Several hundred people gathered on December 27 in front of the Union of Tunisian Workers’ headquarters in Tunis ten days after Mohamed Bouazizi, a poor street vendor in his twenties, set him self on fire in front of the regional government headquarters in the western town of Sidi Bouzid.
His desperate gesture unleashed pent-up anger about the region’s high level of unemployment, slow economic development and rampant corruption
, sparking a week of violent clashes between police and protesters in Sidi Bouzid and neighbouring towns. On December 24, police opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing one.
Two unemployed young men from Sidi Bouzid committed suicide in sign of protest. The first electrocuted himself on a pylon on Wednesday, the second jumped into a well and drowned on Sunday evening.
This kind of popular uprising is extremely rare in Tunisia, which for the past 23 years has been ruled with an iron fist by President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
"They hit us with truncheons and even threw stones at us"
Lina Ben Mhenni is a blogger and activist, she participated in the protests in Tunis.
There were about 500 of us, but there were even more policemen. We assembled on Mohamed-Ali square, but were never able to start marching: we were blocked by police when we tried to leave the square. They hit us with truncheons and even threw stones at us. Four protesters were injured, but police did not let us transport them to the hospital. Of course, police took photos of all the people protesting to identify us, and no journalists were allowed anywhere near the march."
Videos of the protests, posted on Justin.tv by Slim Amamou.
Post written with France 24 journalist Sarra Grira.