14 January 2018

Tunisia: Fresh Protests in Tunisia On Anniversary of Arab Spring Uprising

The anti-austerity rallies are the latest to hit Tunisia since the beginning of January. Sunday marks seven years since the North African country's peaceful transition to democracy.

Hundreds of people gathered in the Tunisian capital Tunis on Sunday to protest against austerity and unemployment on the seventh anniversary of the country's democratic transition of power.

State security forces set up blockades in front of entrances to Habib Bourguiba Avenue, where many people in Tunis rallied at the site widely associated with the 2011 toppling of the country's former dictatorship.

The powerful UGTT labor union and several political parties, including the opposition Popular Front alliance, had earlier called for the demonstrations to coincide with the anniversary of the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring revolutions.

President Beji Caid Essebsi marked the anniversary by visiting a youth center in a working-class suburb of Tunis that had witnessed vandalism and looting earlier in the week.

Weeks of unrest

Anti-austerity protests and nighttime unrest have rocked Tunisia since Monday after the government announced tax hikes and increases in social security contributions at the beginning of January.

One protester has been killed, more than 100 police officers were injured and over 800 people arrested, according to the interior ministry.

The government on Saturday announced financial aid for the poor and free access to health care for unemployed people. The announcement followed meetings between President Beji Caid Essebsi and multiple labor unions, political parties and companies.

Marking the Arab Spring

Tunisia is widely viewed as the only successful country to transition to democracy as part of the 2011 protests that helped spark revolutions around the Middle East and North Africa.

Tunisia's transition began after the deadly self-immolation of a street vendor in Tunis to protest against police harassment.

Subsequent demonstrations led Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011, after 23 years in power.

Although the country went on to adopt a new constitution and hold free elections, multiple governments have struggled to improve Tunisia's economy after deadly terrorist attacks harmed the country's vital tourism sector.

Official figures put unemployment at 15 percent nationwide and above 25 percent in certain regions. Some experts have estimated inflation to be over 9 percent.

Increasing anger

Tunisians have held rallies across the country to protest the government's new austerity measures, aimed at minimizing the country's deficit. The Tunisian people have become increasingly angry since the government said it would increase the price of petrol, some goods, and taxes on cars, phone calls, the internet, hotel accommodation and other items from January 1.

Author: Louisa Wright

amp/sms (AFP, AP, dpa)

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