About 5,000 Tunisians protested against marginalisation and deteriorating conditions in central Sidi Bouzid city, two days after 12 female rural workers died in a traffic accident.
Traffic stopped and schools, hospitals and public offices closed by a regional strike called by unions in Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of Tunisian revolution.
The deaths of 12 women travelling in an inappropriate vehicle in Sabbela on Saturday provoked anger among Tunisians.
Similar incidents occurred recently, fuelling Tunisians’ anger at the high cost of living, unemployment and decline of state services since the overthrow of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
Protesters including women and youths repeated the slogans of the 2011 revolution – “People want to overthrow the regime. We want justice and dignity”.
In December, 2010, young Tunisian vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in a suicide protest over unemployment and marginalisation, spreading revolt across the Arab world.
“This strike is a support for the victims of that tragedy. In Sidi Bouzid we suffer from marginalisation and bad conditions,” said Mohamed Azhar Gamoudi, an UGTT union official.
Tunisia largely escaped the violent after-shocks in other “Arab Spring” countries struggling to find stability.
Political progress has not been matched by economic advances. Unemployment stands at about 15%, up from 12% in 2010, due to weak growth and low investment.