Protester dies after being injured in crackdown on anti-government demonstrations in Tunisia

57-year-old Ridha Bouziane died in hospital five days after he was injured during protests against the government of president Kais Saied in Tunis on January 14

January 20, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Protester dies in Tunisia
Protester Reda Bouziane died after being injured during the police crackdown against anti-government protesters in Tunis on January 14. (Photo: Tunisia Pulse/Twitter)

A protester in Tunisia has died from injuries suffered during the violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrations in the capital Tunis last week, multiple news outlets reported on Wednesday, January 19. His death is the first since the start of the current round of protests against president Kais Saied after he assumed all legislative and executive power in the country last year. The death of the protester, identified as 57-year-old Ridha Bouziane, was announced by the civil society group Citizens Against the Coup on its Facebook page. The group claimed that the death was as a result of “excessive violence inflicted on the demonstrator.” The Ennahda party claimed in a statement that Bouziane was one of its members and died from injuries causing severe bleeding in his brain. 

According to news reports, Bouziane was found lying in a comatose state on Mohammed V street on Friday in the aftermath of the demonstrations which were brutally suppressed by the security forces. Protesters were attacked with tear gas canisters, water cannons and sound grenades and physically assaulted with metal batons. He was subsequently taken to a hospital where he died on Wednesday. A court in Tunis has opened an investigation into the circumstances leading to his death, although not mentioning that he was part of the protests on Friday. The court said that there were no signs of injuries on his body and that a forensic examination would be conducted to determine the cause of death.

However, refuting the court’s claims, Samir Ben Amor, a lawyer for around 35 protesters who were arrested under the pretext of violating COVID-19-related restrictions on public gatherings, attributed Bouziane’s death to the police violence on Friday. A social media user also posted a video on Twitter showing how Bouzine was brutalized and arrested during the protest. The Ennahda party in its statement said that it holds president Saied and his interior minister fully responsible for Bouziane’s death. The party added that it will seek prosecution of those involved in the “crime.”

The news of his death comes a day after over 20 Tunisian civil society and human rights groups held a press conference expressing concerns over the rapidly diminishing basic freedoms in the country and the rise in state repression. Since taking over power last year in what many described as an unconstitutional coup, president Saied has continued to consolidate his hold on power. He has extended the suspension of the national parliament and the state of emergency and granted himself special powers. He has also sidelined major parts of the constitution and announced a referendum in July this year to replace it. He announced holding general elections later in December in what appears to be an attempt to increase his chances of victory.

Most of the opposition political parties have rejected these proposals. The country’s biggest union, Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), also opposed the president’s actions.  The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) also expressed support for the UGTT and its members and denounced the government’s escalating repression. 

As the political situation in the country continues to worsen, the Tunisian people are caught in the middle of a devastating economic decline which has left millions unemployed and living in poverty with no signs of any rescue plans by the government. The economy has been struggling, a situation worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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