Conditions in Tunisia have deteriorated since the Chinese Coronavirus crisis began – with increasing social unrest and high unemployment among young people. Despite being forbidden under the harsh lockdown restrictions, people across 15 cities took to the street to demonstrate, and in some cases riot.
The deployment of the police to enforce the further restrictive new curfew schedule from 4 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. was the final breaking point for Tunisians. Thousands across the nation held peaceful demonstrations that deteriorated into nighttime-riots by youths in several cities including, Kasserine, Siliana, Sfax and even in the suburbs of Tunis, particularly in the Ettadhamen district.
In the center of Tunis, many of the protesters denounced the increase in poverty, lockdown measures, corruption ranging from the government to the police, and the brutality deployed by law enforcement.
The country’s economic woes were only partly caused by the virus. “The coronavirus is not our main concern: feed us and find us work”, explains one newly unemployed protester living in Ettadhamen district.
On Monday, Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed visited Ariana, a city near the capital which has also experienced several protests. He called on people not to let other to exploit their poverty, misery, and not to attack public or private property, as protesters demanded the dissolution of parliament.
Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi admitted in a speech that there was a “real crisis” in the country. The anger of the people is justified, the protest legitimate. At the same time, he condemned the violence. The state will act against chaos with all the “power of the law”, said the head of government
Media has been quick to label all the protesters and violent and criminals vandals, but the variety of the demonstrators are abundant and the majority of the protesters were peaceful,
“They call everyone who protests against the system a thief … we have come with exposed faces by day and not by night to say we want jobs … we want dignity,” said Sonia, an unemployed graduate.
Watch the following news report by Euronews translated by RAIR Foundation USA,
The Interior Ministry reported there were 632 arrests, ranging from lockdown violators to rioters. Those who did take part in the violence were between the ages of 15 and 25.
At nightfall, stores are looted and young rioters have been attacking police and national guard officers with stones, rocks, gasoline bombs, and fireworks. They burned tires and garbage cans, and built barricades in order to impede the movement of law enforcement.
Police deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse the violent youths. Hundreds were detained and the army was called in to prevent the looting of shops and banks.
Watch the following news report by AFP news translated by RAIR.
Ten years after the revolution that tumbled the old regime, Tunisian leaders are struggling to meet the expectations of the people, who are unsatisfied with the lack of increase in their collective standard of living within the country.
Even before the pandemic, Tunisia was in a difficult economic situation. Since March 2019, numerous restrictions have been added that put a strain on economic life. These have particularly hit those who are already living in precarious circumstances.
Tunisia’s economy shrank by 9% in 2020 and consumer prices rose sharply because of the health crisis. In some regions the youth unemployment rate is around 30 percent. The corona pandemic has exacerbated the situation.
The pandemic has also destroyed the country’s “crucial tourism industry, cut exports to Europe, Tunisia’s main trading partner, and caused thousands of companies to shut down,” reported the Financial Times.
In Ettadhamen on Sunday evening, waiter Abdelmoneim nervously dragged on a cigarette as youths fought police nearby.
“I don’t see any future here,” he said.
He said he was determined to take a boat across the Mediterranean to Europe “as soon as possible, and never come back to this miserable place”.
Just last year, smugglers brought tens of thousands of Tunisians across the Mediterranean to Italy. Be warned Europe, more economic unskilled migrants are on their way.
Many thanks to Miss Piggy for the following translations.
The 4pm curfew was the last straw for hundreds of young Tunisians. Tensions were already high due to the deep social and economic crisis the country is going through, exacerbated by the pandemic, but in the last four days they have risen a notch. The deployment of the police to enforce the new curfew schedule has led to demonstrations, which are forbidden due to Covid-19, and riots in several cities including Kasserine, Siliana, Sfax and in the suburbs of Tunis, particularly in the Ettadhamen district. “There is the coronavirus, people are dying, and there is a confinement from 4pm; we, the people, are the only ones to suffer. The coronavirus is not our main concern: feed us and find us work.” Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed visited Ariana on Monday, a city near the capital, which also experienced demonstrations. He called on people not to let others exploit their poverty and misery, and not to attack public or private property, as demonstrators demanded the dissolution of parliament. The Ministry of the Interior reported 632 arrests after the demonstration.
Ettadhamen, Tunisia Another night of clashes between young people and the forces of law and order. Rioting broke out in several cities across the country due to the lockdown because of the pandemic. The unrest began a few days after the 10th anniversary of the Tunisian revolution. The grievances remain unclear, but these clashes are taking place in a context of political instability and deteriorating social conditions. More than a third of young people are unemployed. The government was reshuffled on Saturday and must be approved by parliament. More than 600 people were arrested during the clashes, and the army was called in as reinforcements.