Lazhar Chraiti, a legendary figure in Tunisia’s resistance to French colonial rule, was executed in 1963. More than 50 years later, Lazhar Chraiti’s son goes back to Tunisia to find out more about how his father lived – and how he died.
The story of Lazhar Chraiti is that of an unlikely hero. He had little education, was virtually illiterate, worked as a miner and was a trade union activist. Yet he had a vivid sense of the injustice in his country, particularly the economic and social divide between Tunisians and French colonials.
In response, Chraiti joined the Fellagha, bands of rural fighters with a common enemy, the French. He quickly rose up the ranks and took part in several battles against French military units. Eventually in 1956, French colonial authorities – seeing Tunisia slipping from their control – offered nominal independence, but with strings attached. It was about this time that Lazar Chraiti first encountered Habib Bourguiba, a man who would later become Tunisia’s first president. There were tensions between Bourguiba and the Fellagha, many of whom felt the deal did not reflect their struggle.
In the Footsteps of a Tunisian Hero charts the rise and fall of Lazhar Chraiti’s fortunes. The early years of Tunisian independence saw Bourguiba consolidate his power as the Fellagha’s influence waned. Tensions came to a head when Bourguiba accused Lazhar Chraiti of being part of a coup attempt against the new president. In the film, Lazhar Chraiti’s son tells how after his father’s arrest, the family had nowhere to turn and were ostracised from Tunisian society.
After a speedy trial, Chraiti was executed on January 24, 1963. To the continuing distress of his family, the site of his burial remains unknown.
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