Anti-austerity protests in Tunisia turn deadly

Protesters have taken to the streets in Tunisia to express their anger over the government's austerity measures [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu]
Protesters have taken to the streets in Tunisia to express their anger over the government’s austerity measures [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu]

A 55-year-old man has died after a protest over government austerity measures in Tunisia, the country’s state news agency Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP) has reported.

Five others were injured during the demonstration, which took place in Tebourba, 40km west of the capital Tunis, according to TAP.

The Tunisian Ministry of Interior confirmed in a statement on Monday evening that a 55-year-old man had died in a local hospital after being admitted with symptoms of dizziness.

He suffered from a “chronic shortness of breath” and carried “no signs of violence or [having been] run over”, and a forensic doctor has been tasked with determining the cause of death, the statement said.

Speculation on social media throughout Monday evening suggested that the man had died after being hit by a security forces vehicle, but the ministry refuted this claim, saying it was likely he had suffocated from inhaling tear gas.

Other protests took place in a number of other parts of the country on Monday, following the government’s decision to raise taxes under its 2018 Finance Act.

Price hikes

The budget, which took effect on January 1, hiked fuel prices and introduced new tax measures related to the purchase of housing.

In the city of Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia, protesters took to the streets for the second day in a row on Monday to denounce price increases and call for revisions to the Finance Act, TAP reported, noting that more protests were scheduled in the coming days.

Six years since the 2011 uprising that overthrew Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has been held up as a model by avoiding the violence that affected other nations after their Arab Spring revolts.

Successive governments, however, have struggled to enact fiscal reforms that have been delayed by political infighting and government wariness of social tensions over jobs and economic conditions that helped spark the 2011 uprising.


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