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Hamadi: "I would like to meet again the Italians I rescued at the Bardo"

the wish of the Tunisian guide

Mohamed Naceur ben Abdesslem, Hamadi for those who know him well and for the many Italians he accompanied in the discovery of the Tunisian marvels, has been a tourist guide since the Seventies. He was at the Bardo Museum with a group of passengers of Costa Crociere on 18 March 2015, when the terrorists began shooting.

Hamadi did not immediately think of an attack - “maybe it's a maneuver , near here there is a barracks” -, but the dreadful reality was confirmed by the bullets that flew close to him in Virgil's room. It is the tranquillity of Hamadi's, along with his deep knowledge of those places, that makes it possible to him to save himself and take his group into safety: the guide took the tourists to a side staircase, then reached the outside and arrived at the police headquarters of the Bardo, where the group eventually found shelter. Only later they would discover that a few minutes after their escape, the terrorists had entered Virgil's room and killed nine people.

Fear, tears, the shock and incredulity are all sensations that Hamadi experience still nowadays when he enters again that room, that still bears the signs of the attack. Not only there are bullet holes in the walls, between the mosaics; what remains today at the Bardo is a great silence. The tourists are scared of traveling again to Tunis, the great ship companies do not land in the country anymore, those who arrive in Tunisia remain closed in the hotels and do not take excursions.

Hamadi describes very quietly to me what happened in the Bardo Museum. His voice is though filled with sadness when he tells me that, after the attack, nobody has ever talked to him anymore about that day. Once falling out of the camera's interest in the testimony of the survivors, nobody called him up again. No gesture of gratitude toward those who managed to resist the terrorists' savagery. His story was all too soon forgotten.

The tree that will be planted in his honor during the inauguration of the Garden of the Righteous of Tunis, on next 15 July, is a symbol of gratitude for Hamadi's great courage. Hamadi says he is deeply moved by this recognition and because of the fact that this gesture arrives precisely from Italy, the country, to which the guide devoted his entire career (“I have always treated you as friends, and never as customers”, he told me to underline the strong bond he feels with our country).

Hamadi though nurtures a great wish. He would like to meet again, or at least hear again from, the Italians he managed to rescue at the Bardo. After those moments of terror, after the greetings, still in a state of deep emotion, at the Tunis harbor, he tried in vain to retrace his group of tourists.

Probably, many of the people he rescued preferred repressing those painful memories, nonetheless we join Hamadi's wish, and we hope that the tree dedicated to him will be the first step toward an encounter between the Tunisian guide and the rescued tourists.

After over one year since the attack at the Bardo, and a few days after the bloodshed in Istanbul. Baghdad and Dhaka - the former costing the lives of so many Italians - the example of people like Hamadi offers us a great hope and reminds us that it is with these figures, those who love life, beauty and humanity, we can create a common front against savagery.

Martina Landi, Gariwo editorial staff; translation by Carolina Figini

8 July 2016

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