Sunday, September 24, 2023

Tunisia: Protests against the moribund economy spread to a dozen cities | Arab Spring: 10 years in the news

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Clashes erupted between Tunisian police and protesters in the capital Tunis and at least 15 cities for the third day in a row as young people demonstrated against the unprecedented economic crisis facing the country.

Police broke into shops and banks were looted and vandalized on Sunday, arresting “dozens” of young people, according to the official TAP news agency.

Protesters blocked roads with burning tires and threw stones and other objects at police and businesses, according to the Interior Ministry, which said the situation was now “calm” across the country. .

Most Tunisians are angry that the country is on the verge of bankruptcy and has disastrous public services.

Many are disappointed that, on the tenth anniversary of the revolution that toppled autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, there is little to show in terms of improvement.

‘Rob and entertain’

Local media quoted Tunisian authorities as saying around 240 people were arrested, mostly teenagers, following the violent clashes over the weekend.

Protesters did not make clear demands during protests – which authorities have called riots – across the country.

In the dilapidated al-Tadamen neighborhood of the capital, protesters, mostly teenagers, blocked roads and threw stones at police. Police fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse them.

“These are not demonstrations, these are young people who come from neighboring neighborhoods to steal and have fun,” said Oussama, 26.

“A demonstration would take place during the day, faces visible.”

Abdelmoneim, a waiter at a nearby café, said the people on the streets were “bored teenagers” but blamed the violence on the country’s post-revolutionary political class.

“These offenders are the result of their failure,” said the 28-year-old.

Other towns that have seen protests include Mahdia, Sousse, Bizerte, Kairouan, Kebeli, Seliana, Nabeul, Manouba Gafsa and Monastir.

Worsening economy

Tunisia had been subject to a nighttime curfew even before the recent lockdown, a four-day measure that was due to expire at midnight Sunday.

A decade after the revolution, many Tunisians are increasingly irritated by poor public services and a political class that has repeatedly proven incapable of governing coherently.

GDP fell 9% last year, consumer prices have skyrocketed and a third of young people are unemployed.

The key tourism sector, already on its knees after a series of deadly attacks by armed groups in 2015, has suffered a devastating blow from the pandemic.

Tunisia has recorded more than 177,000 cases of coronavirus, including around 5,600 deaths from the disease.

The health crisis and the resulting economic misery have pushed an increasing number of Tunisians to leave the country.

At el-Tadamen on Sunday evening, waiter Abdelmoneim nervously handed a cigarette as youths battled nearby police.

“I don’t see any future here,” he said.

He said he was determined to take a boat across the Mediterranean to Europe “as soon as possible, and never come back to this miserable place”.


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