Tunisian protesters defy city lockdown

Tunisian protesters defy city lockdown
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Tunisians lift placards as they demonstrate against the government and police repression in the capital Tunis on February 6, 2021, at a rally in commemoration of the 8th anniversary of the assassination of prominent leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid. (AFP)
Tunisian protesters defy city lockdown
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Members of the Tunisian police confront protesters demonstrating against the government and police repression in the capital Tunis on February 6, 2021, at a rally commemorating the 8th anniversary of the assassination of prominent leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid. (AFP)
Tunisian protesters defy city lockdown
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A Tunisian man lifts a placard against Assembly (parliament) speaker Rached Ghannouchi, during a protest against the government and police repression in the capital Tunis on February 6, 2021. (AFP)
Tunisian protesters defy city lockdown
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Tunisians flash the victory sign as they protest against the government and police repression in the capital Tunis on February 6, 2021, at a rally in commemoration of the 8th anniversary of the assassination of prominent leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid. (AFP)
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Updated 07 February 2021

Tunisian protesters defy city lockdown

Tunisian protesters defy city lockdown
  • Riot police deployed cordons around the city center
  • The rally was held to mark the anniversary of the 2013 killing of a prominent activist

JEDDAH: Tunisians defied a police lockdown and blocked roads on Saturday to take part in the country’s largest protest in years.
Riot police and security forces cordoned off swaths of Tunis city center and tried to prevent both cars and people from entering the streets around Avenue Habib Bourguiba, but thousands of demonstrators made it through.
“I lived 10 years in freedom ... I am not ready to lose it,” said protester Haytem Ouslati, 24.
Demonstrators raised placards condemning police violence and chanted: “No fear. The street belongs to the people.”
Another protester, Naima Selmi, said: “We won’t accept Tunisia becoming a barracks. We ask the president to intervene and protect freedoms.”
For the first time in a wave of protests that have spread across Tunisia, Saturday’s rally was backed by the UGTT union, Tunisia’s most powerful political organization with a million members.
Union official Samir Cheffi said the protest was needed to protect liberties. “Today is a cry of alarm to defend the revolution, to protect freedoms under threat,” he said.
The protest took place on the anniversary of the assassination of secular activist and lawyer Chokri Belaid by a hard-line Islamist in February 2013. A decade after Tunisia’s revolution, its political system is mired in endless squabbling between the president, prime minister and parliament while the economy stagnates.
Protests that began last month over inequality have increasingly focused on the large number of arrests and reports of abuse of detainees, which the government has denied. Demonstrators on Saturday shouted their opposition to the Islamist Ennahda party, which has taken part in successive government coalitions, and chanted the 2011 slogan: “The people want the fall of the regime.”