Tunisia tennis star urges tourist support in fightback against terrorism
TUNIS - Tunisian tennis star Malek Jaziri said Tuesday extremists were trying to kill the country's democracy and economy and urged tourists to stand with his homeland in facing down terrorism.
The 31-year-old, who is competing at Wimbledon, said it was hard to think about tennis after Friday's gun massacre on a Tunisian beach, in which 38 mostly British holidaymakers were slain.
"Tunisia is against terrorism. All the population knows that. We try to fight against all that. It can happen everywhere, like it's happened before here in London or in Paris," he told reporters.
"It's not easy when things like that happen in your country. You feel bad and you feel sorry for those people who were there and were killed.
"You think straight away for your family, your friends -- for everyone, for human beings."
Jaziri, Africa's second-best player at 84 in the world, said the gun rampage at Port El Kantaoui was also an attack on ordinary Tunisians because it targeted the country's nascent democracy and has damaged the vital tourism industry on which so many workers rely.
It was the second attack on tourists in Tunisia claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group in just three months.
"These kind of people are against democracy," Jaziri said.
"Tunisia has been a democracy now for four or five years and they don't want that our democracy goes well and that we show a good image of Tunisia all around the world. They want to kill our economy by that."
Following the 2011 overthrow of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, "in Tunisia we are working on our economy for a few years to come back, it's not easy -- and then they make these kind of things.
"It's really the moment that Tunisia needs all the people around. Our economy is based on tourism.
"I hope that people understand what's happening and the tourists come back."
Jaziri called for tougher measures to combat the spread of the extremists' narrative.
"It happens when more people are poor. I don't know how they do it but they infect them," he said.
"We have to condemn all these things and to be more strict.
"It is not easy because we have a border with Libya but hopefully we protect more our borders.
"The military and the police, they try to do their best to protect all the people.
"The most important thing is we need help in order to protect, to give confidence to Tunisian people. We are all the same and we are against terrorism."
Jaziri, a gold medallist at the 2011 Pan Arab Games who has represented Tunisia in the Davis Cup for 15 years, said his country's Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities co-existed peacefully.
"All our religions live together and we never had problems before," said the Tunis-based player.
"Tunisia is a beautiful country. We have 3,000 years of history, it's all together and we don't want that shit happening in our country.
"Hopefully in the future it will be better."
Jaziri was narrowly edged out in his first round match at Wimbledon against Australian world number 87 James Duckworth 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 7-5 in a contest that lasted more than three hours.
But he will compete again in the men's doubles later in the tournament.