Job protests escalate in Tunisia

Demonstrations involving around 1000 people in the capital are halted by security forces before they reach main street.

    Tunisian security forces stood guard as people demonstrated to show solidarity with residents of Sidi Bouzid [AFP]

    Tunisian police have used batons to disperse a rare demonstration in Tunis, the capital, calling for jobs in a show of solidarity with youths protesting in poorer regions.

    Around 1,000 people took part in the demonstration on Monday, called by independent trade union activists. Security forces prevented them from marching towards a main Tunis thoroughfare.

    A Reuters reporter saw at least a dozen protesters sustaining light injuries from police batons, mainly to the head, and some others fainted.

    Protests are rare in Tunisia - which has been run for 23 years by President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and works closely with Western governments to combat al-Qaeda - but have been gathering force in recent weeks.

    The Tunis protest followed the deadly shooting by police of a jobless graduate in Bouziane, south of Tunis, last Friday.

    Clashes broke out earlier this month in the town of Sidi Bouzid after a man committed suicide in a protest about unemployment.

    The protests later spread to several neighbouring cities such as Sousse, Sfax and Meknassi.

    Show of support

    One young woman at the Tunis demonstration told Reuters: "Our demand is employment ... We are here to support the youth of Sidi Bouzid and demand work".

    The protesters chanted slogans such as "We need work" and "Stop the corruption", and carried banners including one that read "Free Sidi Bouzid's prisoners".

    Officials have declined to say how many people were detained over the clashes in Sidi Bouzid.

    Tunisia remains relatively prosperous compared to African peers but several international right groups say its government crushes dissent, an accusation it denies.

    The North African country has become a regional focus for international financial institutions since announcing a plan to complete current account convertibility of its dinar currency over the 2010-2012 period.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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