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Tunisia’s Lockdown Can’t Hold Off Riots

Protests were continuing on Wednesday, with police pushing back hundreds of mainly young demonstrators outside the country’s parliament in the capital, Tunis. One group had marched there from the working-class district of Hay Ettadhamen, in the north of the city. The protesters chanted refrains from the revolution of the winter of 2010–11 and anti-police slogans, while inside, politicians continued to debate whether to accept or reject a proposed new government, the fifth since 2019’s inconclusive elections. The unrest continues to dominate much of public life. Across Tunisia, civil society groups and people from marginalised districts are demanding economic development, an end to police brutality and the release of an estimated 1,400 people arrested in the disturbances. Tunisia has been beset by political infighting and the police force remains almost entirely unreformed since the revolution that its own actions helped to spark. Even before the pandemic destroyed the country’s vital tourist industry, Tunisia’s economy was struggling. Unemployment – a key driver of social unrest – remained ingrained at around 15% of the labour force nationwide, increasing to 36% among 15 to 24-year-olds, a prominent demographic among those now demonstrating.