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Tunisia still gripped by social unrest

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Tunisia still gripped by social unrest


Tunisia remains gripped by the biggest wave of social unrest the country has seen for decades.

Ruled by President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali for the past 23 years, its citizens have taken to the streets to protest against his government. They complain of a lack of jobs, corruption and rising food prices in Tunisia.

Security forces have cracked down on the protests, sometimes with live ammunition. Between 21 and 50 people are dead. On Wednesday in the capital Tunis, police shot tear gas at some demonstrators.

One of Tunisia’s legally-approved opposition parties called on authorities to respect their right to protest. Maya Jribi, secretary of the Progressive Democratic Party, said the gunshots must “stop immediately” and called for a reform programme to be put in place “by a government that serves the public interest.”

President Ben Ali has promised to create 300,000 jobs in a bid to quell the unrest. Yet his plans are scant on details and Tunisians remain sceptical. “We don’t believe him. He’s been making promises since 1987. He always says we will find work and improve our situation,” said one Tunis resident.

The violence has also spread south to the towns of Douz, Thala and Sfax.

The clashes began last month when a 26-year-old jobless graduate doused himself in patrol and set himself on fire. Mohammed Bouazizi sold fruit and vegetables to make ends meet but police confiscated his produce, pushing him to his suicidal protest.

Bouazizi’s crime was that he did not have the correct permit to sell his goods on the street. He died of his injuries on January 5.

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