TUNISIA

Stores left empty as panicked Tunis residents stock up on goods

 The violent protests that have rocked Tunisia for the past four weeks reached the capital, Tunis, for the first time on December 11. The government responded by ordering a curfew in the city, prompting panicked residents to stock up in view of future goods shortages. 

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Empty store shelves in a supermarket outside Tunis. Photo sent by our Observer Sofia L.

 

The violent protests that have rocked Tunisia for the past four weeks reached the capital, Tunis, for the first time on December 11. The government responded by ordering a curfew in the city, prompting panicked residents to stock up in view of future goods shortages.

 

Tuesday evening protesters clashed with riot police in Tunis’s blue-collar suburbs of Ettadhamoun and El-Intilaka. Witnesses said groups of youngsters torched vehicles and attacked government offices.

Troops were deployed in the capital for the first time on Wednesday as hundreds of protesters gathered on Mohammed Ali Square. On Wednesday evening Tunisian radio stations aired a statement by the Interior Ministry announcing a curfew in Tunis and surrounding governorates from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.

 

Neither President Ben Ali's sacking of the interior minister nor the promise to release known political opponents arrested since the start of the protests have appeased public anger. The opposition Progressive Democratic Party said Thursday that the announcement fell far short of the “deep reforms” required to deal with the crisis. 

Today's protest in the central Tunis

Screenshots of videos sent by our Observer.

“People rushed to stores to stock up on food”

Sofia (pseudonym) is a student in the governorate of Ariana, in the Greater Tunis region (which includes four governorates: Tunis, Ben Arous, Ariana and La Manouba).

 

 

You could sense the panic in the streets of Tunis on Wednesday morning. As rumours of a curfew spread, people became more and more nervous that they would be blocked in their homes with nothing to eat.

 

I went out to get some groceries and noticed that many salesmen were emptying their shop fronts and lowering their shutters. I tried to speak to several vendors. They were apologetic, saying they had to close shop, but without giving me a reason.

I also saw clothes shops empty their stocks into trucks to before closing to avoid merchandise being stolen. In supermarkets there was a massive rush to stock up on lasting food produce, and shelves were quickly left empty.

I wanted to go to the city centre at around 2pm, but my friends urged me not to. The entire perimeter was cordoned off by police. Security was strongly reinforced after yesterday’s protests. Today there was a demonstration organised by teachers protesting school closures. I heard that it was violently repressed by the army."