Zanzibar acid attack

Zanzibar accid attack: A threat to tourism

On August 7th, 2013, two men on a moped doused two 18-year-old British volunteer teachers, Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup with acid as they walked in Stone Town, severely burning their faces, chests and hands. The men reportedly smiled before speeding off.

Zanzibaris worry that the acid attack will be declared a case of Islamist extremism and that the island, overwhelmingly Muslim, will be branded hostile territory to Westerners. The assault reinforced fears that stretch back to the discovery that one of the men behind the 1998 bombing of the United States Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, was from Pemba, the smaller of the main two islands that make up Zanzibar.

In recent years, a group called Uamsho, or “Awakening,” has called for an independent Zanzibar governed under Shariah law. Christian churches in Zanzibar have been burned and priests have been attacked in the past two years; one of them was killed. On the mainland, a radical cleric, Sheik Ponda Issa Ponda, was arrested for inciting unrest shortly after the attack against the British women. He was shot as the police apprehended him.

On Zanzibar, sunburned tourists in tank tops and shorts mingle with women shrouded in black abayas. In Stone Town, visitors consume alcohol mostly in rooftop restaurants and hotel bars known for their sunset views, but also strategically out of sight for pious locals. There have been attacks in the past against the small bars serving local neighborhoods, but the tourist haunts, and the tourists themselves, were always off limits.

At the moment Tanzania attracts more than one million foreign visitors per year and the number is expected to double in few years' time. The tragic episode could damage this paradise destination. Most islanders depend on tourism for their livelihood