Tunisian police fire tear gas on unemployment protesters

Published January 20th, 2016 - 05:00 GMT

Police have attacked hundreds of protesters angry at growing unemployment in Tunisia’s west-central city of Kasserine, following the suicide of an unemployed young man in the area.

Security forces fired tear gas on Tuesday to scatter the demonstrators as they assembled in front of the headquarters of the Kasserine Governorate, while some threatened to commit suicide.

"Security forces chased the protesters in the streets of the city and fired tear gas," Hatem Salhi, a witness, said.

Witnesses also said furious demonstrators sought to storm the building but were stopped by soldiers and police officers.

The rally comes amid high unemployment and inflation as well as a continued marginalization of rural towns in the North African country, which saw an uprising over the same problems in 2011.

Tunisia witnessed an unemployment rate of 15.3 percent the end of 2015 compared to 12 percent in 2010 and university graduates account for one third of those out of job in the country.

Kasserine is one of the poorest regions in Tunisia as its highest regional unemployment hit about 30 percent.

According to residents and local media, a jobless man identified as Ridha Yahyaoui killed himself after local authorities did not accept to give him a post in the public sector.

Back in December 2010, a young fruit seller named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight to death to protest police harassment and unemployment in the central town of Sidi Bouzid.

His action triggered widespread street protests that brought down former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had been in power for over two decades, in 2011.

The success of Tunisia’s revolution led to other revolutions in the same year that ousted autocratic rulers in other Arab states, including Egypt and Libya.

Also on Tuesday, the main UGTT union and largest industry association reached an agreement to raise wages for about 1.5 million private sector employees in a good news for workers.

The union had threatened a general strike if Tunisian Chamber of Commerce and Industry did not agree to increase wages.

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