May 21, 2018

Over 300 Arrested in Tunisia as Protests Expand

12 January 2018, 08:29 | Taylor George

Over 300 Arrested in Tunisia as Protests Expand

Over 300 Arrested in Tunisia as Protests Expand

More than 200 people were arrested and dozens injured in clashes in several regions of Tunisia, the interior ministry said after a second night of protests against austerity measures by the authorities.

Twenty-one members of the security forces were injured, according to Chibani, who said no civilians were hurt.

Prices have increased for fuel and some consumer goods, while taxes on cars, phone calls, the internet, hotel accommodation and other items have also gone up.

Although Tunisia has eclipsed other Arab Spring nations in building democratic institutions since 2011, successive governments have failed to bring about the kind of economic and social revival Tunisians had envisaged when they pushed Ben Ali from power.

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

On Tuesday, petrol bombs were thrown at a Jewish school on the southern tourist island of Djerba, home to an ancient Jewish community.

Tunisia's vital tourism sector has not yet bounced back after the catastrophic terror attacks in Sousse and Tunis in 2015, while the new budget, which raises value-added tax (VAT) on basic products and services, is likely to hit the less-privileged the hardest.

The protests began peacefully last week, but escalated on Monday evening. Protesters have blamed the police for the man's death but security forces reject those claims.

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Those arrested participated in lootings of private and public properties late Wednesday in various parts of Tunisia, ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani said.

Last year, the Washington-based International Monetary Fund agreed a four-year loan programme worth about $2.8 billion with Tunisia, tied to economic reforms.

"Wherever you go, in a shop or in a drugstore, every price is higher", said Wael Naouar, a protester.

The demonstrations have so far been much smaller than previous protests since the overthrow of autocrat ruler Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

What is the economic situation in Tunisia?

On a visit to a nearby town, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed condemned acts of "vandalism" that "serve the interests of corrupt networks to weaken the state", pointing the finger at a leftist party that called for protests.

Jews have lived for over 2,000 years in mainly Muslim Tunisia, where Islamists, secular groups and labour unions have since 2011 argued over what direction the country should take.

The country's trade deficit reached a record $5.8bn in the first 11 months of 2017, while its currency - the dinar - weakened to more than three units per euro for the first time ever on Monday, Reuters reported.

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