While many towns in Tunisia are plagued by nighttime riots, the Tunisian Interior Ministry has announced the arrest of more than 600 people. The country is affected by an unprecedented economic crisis.
More than 600 people have been arrested, the interior ministry said on January 18, after a third night of riots in many towns in Tunisia, where police deployed to impose a curfew were targeted by young people. Unrest erupted in marginalized neighborhoods hit hard by an unprecedented economic crisis, the day after the tenth anniversary of the fall of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, on January 14, 2011.
These disturbances coincide with a general four-day lockdown that ended on January 17, in an attempt to stem an outbreak of Covid-19 cases, with a curfew from 4 p.m.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni reported 632 arrests, referring to groups of people aged 15 to 25 who “burned tires and garbage cans in order to impede the movement of security forces”. On January 17, for the third night in a row, the police targeted with stones and others retaliated with tear gas in several localities, including the vast popular district of Ettadhamen on the outskirts of Tunis.
Looting also took place in some areas. These clashes take place in a context of deteriorating social situation and political instability in Tunisia.
“This has nothing to do with the protest movements guaranteed by the law and the Constitution,” nevertheless said the spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior. “Claims normally unfold during the day […] and without criminal acts ”, he added in an interview with private radio Mosaic, reporting two wounded among the police.
Demonstrations banned due to Covid-19
Amnesty International called on the police force on January 18 to “respect the rights of those they arrest, regardless of the reasons and circumstances of their arrest”. In a statement, the NGO expressed concern about the testimony of violence against protesters and the arrest of an activist who was demonstrating peacefully on the morning of January 18.
Demonstrations are currently banned due to Covid-19. But a few dozen people marched on January 18 in the center of Tunis, denouncing the increase in poverty, “corruption from government to police”, and “police repression”. They were blocked by the police near the Ministry of the Interior.
The main union, the UGTT, called on young people to stop nocturnal protests, conducive to overruns, while recalling that the Constitution guarantees the right to demonstrate. Several informal calls to demonstrate against the cost of living and poverty were launched on Facebook for January 19 in the morning in Kairouan (center), Sfax (center-east) or Tunis in the afternoon. The army has deployed reinforcements in the regions of Bizerte (north), Sousse (east), Kasserine and Siliana (center-west) in order to protect public buildings, a spokesman for the AFP told AFP on January 18. Ministry of Defense, Mohamed Zikri.