Dogfights break out during protests in Tunisia’s 2011 revolution

Protesters clash with police in Tunisian capital after crowds gather, defying new COVID-19 restrictions to mark the 11th anniversary of the revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings

Tunisia, Tunisia — Protesters defied new COVID-19 restrictions on Friday to clash with police in the Tunisian capital to mark the 11th anniversary of the revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

Tunisian police fired water cannon and tear gas at hundreds of people. Several protesters were arrested and some injured.

On Wednesday, the government reimposed a nationwide nighttime curfew and announced a ban on public gatherings, citing a surge in coronavirus infections linked to the omicron variant.

However, some politicians and civil society activists said the decision was politically motivated to prevent any January 14 anniversary demonstrations or anti-government protests.

Last July, Tunisian President Keith Saeed was given broad powers by abruptly dissolving the government and suspending parliament. His critics called the measures a “coup”, and Saeed’s subsequent consolidation of power sparked mass demonstrations for and against him.

A raft of new measures included his decision to postpone the country’s official Revolution Day from January 14 to December 17, marking the date when a Tunisian fruit merchant set himself on fire in 2010, initially sparking an uprising that sparked a series of movements in several countries later. Known as the Arab Spring. In Tunisia, a popular movement led to the overthrow of the country’s longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled on the night of the 14th.

Said has said that events after January 14 had brought to power “corrupt” politicians who “stealed” the revolution.

“The new regime wants to erase this (January 14) symbol from collective memory,” politician Issam Cheby told a recent news conference ahead of the demonstrations.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of central Tunisia despite a government ban on rallies, but were blocked from entering the city’s main thoroughfare by a large number of police and barricades.

“We resisted the coup and we still resisted it in a civilized way, even though (Sayed) used savage tactics against us. The citizens came home empty-handed, not afraid of him,” one protester, who did not want to give his last name, said on Sunday. Five of the demonstrations said.

Another protester, Sonia, said: “Why are there so many security presences that make the streets look like barracks? Is (the government) afraid of us because of the coronavirus? Why did the scientific committee choose this date to ban demonstrations?”

“Same lie as before, Mr. President, your lie today is clear and proving that you are afraid. What we see today is evidence of your fear,” she said.

In September, Said partially suspended the country’s 2014 constitution and gave himself the power to rule by decree. Observers have since warned that democracy is going backwards, while rights activists have denounced the arrests of several figures in recent months, including the recent arrest of the vice-chairman of Ennahdha, Tunisia’s largest Islamist party, and former justice minister Noureddine Bhiri.

Said last month announced a roadmap to emerge from the country’s political crisis, starting with a partially digitized national consultation to be launched on January 15. He said the consultations would inform a planned referendum on political reform in July, followed by parliamentary elections at the end of the year.