official documents; Hemdane Dali’s family continued the legal procedures to get rid of ‘Atig’.

With the support of Minority Rights Group International and the Mnemty association, Kerim Dali, Hemdane Dali’s son, succeeded in abolishing the expression ‘Atig’ from his name, which used to be ‘Kerim Atig Dali’, and changed it to ‘Kerim Dali’, following the reform judgment handed down by the civil status judge at the Court of First Instance in Medenine on 26 June 2021. Kerim’s siblings pursued the same procedure to free themselves from the stigma of the term ‘Atig’.

Kerim noted in his statement that it is important to get rid of this ‘burden that reminds us of the past of slavery’, and that other black families are suffering today and wish to change these racist names that carry the legacies of this past.

He also noted the need to continue the fight against racism by unifying all the strengths and by advocating for Law 50 on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

This law allowed the victory of the first civil case against racial discrimination in Tunisia, as explained by the lawyer of the Dali family, Hanen Ben Hassana, who is part of the legal clinic we set up in the context of the Anti-discrimination Points project.

Just as the Dali family led the way in freeing themselves from the legacy of slavery, Minority Rights Group International continues to support, through its legal clinic, other families who want to eliminate racist names.

Despite the 1846 abolition of slavery, the struggle of many anti-racist activists and the promulgation of Law 50 on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the legacy of slavery and its racist representations endure and must be abolished.

Hamdane Dali and his daughter Hedia in Djerba, October 2021. The Dali family were the first to be able to remove the name ‘Atig’ (‘freed by’, referring to the slavery heritage) from their family name. Credit: Slim Kacem, Roots.