by Florian Flade
On July 27th 2009 the US-Ambassador to Tunisia, Robert F. Godec, in a diplomatic cable to the Foreign Ministry in Washington D.C., described his experience during a visit to the home of the daughter of Tunisia´s President Zin Abedine Ben Ali and her husband. Godec had been invited for dinner to the mansion of Nesrine Ben Ali and her husband Muhammad Sakher al-Materi in Hammamet. In the document Ambassador Godec describes the compound he visited, writes about the extensive meals, all the foreign staff he saw and the unusual pet of President´s son-in-law Muhammad Sakher al-Materi – a tiger.
“Al-Materi has a large tiger (“Pasha”) on his compound, living in a cage”, Ambassador Godec wrote, “He acquired it when it was a few weeks old. The tiger consumes four chickens a day.” The whole situation, the American diplomat stated, reminded him of Saddam Hussein´s son Uday who owned lions he kept in a private zoo in Baghdad.
After Tunisia´s President Ben Ali fled to Saudi-Arabia last week, angry protesters attacked buildings and property owned by the former ruling family clan. Ben Ali´s son-in-law Muhammad al-Materi has left the country last week, too. It is reported the 30 year-old notorious playboy traveled to exile in Paris. His pet, the tiger “Pasha”, has become the latest victim of Tunisia´s violent riots that toppled the Ben Ali regime.
A mobile phone video uploaded onto Youtube allegedly shows the killed pet tiger of al-Materi being skinned by rioting Tunisians. If the shaky footage does indeed the dead tiger “Pasha” is not confirmed till now. The cat itself looks rather small, not the size of a full-grown tiger but more like a leopard-type cat. When and where the video of the dead tiger was recorded is not known.