Tunisian protesters flooded the capital city of Tunis fighting for a stop to police repression, corruption and poverty against the grim backdrop of COVID-19. Nights of unrest and arrests plagued disenfranchised areas of 14 cities within Tunisia as protesters chanted “No more fear, the streets belong to the people” and “the people want the fall of the regime” – a slogan revitalized from the trauma of the Arab Spring.
Young people armed with rocks and petrol bombs clashed with police armed with tear gas and water cannons in a battle that left 1,400 arrested. The culmination of triggers that attribute to the protest include soaring unemployment, lack of good governance and political aims that fail to be transparent.
“When I see people migrating [to Europe] illegally, I really can’t blame them. Things are getting worse. Everywhere is closed now,” Nassredine, a political protestor, described the scenes of poverty that drove the district’s youth to violence.
Online newspaper Meshkal reports accusations of police violence and arbitrary arrests – one account described police kicking around a 16-year-old “like a ball” in the police station when his mother arrived. The interior ministry has stated intentions to investigate abuse allegation but many remain skeptical of their statement.
“We can’t accept a police state in Tunisia 10 years after the revolution … it is shameful,” said Mahmoud, a young cafe worker who did not give his family name. “There is a big gap between what this young generation is expecting and the overall ruling leadership within the government” and in national organizations and the media, said Ben Abdelkarim, who formerly worked for a Tunisian nonprofit seeking to improve governance and government accountability. “There is a real gap in understanding them and responding to their needs.”
Although Tunisia is acclaimed as one of the Arab Spring’s success stories, political and economic instability has long haunted the nation. A nation that has been constantly beset by political violence and a police union that remains unreformed and unaffected since the 2011 Arab Spring – Tunsian locals are demanding accountability, aid and a feeling of security. For change to sweep through the nation, sympathy and a desire for prosperity must first sweep through the political cabinets.
Tunisia is also grappling with the reality of Covid 19 crippling the economy and overrunning health care facilities while mourning 6,000 people. Nissaf Ben Alaya Ben Alaya threatened “drastic measures” against violators, saying the country is “at a critical juncture” in its battle against COVID-19, thus paralyzing the movement.
Local media reports suggest that protests have been ongoing for the past several weeks with violent clashes occurring almost every day in low-income areas. The leadership of Tunisia needs to adapt to the current challenges in order to respond effectively in the best interest of a fresh generation willing to fight for a more sound future.
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