Tunisians protest over growing economic crisis and oppressive state actions

The protesters were opposing increasing police brutality and the announcement of fresh lockdown measures on Thursday. Protests took place in at least 10 cities across the country

January 18, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Police deployment following clashes in the city of Kairouan on Sunday evening. Photo: TAP news agency on Twitter

Thousands of Tunisians took to the streets for the second straight day in the capital Tunis and several other cities on Sunday, January 17. The protesters were opposing increasing police brutality and the announcement of fresh lockdown measures on Thursday.

The police and security forces used heavy force to disperse the protesters who blocked roads in as many as 10 cities in the country. Authorities arrested several protesters in the city of Tebourba on Saturday. However, the protests continued on Sunday.

According to the country’s defense minister, the army has been deployed in several cities to stop the spread of the protests.

Most of the protesters are young people who have been demanding more jobs and the curbing of the prices of essential commodities. The announcement of fresh lockdown measures has dashed the hopes of economic recovery in the country.

Tunisia is facing a second wave of the COVID-19 cases. Since the beginning of the year, it has been recording a significant rise in the number of fresh cases. The country has a total of 180,000 cases and around 5,700 deaths so far, according to John Hopkins University data. On Sunday, the country recorded a total of 2,859 fresh cases and 76 deaths. Tunisia has a total population of over 11.5 million.

COVID-19-related lockdowns have intensified the growing economic worries in the country. The country’s GDP has shrunk almost 9% last year with the main sectors of employment, tourism taking the maximum hit. According to official sources, over one-third of all youth are unemployed.

The unemployment among the educated youth is causing a lot of upheaval in the country. Several protests have broken out in recent times. On Friday, PhD holders suspended their five-day long hunger strike at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research after the president met them, TAP News Agency reported.

The current protests started on Saturday after a video of a policeman beating a shepherd in the northern city of Siliana went viral on Friday. The video incited outrage on social media and later several protests broke out in different parts of the country.


Some of the protesters also objected to the beating, recalling the tenth anniversary of the revolution which overthrew the undemocratic, corrupt regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. They were also angry as announcement of the lockdown for four days coincided with the anniversary celebrations of the revolution.