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Tunisia protesters, police clash anew in deprived south

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Tunisian block a road leading to the center of Tataouine on June 23, 2020, during a gathering to demand the release of detained protesters who were tried for disrupting public order. – The protesters where detained after clashes with security forces during a demonstration demanding authorities make good on a 2017 promise to provide jobs in the gas and oil sector to thousands of unemployed. (Photo by FATHI NASRI / AFP)


Tunisian youths clashed with police overnight in a town in Tunisia’s deprived south, where a protest movement is demanding jobs and services, the interior ministry said Wednesday.

“Several hundred people” gathered Tuesday night in front of a local security forces facility in Douz, 475 kilometres (295 miles) south of the capital Tunis, to protest disrupted water supplies, ministry spokesman Khaled Hayouni told AFP.

Demonstrators also came out in support of a growing protest movement underway in Tataouine, 200 kilometres southeast of Douz, where protesters are demanding authorities make good on a 2017 promise to provide jobs.

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Protesters in Douz burned tyres and threw rocks at security forces, who responded with tear gas, Hayouni said.

Calm was restored by Wednesday morning, he added.

Local private radio station Mosaique FM reported that officers were injured and patrol cars damaged.

Southern Tunisia is one of the country’s most marginalised regions, with unemployment above the national average, failing public infrastructure and a stunted private sector.

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Ten years after the revolution that toppled Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, the government is yet to address this regional inequality.

On Sunday and Monday, police in Tatouine clashed with protesters denouncing the government’s unkept promises.

For weeks they have blocked roads and sought to prevent trucks from delivering supplies to the remote El-Kamour pumping station, one of the main sites for Tunisia’s small oil industry.

The protesters insist the government honour an agreement reached after a months-long 2017 sit-in, pledging to hire thousands of unemployed workers and invest millions in the region’s development.

They are also demanding the release of a protest leader arrested overnight on Saturday and charged with “participating in a gathering likely to disturb the peace”.

A special cabinet meeting is scheduled for Friday on the situation in Tataouine, coming as the government faces tensions within its coalition.

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