Clashes broke out for the third night in a row on Sunday in several Tunisian cities, where they threw stones at security forces despite a tight lock-in to slow down the spread of coronavirus.
In the Ettadhamen workers’ quarter on the outskirts of the capital Tunis, young men threw stones at riot police who responded with volumes of tear gas.
Authorities said they had arrested dozens of young people during consecutive nights of disruption in the capital and other cities, amid a nationwide anti-coronavirus lockdown imposed since Thursday – a decade to the day since dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled power .
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But in Ettadhamen there were no political slogans to be heard.
“These are not protests, they are young people coming from nearby neighborhoods to rob and entertain themselves,” said the 26-year-old Oussama resident.
“A protest would be during the day, visible faces,” he said.
Abdelmoneim, a waiter at a nearby cafe, said they were “bored young people” on the street, but blamed the violence on the country’s political class after the revolution.
“These criminals are the result of their failure,” the 28-year-old said.
Looting and vandalism
From the evening, young people gathered again on the roofs of the houses to lobby stones and fireworks at police and national guards.
Sirens complained when a police officer with a megaphone shouted “go home!”
Nearby, a young man filling his pockets with stones told AFP: “These are for our enemies.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni said earlier Sunday that dozens of young people, mostly between the ages of 14 and 17, had been arrested after taking to the streets in previous evenings to loot and vandalize business fronts and cars.
Videos circulating on social media showed young people burning tires, insulting the police and looting shops.
Sousse, usually a magnet for foreign holidaymakers but hit hard by the pandemic, also saw riots.
The army deployed to Sousse, as well as the cities of Bizert, Kasserine and Seliana, to protect certain government buildings, Defense Ministry official Mohamed Zekri told Reuters.
A nation in crisis
Tunisia had already had a curfew at night even before the latest shutdown, a four-day measure that is set to end on Sunday at midnight.
A decade after the revolution, many Tunisians are becoming increasingly angry at poor public services and a political class that has repeatedly proved incapable of governing cohesively.
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GDP shrank by 9% last year, consumer prices have sprouted and a third of young people are unemployed.
The most important tourism sector, already on its knees after a series of deadly jihadist attacks in 2015, has suffered a devastating blow from the pandemic.
Tunisia has registered more than 177,000 cases of coronavirus, including more than 5,600 deaths from the disease.
The health crisis and the ensuing economic misery have prompted more and more Tunisians to try to leave the country.
In Ettadhamen on Sunday night, the waiter Abdelmoneim nervously smoked a cigarette when young people fought against the police nearby.
“I see no future here,” he said.
He said he was determined to take a boat across the Mediterranean to Europe “as soon as possible and never return to this miserable place”.
( Jowharwith AFP)