Protests Mount in Tunisia over Economic Woes, with Hundreds Arrested

Tunisian youths clashed with security forces in cities across this North African nation for a fourth night on Monday, burning tires and hurling gasoline bombs to protest worsening economic problems, police violence and poor government services, the Washington Post reported. Security forces have retaliated with tear gas and water cannons to disperse the hundreds of teenagers. While scenes of mayhem and chaos captured in videos zipped across social media, there were also peaceful demonstrations. Hundreds have been arrested, triggering calls for restraint from human rights activists and civil society groups. By Tuesday morning, the military had been dispatched to protect public buildings and conduct joint patrols with police units in several cities to quell the protests. The explosion of anger follows Tunisia’s commemoration last Thursday of the 10th anniversary of the uprisings that toppled the nation’s longtime autocrat, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The revolution touched off a series of revolts across the Arab world, now commonly referred to as the Arab Spring, that led to the ouster of dictators in Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Since then, Tunisia has been lauded as the only nation to have emerged from the Arab Spring revolts as a democracy. But despite its unique standing, the country has remained fragile, struggling with economic woes, political infighting and the threat of Islamic extremism. Tension and frustration have grown over high unemployment rates, falling living standards, poor state services and public spending cuts mandated by an International Monetary Fund-backed loan program. The coronavirus pandemic has added to the economic and social woes, further shattering an economy highly dependent on tourism. Last week, a new pandemic lockdown added to the grievances of the protesters. Read more.