|Some Tunisians remain sceptical of the post-revolution government that they say does not honor “martyrs” [EPA]
Tunisian security forces have used teargas and fired live ammunition into the air to disperse a crowd of more than 3,000 protesters in central-west Tunisia, official and union sources said.
Wednesday’s violence in the town of Kasserine took place as members of Tunisia’s interim government formally resigned following the formation of the country’s first-ever elected constituent assembly.
Protesters said that they took to the streets because they felt the country’s new authorities had failed to recognise local people’s contribution to a revolution earlier this year which inspired the “Arab Spring” uprisings.
The clashes underlined the tough task facing the new government, elected in the country’s first democratic vote last month, in meeting expectations for jobs and better living standards in poor provincial towns.
“Young men are burning tyres in the street,” one resident, Bouraoui Sadaoui, told the Reuters news agency from the town, which is about 300km southwest of the capital, Tunis. “They are throwing rocks and surrounding the town jail.
“They want to set fire to the prison … The military fired into the air and are using tear gas to disperse the people,” he said. “Several people have been injured by tear gas.”
“Arab Spring” origins
Tunisia became the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” uprisings in January when a wave of protests forced Zine al-Abidine, the former president, to flee to Saudi Arabia.
The revolution set the template for uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen which have re-shaped the political landscape of the Middle East.
Kasserine was one of the first towns to rise up against Ben Ali’s rule. It also suffered some of the highest casualties of the revolution when Ben Ali’s police opened fire on demonstrators.
The trigger for Wednesday’s protest was a ceremony a day earlier to inaugurate Tunisia’s new constitutional assembly in the capital.
During the ceremony the names of people killed in the revolution were read out, but residents said some of Kasserine’s victims were omitted.
“The situation is serious here,” a local man called Adnen Nasri told Reuters from Kasserine.
“People are very angry about how the town was marginalised by missing out the names of the town’s martyrs, who were at the origins of the revolution.
“Thousands of young people are now in a stand-off with the security forces in front of the prison,” he said.
The Ennahda party, which dominates the new governing coalition, has said it is committed to creating jobs, especially for towns like Kasserine away from the more affluent area on the Mediterranean coast.