Violent protests broke out in Kasserine, Tunisia, on Tuesday after a journalist self-immolated, allegedly to trigger a revolution.
On Tuesday evening, protesters in Kasserine threw stones and other objects at security forces who retaliated with tear gas, while clashes also took place in the eastern town of Jbeniana.
Interior ministry spokesman Hichem Fourati confirmed on Tuesday that 13 people had been arrested in Kasserine for “acts of destruction” including setting tires on fire and blocking highways, while five people were detained in Jbeniana following clashes with police that left at least six people injured.
Demonstrators took the streets of Tunisia after a journalist set himself ablaze to protest the country's economic problems pic.twitter.com/XOUdh93eg3
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The demonstrations were primarily a response to the suicide of 32-year-old journalist Abderrazk Zorgu, who in a video declared, “This is for the sons of Kasserine who have no means of subsistence, today I start a revolution.”
The Tunisian National Journalists’ Union subsequently called for demonstrations and a possible strike in response to his death.
The shocking act was reminiscent of the beginning of the Arab Spring, where street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi’s decision to set himself alight sparked nationwide protests that eventually led to the overthrow of dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and similar movements across the Arab world.
Despite Tunisia’s transition to democracy in 2011, the country’s leadership has failed to improve living standards for ordinary people, with high rates of inflation and mass unemployment meaning many people still live in abject poverty. In January this year, nationwide anti-austerity protests forced the government to announce a range of social reforms which included reforms to health care, housing, and general poverty relief.
“There´s a rupture between the political class and young people especially those living in insecurity in Tunisia´s interior who see their future as uncertain,” said the president of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, Messaoud Romdhani, adding that the movement will likely spread to other regions because of “the lack of a real political will to address the real problems of Tunisians.”
According to Tunisian daily Le Quotidien, Zorgu’s act was “a sign of rejection of a catastrophic situation, regional imbalances, high unemployment among young people and the misery in which our fellow citizens live in the interior regions.”
“No one can deny today that all the leaders of this country are responsible, responsible for the distress of our youth, their despair and their frustration,” they continued.