Violent youth protests hit Tunisia amid economic turmoil

AFP , Sunday 17 Jan 2021

Tunisians in general are angry that the North African country is on the verge of bankruptcy and has dire public services

Tunisia protests January 2021 AP Photo
A small group of people take part in a protest on the tenth anniversary of the uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Ben Ali, during to a national lockdown after a surge in COVID-19 cases, in Tunis, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.

Police used tear gas to disperse violent protests led by disgruntled youths in several Tunisian cities on Saturday night, including in the capital of Tunis and in the seaside city of Sousse.

Tunisians in general are angry that the North African country is on the verge of bankruptcy and has dire public services. And many feel disappointed that on the 10-year anniversary of the revolution that ousted autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali there is little to show in terms of improvement.

Police swooped in as shops and banks were looted and vandalized, arresting `"dozens" of youths, according to state news agency TAP. Protesters blocked roads by burning tires and threw stones and other objects at police and businesses, according to the Interior Ministry, which said the situation was now "calm" across the country on Sunday.

Videos circulating on social media showed dramatic chases down alleys between groups of young people and the police who used tear gas to disperse them.

Tunisia on Thursday commemorated the 10th anniversary since the flight into exile of the iron-fisted Ben Ali, who was pushed from power in a popular revolt that foreshadowed the regional pro-democracy uprisings, strife and civil war in North Africa and the Mideast that came to be known as the Arab Spring.

A budding democracy in Tunisia grew out of the aftermath. And yet, despite gains, a pall of disenchantment hangs over the North African country, which has been stressed by extremist attacks, political infighting, a troubled economy and promises unfulfilled, including development of the interior.

Despite guaranteed rights and numerous democratic elections, protests flourish, especially in the central and southern regions where the jobless rate among youth reaches 30% and the poverty level is above 20%.

According to the Tunisian Forum of Economic and Social Rights, more than 1,000 demonstrations took place in November alone. Months of sit-ins have paralyzed oil and phosphate production for months, putting holes of billions of dollars in the country's budget.

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