Protests erupted in Tunisia’s southern Tataouine region on Sunday June 21, after security forces arrested one of the leaders of the sit-in and road blockade organized to demand jobs and better living conditions. Following the arrest of Tarek Haddad on Saturday, security forces tried to disperse the protests on Sunday using tear gas which led to several injuries.
According to the official statement,10 protesters were arrested on Sunday.
People in Tataouine have been protesting for weeks and have blocked the main road to prevent the movement of oil from the El-Kamour pumping station. They are demanding that the government act on its agreement with Tunisian Trade Union Confederation (UGTT) signed in 2017 after similar protests which went on for three months. The government had then agreed to employ 1,500 people and invest more than USD 28 million in the region to boost employment opportunities. Activists have claimed that the agreement was never implemented by the government.
Local trade unions and the UGTT have given a call for a “general strike” on June 22 due to the non-fulfillment of their demands and against the oppressive measures undertaken by the security forces.
#Tunisia: the Administrative Committee of the local labour union in #Tataouine decided at urgent meeting Sunday to observe a general strike Monday to denounce the police intervention to break up #ElKamour sit-in, saying it will escalate if protesters are not released. #TAP_En
— TAP news agency (@TapNewsAgency) June 21, 2020
Tunisia has for the last several years faced high unemployment levels which many attribute to the flawed economic policies of the government. The problem has been compounded due to months of lockdown imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19. The restriction on the movement of people has destroyed the tourism sector which contributes almost 10% of the GDP and is one of the largest employers in the country.
According to official sources, Tunisia’s unemployment rate is expected to increase to more than 21%, compared to 15% last year. The unemployment rate in the region of Tataouine, which is also the largest region in the country in terms of geographical size, has already reached 30%. The Tunisian government has announced that the national economy may shrink as much as 7% this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.