Luke Skywalker’s hometown–or, at least, the Tunisian village where they filmed both “Star Wars” trilogies–has gone to the Dark Side, after it was invaded and captured by ISIS forces.
Back in the 1970s, “Star Wars” creator George Lucas chose the remote Tunisian desert town of Tataouine–known for iconic “cave dwellings” that were built underground to keep locals cool during the hot days–to be the backdrop for Luke Skywalker’s home planet, which was named Tatooine in the town’s honor. Lucas returned in the 1990s during the filming on the second trilogy.
Since then, Tataouine has become a major attraction in Tunisia as the “Star Wars town,” with guided day tours being offered to curious tourists, who want to see an iconic piece of film history.
Recently, ISIS–which has been gaining steam in African countries like Nigeria, Libya, and Tunisia–has taken Tatooine. It’s now considered a “way-station” for jihadists, after a rocket-propelled grenade launcher was found nearby. Arms caches, containing as much as 20,000 rounds of ammunition, have also been found in surrounding areas.
Tunisia, which has been seen as one of the very few success stories from the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011, is wary about its future as one of the Middle East’s only democracies. Fear of ISIS has resulted in a government crackdown on social media, as well as strengthened detention powers and more frequent invasions of privacy.
Bassim, a taxi driver on the island of Djerba about 60 miles north of Tatouine, explains the crossroads that Tunisia is currently at:
“We want to be the hope of the Arab world like we were four years ago,” he said. “We still have hope, but now we have fear too.”