Tunisia gripped by violence days before 7th anniversary of popular uprisings

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, January 12, 2018
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Tunisia has been gripped by protests, looting and vandalism since Monday, with riot police intervening to protect state institutions, public and private property and civilians.

It's just a few days before the 7th anniversary of the popular uprisings from December 2010 to January 2011, which resulted in the downfall of former President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali on Jan. 14, 2011.

On Thursday, protesters walked across Avenue Bourguiba, the main street of the capital city, demanding the revision and suspension of the new finance law for the year 2018.

Some protesters told Xinhua that the new law has led to the price increase in some consumer products, as it doesn't meet the expectations of the middle class, but harms the purchasing capacity of the Tunisians.

"This law includes the introduction of a new social contribution on profits and wages, and an increase in VAT which coincides with surcharges on certain products. It's painful and misplaced," said Haithem Hidri, a young trader in the capital Tunis.

The national protests started on Monday from Tunis, and then fast spread to other provinces. However, some protests gradually turned into looting, violence and destruction of public and private property.

A few kilometers south of Tunis, a group of people even tried to rob a train of passengers, when it travelled from one station in Hammam-Lif in Ben Arous Province to the southern suburbs of Tunis.

"Fortunately, we were in solidarity, despite the panic that prevailed aboard the train," said Yosr Sliman, a witness of the robbery.

"The intervention of the police was very fast and effective enough to avoid the worst, given the high number of attackers with knives and Molotov cocktails," he added.

In addition, more than 60 national guards were injured and over 50 police vehicles damaged in clashes across the country. Some police stations, municipal buildings and customs depots were even set on fire.

In the province of Siliana in northwestern Tunisia, young demonstrators tried to break into a court building, before targeting law enforcement officers with Molotov cocktails.

On the island of Djerba in the southeast of the country, a Jewish school was attacked by young protesters wearing hoods.

According to the report of Tunisian Ministry of the Interior, at least 600 individuals have been arrested during the clashes between protesters and law enforcement officers since Monday night.

"These protests have lost their peaceful way and have been dethroned from their itinerary following the infiltration of a large number of criminals and intruders, who try to sow chaos and carry out violence or even looting," said Khalifa Chibani, official spokesman of the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior.

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed warned against any attempt to disrupt the country, and against any vandalism targeting citizens, or public and private assets.

He also expressed his determination to meet the legitimate demands of protesters.

Meanwhile, Tunisian Minister of Commerce Omar Al-Bahi said the recent prices increase doesn't affect state-subsidized products, but will reduce the trade and budget deficit.

"In the recent seven years, we are subjected to the effect of snowball with worsening inflation, indebtedness and a blatant devaluation of the dinar," Al-Bahi said.

Tunisian trade deficit reached a record high of 15.59 billion dinars (about US$6.33 billion) until the end of 2017, data from Tunisia National Institute of Statistics shows.

The debt service also reached a record high, with a year-on-year rise of 59.1 percent until the end of last October. 

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