General Strike in Tunisia
UNEMPLOYED graduates attacked by riot police.
A general strike was called today in Tunisia in response to the still deteriorating economic situation, and government repression against the unemployed and rights protesters.
Significantly today's strike was called from Sidi Bouzid, the town which can claim to have started the "Arab Spring".
It was in Sidi Bouzid on December 17, 2010, that shocked and angry local people clashed with police, after a distressed young street vendor called Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in protest at the authorities' seizure of his goods, after he'd refused to pay a bribe to officials, and sufffered police harassment and violence as a result. He died of his injuries on January 4, 2011.
In early January 2011, more clashes with the police in Sidi Bouzid led to at least 20 deaths. To make sure people elsewhere knew about this, protesters in Sidi Bouzid took pictures and video clips including police firing live rounds, and circulated these on the internet. The protests turned into a nationwide uprising which reached the capital, forcing President Ben Ali to flee the country on January 14, 2011.
The whole Arab world was shaken, and the movement has not stopped. Tunisia itself meanwhile acquired a new government whose leaders promise to blend Islamic values with liberal reform. But the continued dominance by capitalism means the problems that brought the people's uprising persist. Here's a report from a Tunisian friend:
Following protests and demonstrations in Tunisia over the bad economic situation, unemployed graduates from Sidi Bouzid marched to Tunis on foot and arrived last Sunday. But the police barred their way and stopped them holding any demonstration on the Grand Avenue Bourguiba, named after Tunisia's founding president and anticolonial leader.
Since March there has been a law banning all protests on Avenue Bourguiba, the site where mass marches ousted the dictator Ben Ali in January 2011. Following this new law the Minister of the Interior (Ali Laarayedh, a leader of the Ennahda islamist party and himself a former political prisoner and survivor of torture) has applied the law to all Tunisian citizens indiscriminately. His action has angered the people of Sid Bouzid who have now called a general strike for 11 April.(Ironically Laarayedh has been committed to enhancing the party’s image through promoting its moderate and compliant values as appropriate for Tunisian society. Ennahda members’ years in prison have helped 'enlarge our views to encompass Western values,' he said before the election, as reported on the Tunisia Live website).Here in Kasserine, the town which lost the largest number of people during the Tunisian revolution, there have been two big demonstrations , last night and today 10 April at noon. The atmosphere is one of anger, insecurity and protest. Its cause is the continuing unemployment, one year and four months after the uprising in which cost so many lives.Nothing has changed in Kasserine: no development or rebuilding, no government infrastructure and no recruiting for jobs. Meanwhile, on the other side of our social landscape, there is bad treatment from the new local government authorities. Seriously injured people and the families of those who were killed have been told they are 'ineligible for assistance'.
The trial of Moncef Lajimi, and the other vile snipers and policemen accused of shooting on unarmed demonstrators last year, is always being adjourned and still has no clear outcome.Moreover the cost of living has risen critically for ordinary people. The prices of food, vegetables, fruit and staples are sky high. All these things are leaving people worried, angry and sad. From that point protest becomes inevitable.The two demonstrations in Kasserine have not been reported, and here we have not heard full details of what happened yesterday 9 April on the Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis. That was the Day of the Martyrs, the date commemorating those who died in the revolution.
Thanks to Amanda Sebastyen for translating above, and for this update:
The ban on demonstrations has now been contested by democratic opposition members of parliament with a peaceful protest march.
In an interview on national television, Tunisian Minister of the Interior Ali Laarayedh justified police assaults against civilians, activists, and journalists by saying that protesters had initiated the violence. Rachid Ghannouchi's self-justifying press conference is reported in the links below.