National Guard station burnt down in Tunisia after security forces kill one during anti-landfill protests

Local residents have been opposing the reopening of the landfill for months, expressing concerns about diseases and effects on public health and the environment

November 11, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Tunisia protests
(Photo: Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency)

Tunisia witnessed further violence after a protester was killed by the security forces on Monday, November 8, during a demonstration against the reopening of a controlled landfill in the town of Aguereb in Sfax. The protester died from asphyxiation after inhaling tear gas fired by the security forces trying to suppress the protest. In retaliation, angry protesters burned down a National Guard station on Tuesday after security forces withdrew from the area. The biggest labor union in Tunisia, the UGTT, has called for a general strike to be observed in public and private sectors as demonstrations continue to take place against the controversial landfill reopening, which residents say is a violation of their rights and poses serious risks to health.

The man killed was identified as 35-year-old Abderrazek Lacheheb. The hospital where he was taken for treatment said in a statement that he died from asphyxia. His cousin blamed the police for his death, confirming that he had been a victim of the tear gas fired by them. The government has claimed that Lacheheb did not die due to tear gas inhalation but from an unrelated health condition. Tunisian human rights groups in a statement regarding the protests and the ensuing violence said that the town saw “a violent intervention by security forces on Monday night to force the reopening of the Qena rubbish dump,” adding that “the massive use of tear gas caused the death of Abderrazek Lacheheb.”

The landfill, which was closed until Monday, had led to the accumulation of large amounts of waste in the open from households, streets, markets and even hospitals in the city of Sfax, the second largest in Tunisia. In September this year, residents forced the closure of the landfill due to public health and environmental concerns. Following its closure, city councils in the region stopped collecting trash, complaining of a lack of alternatives for waste disposal. Protests and anger among the general public was growing for weeks.

The ministry of environment reopened the landfill on Monday despite a judicial order prohibiting the use of the site for waste disposal purposes. Local witnesses reported seeing workers beginning to collect and transport waste to the Aguereb landfill. Hundreds of young protesters gathered in the area to oppose the use of the site, resulting in clashes with the security forces. Protesters reportedly threw stones at the security forces, who responded by using tear gas to break up the protests.