A look inside escalating demonstrations rocking the North African nation amid restrictive COVID-19 containment measures.
Hundreds of Tunisians marched in the capital on Saturday to protest against police abuses they say are endangering freedoms won in the 2011 revolution that swept away authoritarian rule.
Hundreds of riot police confronted the demonstrators, leading to scuffles. Some protesters threw bottles, while police struck some demonstrators with batons.
There have been near-daily protests since mid-January, the anniversary of Tunisia’s revolution that sparked uprisings across the region in 2011, known as the Arab Spring.
Many Tunisians are angered at a political class seen as locked in power struggles and disconnected from the suffering of many people facing spiralling prices and steep unemployment.
Amid sporadic clashes, police have arrested more than 1,000 people during demonstrations over the past two weeks against financial inequality, the marginalisation of poor areas and what protesters say have been heavy-handed police tactics.
A young man died in the central city of Sbeitla last week, which his family blamed on him being hit by a tear gas canister. Amnesty International on Thursday called on Tunisian authorities to investigate his death.
In Tunis, hundreds joined a protest in the centre of the capital on Saturday with scuffles erupting as police blocked the way to the main Avenue Habib Bourguiba, where the Interior Ministry building is located.
Denouncing what they say is police repression and government corruption, some demonstrators held signs that read, “Police everywhere, justice nowhere”.
Other marchers condemned tough penalties issued in drug cases after a Tunisian court recently handed down 30-year jail terms to three people smoking drugs.
“The security forces are repressing us and want the return of a police state,” protester Majdi Sliti, 33, told AFP news agency. “We will not accept this.
“They want to steal the principles won since the revolution,” said Mohammed Smida, a protester who compared Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi to former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was overthrown in 2011 after almost 25 years in power.
“Today our right to protest is threatened by the new Ben Ali,” Smida said.