21 January 2016

Tunisia: Violence Erupts in Tunisia Over Unemployment

At least eight police officers have been injured in conflicts with protestors demanding economic reform in Kasserine. Two days of confrotation boiled over following the suicide of a young unemployed man.

At least eight police officers have been injured in conflicts with protesters demanding economic reform in Kasserine. Two days of confrontation boiled over following the suicide of a young unemployed man.

Tunisian police and demonstrators clashed late on Wednesday in the city of Kasserine despite a nighttime curfew after two days of unrest. Following the suicide of a young unemployed man, hundreds of job-seeking demonstrators have taken to the streets to demand a solution to the impoverished city's dire circumstances.

"Work, freedom, dignity," chanted the crowds, throwing stones and burning tires before trying to storm a police station. Officers then attempted to disperse the crowds with tear gas and a water cannon, but were in part blocked by a row of smoldering tires.

Abdelghani Chaabani, the regional health authority, said that eight police were injured in Kasserine and another 11 in nearby Thala, while Reuters news agency reported that at least one officer had been killed in similar clashes in the town of Feriana.

President Beji Caid Essebsi said on Wednesday that he understood the plight of "700,000 unemployed and 250,000 of them young people who have degrees."

"But... we cannot deal with situations like this by statements or a helping hand. You have to give it time," he said.

Reminders of the 'Arab Spring'

Tensions reached a fever pitch in Kasserine after 28-year-old unemployed Ridha Yahyaoui killed himself by climbing a utility pole near the governor's office, electrocuting himself.

Around 15 percent of Tunisians are unemployed, among them many with university degrees. Rallies have been held all around the country, including in the capital Tunis, in solidarity with Kasserine, which is in one of the poorest areas in the country.

The protests have drawn comparisons to the 2011 uprising in the country that touched off the "Arab Spring" around North Africa and the Middle East. Originally thought to be the poster child for a peaceful transition from autocracy in the region, recent terror attacks targeting tourists and an unstable economy has threatened the stability of the Mediterranean nation. The 2011 revolution was also touched off by the suicide of a young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, who self-immolated at provincial police headquarters following brutal treatment at the hands of local officers.

es/jil (AFP, Reuters)

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