Poverty and hopelessness beget violence in Tunisia's suburbs

Poverty and hopelessness beget violence in Tunisia's suburbs

1/22/2021 9:42:00 PM

Poverty and hopelessness beget violence in Tunisia's suburbs

Protests have swept towns and cities throughout Tunisia for a week, often turning to violence as demonstrators denounce what they say are broken promises from the government, which hasn’t been able to turn around an economy on the verge of bankruptcy

followed the police and national guard — armed with tear gas and armored vehicles — as they pushed back the crowd throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, often shooting into narrow side-streets and causing an outcry from inhabitants as houses filled up with gas.

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Videos of police beating protesters then circulated on social media. The young people the AP interviewed were outspoken about their hatred for the police, brimming with stories of day-to day-injustices. They said that instead of President Kaïs Saied, they’d rather see El Castro — a Tunisian rapper from a similarly impoverished neighborhood — as president.

A coalition of Tunisian NGOs, including the National Union of Tunisian Journalists and Lawyers Without Borders, held a news conference Thursday to condemn the police violence — which they said was in response to “legitimate protest” — and media rhetoric that has framed the protesters as criminals. headtopics.com

“These young people did not commit crimes. They are protesters. They protested against economic and social policy," said Mehdi Jlassi, an activist and member of the journalists' union. They don’t even have hope to dream of a future that is better than the prison they find themselves in."

“There is no dialogue between the state and these young people, so they turn to radical solutions, radical protest… That’s why you see their frustration against the police.”Rim Ben Ismail, a psychologist, previously carried out a study of 800 young people in some of the neighborhoods that have seen protests in the past week.

Those she interviewed tended to be jobless, from poor families or had left school early. In the past decade, 1 million children in Tunisia have dropped out of school. Although she noted that the phenomenon of minors engaging with such protests needs more study, Ben Ismail said that their experience of the 2011 revolution may have deeply impacted them.

Visiting schools in 2011 “we saw that these children had lived through so many violent acts — the noise of the firearms, death, violence in their neighborhood — and that this had troubled them and traumatized them.”She said studies showed that prior experience of violence — in the neighborhood or in the home — would lead to a tendency to engage with such forms of radical protest. headtopics.com

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“These same young people find that the only way they can express themselves is by violence," she said. Read more: The Independent »

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