Thursday, 21 June 2018

300 arrested in third night of Tunisia’s violent protests

300 arrested in third night of Tunisia's violent protests

TUNIS: A third night of unrest has shaken Tunisia where authorities on Thursday said more than 600 people have been arrested this week as anger at austerity measures boils over on the streets.

Tunisia is considered a rare success story of the Arab Spring uprisings that began in the North African country in 2011 and spread across the region, toppling autocrats.

But the authorities have failed to resolve the issues of poverty and unemployment.

Police detained 328 people on Wednesday for theft, looting, arson and blocking roads, the interior ministry said, after arresting more than 280 people over the previous two days.

The latest unrest saw a provincial police station torched, Molotov cocktails hurled at police and tear gas fired, but ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani said the “violence” was less intense than in previous days.

Twenty-one members of the security forces were injured, Chibani said. There was no immediate toll available for any casualties among the protesters.

Tunisia is often seen as having had a relatively smooth transition since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

But Tunisians have expressed frustration since the start of the year over austerity measures expected to further increase prices in a struggling economy.

The North African country introduced hikes in value-added tax and social contributions as part of a tough new budget.

Political scientist Olfa Lamloum called the measures “the straw that breaks the camel’s back”.

“Young people are disappointed with the revolution, especially because of the high cost of living,” she said.

Lamloum pointed to “deepening social inequalities” highlighted by official figures showing rising poverty, unemployment and illiteracy particularly among young people.

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