Tunisia: 200 people arrested in protests

Clay Curtis
January 20, 2021

Interior ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni said on Monday that 632 people had been arrested, notably "groups of people between the ages of 15, 20 and 25 who burned tyres and bins to block the movement of security forces" during protests.

A decade ago, massive protests against corruption, injustice and the repressive regime toppled the late President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, ‮ ‬after a fruit seller set himself ablaze in the central town of Sidi Bouzid after an altercation with a policewoman.

Tunisia was rocked by the fourth night of street clashes between riot police and youths.

He confirmed the legitimacy of any social movement or peaceful protest, guaranteed by the country's constitution.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested and troops have been deployed after three nights of rioting in cities throughout Tunisia.

By Tuesday morning, the military had been dispatched to protect public buildings and conduct joint patrols with police units in several cities to quell the protests.

The economy shrank by nine percent a year ago and consumer prices have spiralled.

Very divided Tunisian leaders have been very quiet in recent times while many commentators and political representatives have called the protesters "criminals".

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In a televised speech on Tuesday, Mechichi said he understood popular anger over the economic situation and the frustration of young people, but that violence was not acceptable.

Tunisia's economic crisis - exacerbated by the coronavirus - sparked rapid inflation and high youth unemployment and has led many people to leave the North African country.

"Security forces must immediately refrain from using unnecessary and excessive force to disperse protesters in the capital and several governorates against marginalisation, police violence, poverty and lack of job opportunities", it said.

The key tourism sector, already on its knees after a string of deadly jihadist attacks in 2015, has been dealt a devastating blow by the pandemic.

"There is denial and underestimation of anger among young people, especially because eleven successive governments (after the fall of Ben Ali) did not have a strategy to answer the central question of employment", said Olama Lamaloum, director of the NGO International Alert in Tunisia, Which works in the most marginal areas of the country.

Police blocked the marchers as they reached the interior ministry, AFP reported.

The BBC reports a crowd of demonstrators that had gathered in the capital Tunis on Monday hurled stones and explosives at police.

A decade after throwing off the shackles of autocratic rule, Tunisia was heading towards an economic crisis even before the global coronavirus pandemic struck a year ago, wrecking the tourism industry and locking down other businesses.

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