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Tunisia: Violence Flares after Popular Rallies Marking Revolution’s Anniversary

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Thousands of Tunisians flooded into the center of the capital Tunis on Sunday to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the revolution that ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, capping a week of protests against the government they say now threatens its legacy.

Tunisia

After a peaceful day, violence broke out in the evening. Police used teargas on dozens of young protesters in the deprived Tunis suburb of Ettadhamen, just hours after the president visited to launch social changes aimed at quelling unrest.

Beji Caid Essebsi made his first trip to the area after days of mass protests across the country, with people taking to the streets in opposition to a harsh new budget which pushes up the prices of necessities.

Essebsi's visit to a youth center was intended to soothe tensions in Ettadhamen, which last week endured night-time clashes between young protesters and police. He handed out loans to young people and announced improved aid for the poor and healthcare provisions.

However, like many of this week's demonstrations around the country, violence erupted after dark, prompting another crackdown of the sort that has been condemned by critics as being too heavy handed. At least one person has been killed this week, dozens injured and around 800 people detained, according to the interior ministry.

The government said the increases in prices and tax were necessary to balance the books and meet terms demanded by an IMF loan that is helping keep the country afloat.

But for Tunisians frustrated by years of economic stagnation, made worse after terror attacks in 2015 decimated the vital tourism industry, the prospect of more expensive food, fuel, internet and other goods was enough to send many back on to the streets.

Seven years after dictator Ben Ali fled abroad, the country has cycled through six governments. Too many of its citizens have seen no sign of the hoped-for transformation in the economy and their lives.

"Tunisia is at a crossroads," said Messaoud Romdhani, a veteran campaigner against Ben Ali and president of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights. "We need to keep the pressure up, most of our social and economic rights have not been delivered."

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

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