Protests erupt across Tunisia

Protests have erupted across Tunisia, beginning in Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid (the birthplace of the Arab Spring) and spreading to include Siliana, Jendouba, El-Kef and Sousse. At least one policeman has been killed in what is being seen as some of the worst protests since 2011.

Some youths have been setting themselves alight, reminiscent of Mohamed Bouazizi in 2011 who set off the Arab Spring, and ten youths threatened to jump off a building in Kasserine only two days ago in protest at the continued unemployment, poverty, and a media campaign from the main television channels that has propagated a narrative that the youths are simply refusing jobs that are readily available, and that these problems are not as bad as originally perceived.

Although a curfew was imposed in Kasserine, it appears that the protests have spread rapidly across the country.

Youths across Tunisia have lamented the failure to deal with the alarming levels of unemployment and poverty, particularly within the inner regions. More so, they have taken particular grievance to the refusal of Parliament to implement measures that may alleviate their situation. In December, the Tunisian Parliament rejected measures put forward by the opposition party Tayyar al Mahabba to implement a benefits system consisting of the provision of 200 dinars per month in exchange for two days work for 500,000 unemployed, the granting of free healthcare for those who are unable to access it as result of their financial means, as well as the provision of salary for the families of soldiers killed in duty.

Youths have also rejected the argument that the Tunisian government does not have the money to assist them. Pointing to the national reconciliation law, President Sibsi’s first major initiative in power which protects businessmen from being brought to court over offences prior to 2011, and the government bailout of three banks, youths argue that the government is more interested in protecting the ‘bourgeoisie’ and the established ‘businessmen’ rather than the struggles of the poor.

The leader of the opposition party Tayyar al-Mahabba Dr Mohamed El-Hechmi Hamdi, stated that the protests bear the ‘hallmarks of a new revolution’.


 Update:

  • Short, recorded speech from the President. Key points include the presence of an invisible hand, congratulating the security forces on their handling of the situation, and asking the government to act. Not much in the way of actual action.
  • President Beji Caid Sibsi: I ask the government to find the means to tackle unemployment even if it means diverting money from other areas
  • President Beji Caid Sibsi: I commend the security forces on their conduct
  • President Beji Caid Sibsi: Some politicians are adding to the problem. I ask for politicians to speak in a way that results in calm
  • President Beji Caid Sibsi: Condolences to the family of Yahyaoui and the that of the policeman Sofiane Bouslimi who was killed.
  • President Beji Caid Sibsi: There are legitimate grievances. But malintentioned groups have inflitrated the protests.
  • President Beji Caid Sibsi to address nation at 7.50pm local time.
  • Prime Minister Habib Esseid cuts short visit to France in light of the widespread protests.
  • Army have been deployed to enforce curfew
  • A nationwide curfew has been imposed from 8pm to 5am as unrest grows.
  • Protests break out in the capital, Tunis. Protests also in Kasserine, Sidi Bouzid, Ragueb, Sfax, El Fahs, Kairouan, Beja, Sousse, Gafsa.

Protests in Sidi Bouzid: