Sunday, 21 January, 2018

Tunisian government hopes that days of food protests are subsiding

Tunisian security forces stand amid tear gas during clashes with protesters in the town of Tebourba Tunisia: 778 arrested for protesting against austerity measures
Bennie Garza | 13 January, 2018, 04:52

Tunisian authorities said Friday the number of people detained in a wave of violent protests had risen to almost 800, as fresh unrest over austerity measures hit a provincial town. Dozens of government buildings were set alight and at least one protester was killed, prompting the government to dispatch the army to several cities and towns.

Protests broke out last weekend and have since spread to more than 20 towns as people demonstrate against new taxes and price increases imposed by the Finance Act 2018 introduced on 1 January in order to reduce the increasing deficit.

Warda Atig is one of the founders and spokespeople for the Fech Netannew - What Are We Waiting For? - campaign, which had organised Friday's protests.

Last year, the Washington-based International Monetary Fund agreed a four-year loan program worth about $2.8 billion with Tunisia, tied to economic reforms.

"The people want the budget reduced!" protesters shouted, describing Tunisia's current cabinet as a "starvation government".

Activists and opposition politicians appealed for fresh demonstrations in the capital, Tunis, on Friday and on Sunday, the seventh anniversary of the toppling of former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia: 778 arrested for protesting against austerity measures

In December, unemployed protesters and activists marched through the streets of Sidi Bouzid, angry over the lack of jobs and opportunities that continue to plague residents.

He is embarrassed that at 32 he still lives at home, unable to find a good job since graduation a decade ago - a fate shared by many in a country where unemployment among the young runs around 30 percent.

A spokesperson at the interior ministry said that protests are dying out. The UN said it was concerned about the number of arrests during the protests.

More than 770 people have been detained in almost a week of sometimes violent demonstrations. "The number of arrested individuals has reached 778".

The United Nations has called on the government to refrain from arresting people arbitrarily.

The opposition bloc, mainly the Popular Front, denied such accusations, pointing out that the current government is "reproducing the old regime's methods".

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