Tunisian protesters, vehemently denouncing the government’s austerity policies, returned to the streets of several cities across the country for the fourth consecutive evening, despite warnings from the government.
New clashes erupted Thursday night between protesters and police in several cities of Tunisia, the fourth day of a protest fuelled by austerity measures.
Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd in Tunis and Tébourba, a small town about 40 kilometres west of the capital where a protester died on Monday. Meetings have been reported in at least three other cities. The social movement against the austerity measures that came into force on January has 1 clashed with the police and led to scenes of looting in several cities.
Faced with this challenge, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed warned. “What happened is the violence we can not accept. The state will remain steadfast, it will protect its institutions and its people,” he said, reaffirming that the austerity measures contained in the budget 2018 were needed to restore public finances.
Last night, more than 200 people were arrested and about 50 policemen injured in clashes with protesters, said Interior Ministry spokesman Khelifa Chibani on Friday.
“Last night, criminals looted and burned security centres, 45 police vehicles were set on fire and public buildings were attacked,” he added. “They have blocked roads and stolen in many cities. Clearly, this is not protest but theft and damage to public and private property.”
On the island of Djerba, a Jewish school was targeted by incendiary cocktails that caused some damage without casualties, said the head of the local Jewish community, Perez Trabelsi. Djerba is home to Africa’s oldest synagogue, El Ghriba, which was targeted in 2002 by an al-Qaeda-claimed truck bomb that left 21 dead.
The entry into force, on January 1, of a series of price hikes, including gas, oil, and telephone and internet services introduced in the 2018 budget, has provoked an angry backlash, especially among the young and economically marginalised in Tunisia.