In Tunisia, the protests are continuing. Young people fought several nights in a row with security forces.
TUNIS taz | On the northern outskirts of Tunis there is normal chaos. Only the casings of tear gas grenades are reminiscent of the nightly clashes between the police and young people from the area.
Nizar Hazgui stands in front of his electronics store and is furious. The army claimed that terrorists interfered with the rioters, but that was nonsense. Since he is afraid for his shop, he is not on the side of the rioters. “But I don’t want to hear any unproven accusations from the government or the authorities, I want to know why ten years after the revolution one in two people is still unemployed.”
A week after the tenth anniversary of the fall of Ben Ali in 2011, the violent protests in the capital and other cities continue. On Thursday night, armored vehicles of the National Guard drove through the streets in Kasserine and Sbeitla, driving out groups of mostly young men who had previously set up and set fire to roadblocks.
At a press conference held by the human rights organization FTDES on Thursday, several representatives of civil society warned the government to continue to crack down on the demonstrators. According to FTDES, the security forces arrested at least 1,000 people. The Interior Ministry had already put the number of those arrested at 600 on Monday. An 18-year-old man hit by a tear gas grenade in Sbeitla is also in a coma with a head wound. According to government sources, more than a dozen officials were also injured by stones.
In social media, various initiatives such as the so-called Generation X are now calling for a protest against the crackdown by the police on Saturday.
“Tunisia suffers from centralism, corruption and incompetent elites”
An FTDES spokesman compared the current social crisis to that ten years ago, when a nationwide uprising led to the overthrow of the Ben Ali regime. The fact that the current government under Hichem Mechichi ordered a four-day lockdown last week for the anniversary of all things angered many. “But the reason for the protests is not the curfew,” said FTDES spokesman Ahmed Sayeb. “3.5 million Tunisians live below the poverty line. Police violence radicalizes the young people who have a legitimate reason to take to the streets. “
The chief rabbi protests
Meanwhile, an attempt by President Kais Saied to get the crowds to observe the curfew, which will apply from 8 p.m., ended in a PR disaster: In a recording of a conversation with demonstrators in Tunis, the 62-year-old warns against the instrumentalisation of the protests by political means Parties and “stealing Jews who mingled with the people”. After protests by the country’s chief rabbi, Saied apologized, but also announced that his face mask had misunderstood him.
Prime Minister Mechichi has expressed understanding for the anger on the street. But he had instructed the security forces to continue to take action against looting.
Saied and Mechichi’s proposal to demonstrate peacefully during the day in future was followed by around 200 people in Tunis on Wednesday. On the Avenue du Bourguiba in the center of the capital, they asked the government with posters to finally take care of the social imbalance in the 11 million-inhabitant country.
“Despite all the reform successes of recent years, Tunisia suffers from a centralism inherited from the colonial era, from corruption and incompetent elites,” said the activist Malek Shgiri, a speaker at the demonstration, summarizing the situation. As a student leader in 2011, the 35-year-old popularized the intellectual opposition movement in slums like Hay Ettadhamen.
Common opponent is missing
Ten years later, the various protest movements lack a common enemy. While the demonstrators in Tunis are peacefully calling for democratic reforms, during the street battles in other cities and the slums of Tunis there is anger of 16 to 22-year-olds over their lack of prospects, which has been compounded by the corona crisis.
Perhaps it is the tough crackdown on the security forces that brings the groups together after all. The peaceful demonstration on Wednesday was broken up by officials equipped with helmets and batons with tear gas grenades for no apparent reason.