Published: Mon, January 15, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Scores Arrested In Tunisia Protests

Scores Arrested In Tunisia Protests

Protests are common in Tunisia during January when many mark the anniversary of the 2011 toppling of the longtime autocratic leader, President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

President Beji Caid Essebsi will on Sunday visit the protest-hit poor district of Ettadhamen in the capital Tunis, make a speech and open a cultural centre, an official said.

Several hundred protestors took to the streets Saturday in Sidi Bouzid, where the 2011 uprising first began.

The two-hour crisis talks at the presidential palace brought together Essebsi, representatives of political parties, the powerful UGTT trade union and the UTICA employers' federation.

"The Tunisian authorities are targeting people for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly", said Morayef.

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And on Friday, protesters in cities and towns across the country waved yellow cards - a warning sign to the government - and brandished loaves of bread, a symbol of the day-to-day struggle to afford basic goods.

Protests erupted last Monday in several towns and cities across Tunisia following tax and price hikes imposed on January 1 by a government seeking to reduce a budget deficit to meet an agreement with its global donors.

Mr Trabelsi also alluded to plans for guaranteed medical care and housing reform, but did not give details. There was no immediate toll for the number of protesters injured in the unrest.

"It's a very advanced legal project, which was submitted to parliament and will be discussed over the next week", said a government source who requested anonymity. "It will help the poor and middle class", he said.

Frustration was in full view last week when small demonstrations erupted around the country before ballooning and degenerating into theft, pillaging and car-burning in some places as momentum grew. "The unemployment in our country has been over 15 percent, especially among higher-education graduates".

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The protesters reportedly responded to the call of the coalition of activist groups to rally against the austerity measures the government had taken to reduce the budget deficit. The IMF gave the country a $2.9bn (£2.2bn) loan in 2015.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has tried to calm the situation, assuring Tunisians that 2018 would be the country's last "difficult" year.

Essebsi also accused some foreign media "exaggerating" Tunisia's social unrest, and undermining Tunisia's worldwide image.

Over half of the almost 800 people arrested for disturbances in the past few nights in Tunisia are between the ages of 21 and 30 years old, with 31.53% between the ages of 15 and 20, said Tunisian Interior Ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani.

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

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