Tension, protests mark Tunisia’s seventh revolutionary anniversary

Tension, protests mark Tunisia’s seventh revolutionary anniversary
Police used teargas to dispel crowds in Sidi Bouzid as protests over unchanging rates of unemployment and other economic problems grew violent.
2 min read
22 December, 2017
Tunisian police at a protest in Sidi Bouzid in July 2017 [AFP]

Tunisia's celebration of the seventh anniversary of the 2011 revolution was marked by ever increasing tensions in the country's central city of Sidi Bouzid.

As the country prepared to mark the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, local activists and unemployed people marched in Sidi Bouzid to protest against their city's continuous marginalisation. Unemployment remains very high here, as in many other cities of the country's interior.

As darkness fell, police fired teargas at protesters who blocked streets in some of the city's neighbourhoods. 

Police also arrested forty members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamic radical political party, for attempting to protest while holding banners hostile to the state.

In late 2010, protests around the country escalated and turned into violent clashes causing the death of a young man who was shot by the old regime's security apparatus. Thousands of people protested demanding the right to work.

The situation has not changed in Sidi Bouzid

"There is still more disparity, marginalisation and exclusion in the region," stated Noureddine Taboubi, the secretary general of the country's General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT).

"The situation has not changed in Sidi Bouzid, as feelings of disappointment, frustration and anger drive the young people of the region, factors that incite them to violence and illegal migration," he added.

There have been 49 suicides or attempted suicides by economically desperate people in the city of Sidi Bouzid this, according to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights. 

Taboubi said the situation had largely deteriorated in the interior regions because of the adoption of the same development model that enables more injustice and regional disparities.

Tensions are still notable in this area of the country's centre-west as can be seen in the areas of Regueb, Menzel Bouzaiene, Meknassy and Sidi Ali Ben Aoun.

Unemployment in Tunisia remains worrying, reaching 15.3 percent this year, according to the national statistics institute. 

Sidi Bouzid is the agricultural city where Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old street vendor, set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, triggering a massive nationwide movement of protests which were a major contributing factor to the outbreak of the Arab Spring.

Follow Massinissa Benlakehal on Twitter: @mbenlakehal