Demonstrators in Tunisia protested for the fourth-consecutive day against the worsening social and economic crisis in the country as the president showed up at one rally and told them to stop.
Blocking streets and setting barricades on fire on Monday, demonstrators clashed with police who responded by firing tear gas. Protesters have looted shops and threw stones and Molotov cocktails at official buildings and businesses in some areas.
President Kais Saied visited Ariana, a city near the capital Tunis, and asked people not to let others take advantage of their anger and poverty.
“Through you, I want to speak to all the Tunisian people, I know the state of poverty and I also know who is exploiting your poverty. Don’t let anyone exploit your misery, don’t attack private or public property. We live today because of moral values and not because of theft or looting,” Saied told a crowd.
Tunisians angry about the high unemployment rate and the financial crisis in the North African nation have protested since Friday in Kasserine, Tunis and several other cities.
Demonstrators shouted: “Dissolve the parliament, dissolve the parliament” on Monday.
The defence ministry deployed the army in some regions to protect private and public property. It said troops said will conduct joint patrols with security forces in the regions of Siliana, Kasserine, Sousse and Bizerte, where clashes with police broke out.
The interior ministry said authorities made 630 arrests linked to the violence on Sunday alone.
Arab Spring’s 10 year anniversary
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International called for restraint, citing footage showing officers beating and dragging people they had detained, and said authorities should immediately release Hamza Nassri Jeridi, a rights activist arrested on Monday.
“Security forces must immediately refrain from using unnecessary and excessive force to disperse protesters in the capital and several governorates against marginalisation, police violence, poverty and lack of job opportunities,” it said.
Tunisia on Thursday commemorated the 10th anniversary since the flight into exile of iron-fisted autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, after a popular revolt that foreshadowed pro-democracy uprisings, strife and war in the region during what became known as the Arab Spring.
Long touted as the Arab Spring’s lone success story, Tunisians increasingly sense that the revolution has failed to deliver on its promises, including the development of the rural and less industrialised interior regions.
Despite numerous democratic elections, protests continue to break out, especially in the central and southern regions where youth joblessness reaches 30 percent and the poverty level is above 20 percent.
According to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, more than 1,000 demonstrations took place in November alone. Months of sit-in protests paralysed production of oil and phosphate, a key resource, costing billions of dollars in lost state revenues.