SEVEN years since the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit and vegetable vendor whose self-immolation set off a revolution in his home country and the wider “Arab Spring,” Tunisians are once again taking to the streets.
The Tunisian government has announced a wave of reforms, reacting to days of demonstrations, which seen more than 800 people arrested.
Protests erupted over a new austerity budget that means a tax hike and price rises for basic goods. In many places demonstrations turned violent: the army has deployed; and hundreds have been arrested. All of this comes as many Tunisians feel that the promise of democracy has not trickled down, and as an increasing number attempt the dangerous sea journey to Europe.
By October, Tunisia was the top country of origin for migrants arriving in Italy. Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said 2018 would be the “last difficult year for Tunisians”, and he believes the budget’s tax hikes are the only long-term way to put the country’s economy on an even keel.
But with protestors demanding minimum wage increases, welfare, and concerned about the price of bread, it’s clear ordinary Tunisians are willing to wait it out.
Officials said plans had been submitted to parliament to reform medical care, housing and increase aid to the poor. It waits to be seen if these will be enough to meet the protestors’ demands.