TUNIS: Protesters threw stones at polices officers who repelled them with tear gas in northern Tunisia Wednesday after a peaceful rally to demand more jobs turned violent.
Two years after the revolution that toppled Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and inspired protests across the Arab world, increasing numbers of Tunisians are taking to the streets to demand economic development, disillusioned that their uprising has yet to provide prosperity and security.
The Islamist-led government that was elected after the veteran ruler fled has sought to revive the economy in the face of a decline in trade with the crisis-hit eurozone and disputes between secularists and hard-line Salafists over the direction of the state.
Witnesses said the marchers had tried to attack the police station in El-Kef when the clashes broke out.
“Police fired tear gas everywhere and beat protesters with sticks ... There are many cases of people suffering from the gas,” Karim Fadlaoui, a resident from El-Kef, told Reuters.
The farming town of about 45,000 people, about 180 km north of Tunis, has only a small number of factories and is keen for the government to invest in the area and create jobs.
Protests have started to gather pace in Tunisia again since November – the runup to December’s second anniversary of when a street peddler burned himself to death in despair at the confiscation of his fruit cart in the poor town of Sidi Bouzid. His suicide provided the spark for the uprising in Tunisia that spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.
More than 8,000 secular demonstrators gathered Monday outside the Interior Ministry in Tunis.