More violent protests in Tunis


Violent protests erupted again on Sunday in two areas of Tunis and another town after a relatively calm two days, the latest protests in Tunisia against austerity measures.

After nearly a week of at times violent protests, police used tear gas against dozens of young protesters in the Ettadamen district of Tunis in renewed demonstrations over a tax hike.

A Reuters witness saw youths around 20 years old throwing stones at police cars and setting fire to tyres before security forces drove them back with tear gas.

Witnesses told Reuters violent protests were also taking place in Kram district of Tunis.

Protesters in Feriana near the Algerian border tried to cut off roads and police were chasing protesters in the streets of the city and firing gas bombs.

Protests erupted last Monday in several towns and cities across Tunisia following tax and price hikes imposed on January 1 by a government seeking to reduce a budget deficit to meet an agreement with its international donors.

On Sunday, hundreds of Tunisians demonstrated peacefully against government austerity measures in the capital, the seventh anniversary of the ousting of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Almost 800 people were arrested for vandalism and acts of violence, including throwing petrol bombs at police stations, according to the interior ministry.

Government on Saturday pledged extra aid for poor families and people in need in response to the demonstrations but protesters still took to the streets, holding banners with slogans against rising prices and new taxes.

One rally took place in front of the Labour Union (UGTT) headquarters and other protests were held along central Habib Bourguiba Avenue, where hundreds of riot police were deployed.
“This is what government has done to us,” said a protester named Fouad. “Pockets are empty because of unfair decisions by the government … I am a professor and my wife is a teacher, but we are suffering today to meet our needs.”
“We have only won freedom of expression after the 2011 revolution … but we will remain in the streets until we win our economic rights just as we have our freedom,” he added.

Police were seeking to separate supporters of the opposition Popular Front party and the Islamist Ennahda party, part of the ruling coalition. The government and Ennahda accuse the PF of being behind some of the violence last week.

Prices have increased for fuel and some consumer goods, while taxes on cars, phone calls, the internet, hotel accommodation and other items also rose.

Tunisia has been hailed as the only democratic success of the Arab Spring: the one Arab country to topple a long-serving leader in that year’s uprisings without triggering widespread violence or civil war.

It has had nine governments since Ben Ali’s overthrow, none of which have been able to resolve deep-rooted economic problems. The economy has worsened since the vital tourism sector was almost wiped out by a wave of deadly militant attacks in 2015 and has yet to recover despite improved security.