A few days before the seventh anniversary of the Jasmine Revolution, street protests are again roiling Tunisia, with one dead, barricades of burning tires, looting, and widespread clashes between demonstrators and police in at least a dozen cities. They tell the story of a country where little has changed since the fall of the Ben Ali regime, at least on the societal level.
The usual demands for jobs and social justice are now joined by an outrage over the price hikes coming in the wake of the last budget bill, which have hit gasoline, phones and internet prices, among other “necessities.” Also fueling the exasperation against the Youssef Chahed government is the fact that, after the jihadist attacks of 2015, not only has revenue from tourism collapsed but fundamental rights were also curtailed, including the right to protest, as there has been a continuous state of emergency in Tunisia since the attacks.
The way that the protests in recent days have spread—from the capital to Gafsa, through Thala, Feriana, Sbeitla, Kasserine and other urban centers of the Kasserine Governorate, areas that are always hotbeds of social discontent—is thus taking on an even greater importance. There was also a march in Sidi Bouzid, the place where the 2011 uprising broke out which ended up sweeping away Ben Ali and opened the floodgates for the Arab Spring. This time, dozens of injured were recorded, as well as dozens of arrests.