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Tunisians mark sixth anniversary of revolution, protests erupt

15 January 2017 15:55

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People in Tunisia have marked the sixth anniversary of a revolution that ended authoritarianism in their country and inspired a string of uprisings in other Arab dictatorships.

While the 2011 Tunisian revolution is generally considered the most successful one among the wave of revolts that jolted Arab monarchies in the Middle East and North Africa, its sixth-year anniversary on Saturday, while largely peaceful, also saw protests in some major cities over a deteriorating economic situation.

Crowds gathered without much fanfare in the capital, Tunis, waving national flags and singing the Tunisian national anthem. According to local media, no other ceremonies had been organized elsewhere in Tunisia.

Performers march past the Ministry of the Interior during celebrations marking the sixth anniversary of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, in Tunis, Tunisia, January 14, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

But spontaneous protests erupted in Tunisia’s central and southern regions, where President Beji Caid Essebsi had planned to visit in order to mark the 2011 uprising.

Protests sporadically led to clashes between police and protesters, who had taken to the streets in several Tunisian towns to voice their anger at a dearth of job opportunities.

In the west-central region of Gafsa, angry youths protested against a presidential visit by blocking a road and throwing stones at the president’s convoy. Security forces reportedly fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.

Unemployed protesters shout slogans during a demonstration demanding that the government provide them with job opportunities, as Tunisia marks the sixth anniversary of its 2011 revolution, in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, January 14, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

In the central town of Sidi Bouzid, hundreds of demonstrators rallied in front of the local governorate building, demanding jobs as well as fundamental changes aimed at the betterment of the Tunisian economy.

Similar demonstrations were also staged in several southern towns, including Ben Guerdane, with protesters burning tires and declaring a general strike in protest at a lack of economic development.

Riot police officers clash with protesters during a demonstration over jobs in Ben Guerdane, Tunisia, January 14, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

The Saturday developments came as Prime Minister Youssef Chahed had acknowledged on national television a day earlier that authorities had so far failed to address the grievances of the Tunisian people.

“If we want this democracy to become strong and resistant, we must achieve the economic and social objectives of the revolution, namely the economy and dignity,” he said. “Today, we are not achieving this because unemployment and social inequalities have increased.”

The presidential office later announced that Essebsi was to embark on development projects that  would provide more job opportunities in the North African country.

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