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Tunisian citizens protest over police repression, corruption and poverty

by Mustapha Olamide
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Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Tunisian cities on Saturday to protest police repression, corruption and poverty, following several nights of unrest marked by clashes and arrests.

Saturday’s protests come because the North African nation struggles to stem the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has crippled the economy and threatened to overwhelm hospitals.

Over 6,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Tunisia, with a record 103 deaths reported on Thursday.

The government on Saturday extended a night-time curfew from 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) to 5 a.m. and banned gatherings until Valentine Day .

But protesters took to the streets in several parts of the country, including the capital Tunis and therefore the marginalised interior region of Gafsa, to demand the discharge of many children detained during several nights of unrest since January 14.

“Neither police nor Islamists, the people want revolution,” chanted demonstrators during a crowd of several hundred in Tunis, where one person was wounded in short clashes amid an important police presence.

Protests were also held within the coastal city of Sfax on Friday.

Much of the unrest has been in labor neighbourhoods, where anger is boiling over soaring unemployment and a political class accused of getting did not deliver good governance, a decade after the 2011 revolution that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Economic misery exacerbated by novel coronavirus restrictions within the tourism-reliant nation have pushed growing numbers of Tunisians to undertake to go away the country.

“The situation is catastrophic,” said Omar Jawadi, 33, a hotel sales manager, who has been paid only half his salary for months.

“The politicians are corrupt, we would like to vary the govt and therefore the system.”

The police have said quite 700 people were arrested over several nights of unrest earlier in the week that saw children hurl rocks and petrol bombs at security forces, who responded with tear gas and water cannon.

Human rights groups on Thursday said a minimum of 1,000 people had been detained.

“Youth live from day to day, we not have hope, neither to figure nor to review — and that they call us troublemakers!” said call center worker Amine, who features a degree in aerospace engineering.

“We must hear children , not send police in by the thousands. the entire system is corrupt, a couple of families and their supporters control Tunisia’s wealth.”

Tunisia last week marked one decade since Ben Ali fled the country amid mass protests, ending 23 years in power.

Tunisia’s political leadership is split , with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi expecting parliament to verify a serious cabinet reshuffle announced last Saturday.

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