Tunisia's poor out on the streets again


In a remote town in Tunisia’s interior, protesters angry over joblessness and harsh police tactics call for the downfall of new Islamist rulers, echoing the revolt that ignited the Arab Spring two years ago.

Siliana, 140km (90 miles) from the coastal capital, has been convulsed as thousands of largely unemployed youth battle riot police firing tear gas and birdshot.

“I lost my eye because of the police, this is what Ennahda has done,” says Anis Omrani (24), referring to the Islamist party that won the North African country’s first free elections last year after the overthrow of dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

“We don’t have jobs and we’re marginalised, but they attack us savagely . . . The police of Ennahda just add another problem,” Mr Omrani says, with a patch over one eye.

Of at least 252 wounded, medical sources say 17 have been blinded through police use of birdshot. UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay condemned the government on Friday for what she called excessive violence.

“You may have taken away our eyes but you can’t take away our voice!” reads a slogan daubed in red paint on a wall.

“Game over”

“The people want another revolution” and “Ennahda, go away! Game over!” say others.

The revolutionary graffiti recall Sidi Bouzid, the deprived town to the south where a street peddler burned himself to death two years ago in despair at the confiscation of his fruit cart.

His suicide provided the spark for an uprising in Tunisia that spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.

Aware of comparisons between Siliana and Sidi Bouzid, the government temporarily removed the local governor on Saturday and promised jobs to victims of the 2010 uprising. Police stopped using birdshot. – (Reuters)