December 27, 2018
Clashes with security forces in further towns as anger grows at self-immolation in Kasserine and unfulfilled pledges of 2011
Riot police and protesters in Kasserine, Tunisia, on 25 December 2018. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters
Agence France-Presse in Kasserine
Clashes between Tunisian protesters and security forces spread from an impoverished city overnight, the authorities said on Wednesday, as anger grew over the death of a journalist who set himself on fire over economic conditions.
In the western city of Kasserine police fired tear gas at youths throwing stones during a second night of unrest.
Clashes also broke out in the eastern town of Jbeniana, where a police officer was injured, and in Tebourba, in the north, where at least five people were arrested, said Walid Hkima, a national security spokesman.
The unrest follows the death of the journalist Abderrazk Zorgui, 32, on Monday after he set himself ablaze in Kasserine.
The interior ministry said one person had been arrested for alleged involvement in the desperate act of protest, which triggered an outpouring of anger in the city with protesters setting tyres on fire and blocking roads. Thirteen people were arrested in Kasserine for “acts of destruction” during the unrest, said Hichem Fourati, an interior ministry spokesman.
In a video before his death Zorgui said “for the sons of Kasserine who have no means of subsistence, today I start a revolution”.
The self-immolation of a street vendor in Tunisia, late 2010, in protest at police harassment sparked Tunisia’s revolution and the Arab Spring uprisings across the rest of the region the next year.
Kasserine was one of the first cities to rise up after the death of the vendor – Mohammed Bouazizi – in protests where police killed demonstrators. The unrest spread across the country and led to the overthrow of the long-time dictator, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
Despite the country’s democratic transition since then, authorities are still struggling to improve poor living conditions in the face of rampant inflation and persistent unemployment.
“There’s a rupture between the political class and young people, especially those living in insecurity in Tunisia’s interior who see their future as uncertain,” said Messaoud, president of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights.
In recent months, political life in Tunisia has been paralysed by power struggles ahead of presidential elections set for 2019. Tunisia’s national union of journalists called for a general strike on 14 January to mark the eighth anniversary of the revolution.
Zorgui’s self-immolation was “a sign of rejection of a catastrophic situation, regional imbalances, high unemployment among young people and the misery in which our fellow citizens live in the interior regions”, said the Tunisian newspaper Le Quotidien. “No one can deny today that all the leaders of this country are responsible, responsible for the distress of our youth, their despair and their frustration.”
Published: December 26, 2018