Tunisia theater of new clashes, hundreds of arrests

Ⓒ AFP – FETHI BELAID – | Tunisian security forces look for protesters in
Ettadhamen, suburb of Tunis, January 10, 2018

Clashes have occurred for a third consecutive night between
police and youth in several cities in Tunisia, where more than
600 people have been arrested since Monday, said Thursday the
Ministry of the Interior.

However, the authorities have judged that the intensity of
the violence, fueled by the social discontent that has
persisted for years, has decreased.

The unrest erupted on Monday as the seventh anniversary of
the Tunisian revolution approaches, demanding work and dignity
and leading to the fall of dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali on
January 14, 2011.

The month of January is traditionally a period of social
mobilization in Tunisia, where the context is particularly
tense this year due to price increases, and municipal elections
– the first of the post-revolution – scheduled for May.

Since Monday, the troubles are mainly in the evening and at
night. Some peaceful demonstrations are also held during the
day.

Ⓒ AFP – FETHI BELAID – | Tunisian security forces on the alert on 11 January
2017 in Tebourba, about 40 km west of Tunis

Thursday noon, dozens of unemployed gathered in the center
of Sidi Bouzid, a poor city in the center of the country where
the uprising at the end of 2010, according to an AFP
correspondent.

The protest against rising prices was launched at the
beginning of the year by the “Fech Nestannew” campaign (“What
are we waiting for?”). Its activists called for a new rally
late Thursday afternoon in Tunis to demand the release of
peaceful protesters. He also called for a mobilization on
Friday.

– ‘Vandals’ –

Looting and night riots forced the army to deploy around
numerous banks, tax offices and other sensitive buildings.

The government has so far stood firm, condemning “vandalism”
and accusing protesters of being manipulated by the
opposition.

On Wednesday, 328 people were arrested for robberies,
looting, arson and roadblocks committed in recent days, told
AFP the spokesman of the Ministry of the Interior, Khalifa
Chibani.

Ⓒ AFP – FETHI BELAID – | A member of the Tunisian security forces faces
protesters in Ettadhamen neighborhood, a suburb of Tunis, on
January 10, 2018 in the evening

But according to Chibani, “the intensity of violence has
decreased compared to previous days”.

This brings to more than 600 the number of people arrested
since Monday. Tuesday, 237 people had already been arrested,
and 44 the day before, according to the same source.

Tunisia has been under a state of emergency for more than
two years – a measure taken after a series of jihadist attacks
– and the police have exceptional powers.

On the night of Wednesday to Thursday, clashes were reported
in particular in the city of Siliana (north-west), or in
Kasserine, Thala and Sidi Bouzid, in the marginalized
center.

Scuffles also took place in several neighborhoods of Tunis
and Tebourba, 30 km west of the capital, where a man died in
the clashes of Monday night.

– ‘Young disappointed’ –

The main police station in Thala was set on fire, Chibani
said, adding that 21 policemen were injured Wednesday across
the country.

He assured that no civilian had been injured.

Ⓒ AFP – Vincent LEFAI – | Tunisia

Railway services have been canceled in some areas after a
train was attacked in southern suburbs of Tunis Wednesday
night, local media reports said.

“In order to improve the purchasing power of the citizens”,
the Utica employers’ union has announced that it has put
forward the date of the 10-day sales, on January 20, in
consultation with the Ministry of Commerce.

After several years of economic slump and massive hiring in
the civil service, Tunisia, faced with significant financial
difficulties, obtained in 2016 a new loan from the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), 2.4 billion euros over four
years. This amount is released in installments in exchange for
a program to reduce deficits.

Despite a recovery in growth, the dinar has devalued in
recent months against the dollar, inflation has exceeded 6% at
the end of 2017 and this year’s budget provides for new taxes
and VAT increases that come even higher. the cost of
living.

For the political scientist Olfa Lamloum, “the new finance
law is the straw that breaks the camel” after a “deepening of
social inequalities” – higher rate of poverty, unemployment and
illiteracy among young people especially–.

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