Today, as I flew from Paris to Tunis on Air France, I witnessed something horrific. I am writing this merely to document my experience without comment; perhaps later I’ll share my thoughts as well.
As I boarded the plane, it was quickly apparent that something strange was happening. I was seated in 23C on a plane that had no more than 32 rows. As I neared my seat, I realized that someone was being held down, and was screaming, in a combination of French and Arabic, mostly cuss words. “Zibbi!” he yelled repeatedly. “Putain!”
Then I noticed the cops. Three of them, all armed. I made eye contact with a man a few rows ahead, a Tunisian with whom I’d shared time in the queue earlier. He rolled his eyes, proceeded to stare backward toward the escalating situation.
As the plane continued to board, the flight attendants made their usual announcements about baggage, and the time of takeoff. No mention, or even nod to what was happening at the back of the plane. The screaming got louder.
The aforementioned Tunisian guy a few rows ahead then proceeded to lose his cool, shouting toward the back and flipping the guy off. The flight attendant told him, sternly, to sit down, again ignoring what was going on.
At this point, I got up and approached a flight attendant to demand answers. Politely but sternly, I asked what was going on, adding that I felt it was incredibly inappropriate for them to not inform the rest of the passengers. “Sit down,” she said to me rudely.
A different flight attendant made her way to me, and I asked if I could get off and take a different flight. “Wait,” she said and walked away. We then began to taxi a little, then stopped. At this point, the pilot or captain (I’m not sure) came to my seat and in broken English explained that the man would surely quiet down soon and that I should just be patient.
No one ever explained what was happening (though it was obvious: it was a deportation). I was not allowed to deplane. My questions were not answered.