Hundreds arrested as Tunisians protest high prices, longtime president


The protests draw on anger over price and tax increases included in this year's budget that took effect on January 1.

"Tunisian security forces must refrain from using excessive force and end their use of intimidation tactics against peaceful demonstrators", the watchdog said.

After the movement, however, nine administrations during the last seven years in Tunisia have failed to mitigate the plaguing high unemployment rates and economic distress of the common man.

Hammami, who attended the protests in the capital, Tunis, on Tuesday, said that an estimated 400 people were in attendance. Europe is concerned about stability in Tunisia partly because unemployment there has forced many young Tunisians to go overseas.

Leila Ghrairi, 51, a civil servant who came to support the protesters in Tunis, said she was not anxious about another Arab Spring.

The clashes have led to more than 200 arrests and dozens of injuries as protesters across the country vent their anger over austerity measures.

Anger has boiled over since the beginning of the year due to a hike in value added tax and social security contributions as part of austerity demanded by global creditors.

Tunisia is often seen as having had a relatively smooth transition since the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In Sousse, the Bouhsina police barracks was set on fire; in Khezama, police used tear gas to prevent looters from raiding a supermarket; and in Ksar Gafsa, a civil protection agent was injured in clashes.

Image    Twenty-one members of the security forces were injured
Image Twenty-one members of the security forces were injured

One Tunisian told the BBC: "Our demands include, primarily, the scrapping of the 2018 financial law, reducing the prices of essential goods, the reversal of privatisation of state entities..., social security and health coverage for the unemployed, provision of housing for families with a limited income, and a national and strategic plan in the fight against corruption".

An interior ministry spokesman said at least 44 people had been arrested, including 16 in Kasserine and 18 in working-class areas near Tunis.

On Tuesday night, hundreds of young people took to the streets of Tebourba for the funeral of the man who died.

The Tunisian government, a coalition of Islamist, secularist and independent factions, have accused criminal and opposition elements of being behind the protests.

The Interior Ministry said that the 43-year old male was not killed due to police violence, but an autopsy would be carried out to determine the cause of death.

Late on Tuesday, clashes erupted in more than 20 towns, as protesters attacked police stations and government buildings and torched cars, also hurling petrol bombs at a Jewish school on the southern tourist island of Djerba.

In December 2017, unemployed protesters and activists marched through the streets of Sidi Bouzid, angry over the lack of jobs and opportunities that continue to plague residents.

"Further demonstrations are planned for the coming days, including in Tunis on 12 and 13 January 2018; you should avoid protests and follow the instructions of the local authorities", it added.

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