Large scale protests erupt in Tunisia over austerity measures

13 January, 2018, 00:40 | Author: Ruben Patrick
  • Tunisia protests: Why are people taking to the streets?

Clashes between Police and hundreds of protesters took place in Tebourba, some 40 km (25 miles) from Tunis leaving one killed and Five people wounded, the Tunisian news agency said.

Interior ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani said 151 people were arrested on Thursday, taking the number detained in several nights of unrest to 778.

Protests broke out last weekend and have since spread to more than 20 towns as people demonstrate against new taxes and price increases imposed by the Finance Act 2018 introduced on 1 January in order to reduce the increasing deficit.

They also feel neglected and angry over price rises the government says are necessary to improve the long-struggling economy and qualify for foreign aid.

Prime Minister Yousef Chahed has said the riots have descended into "acts of vandalism", he added: "What happened is violence that we can not accept".

Tunisia has been seen as a rare success story of the uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but people still feel disenfranchised.

Tunisians have been battling for the past seven years since the ousting of authoritarian president Ben Ali signalled the start of the so-called Arab Spring.

Leila Ghrairi, 51, a civil servant who came to support the protesters in Tunis, said she was not anxious about another Arab Spring.

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A Jewish school and a historic synagogue were attacked in Djerba as police focused on curbing unrest elsewhere in the country. Protesters have burned dozens of state buildings, prompting the government to send the army into several cities and towns.

Spokesman Ziyad Akhdar, of the Popular Front political umbrella group that has been spearheading some of the protests, called the prime minister's remarks "irresponsible", and called for an "independent inquiry" into who is provoking the violence.

In the central town of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the protests that sparked the 2011 uprisings, youths blocked roads and hurled stones, and the police retaliated with tear gas, an AFP reporter said.

"Prices of medicine have increased".

He said 58 members of the security forces were injured and 57 police vehicles damaged, but didn't say how many protesters were hurt.

"The protests are over the cost of living", one protester in Tunis told the BBC.

Authorities promised the International Monetary Fund (IMF) they would cut spending in exchange for a $2.9 billion (U.S.) loan that year.

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