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Tunisian Official Arrested over Street Vendor’s Suicide that Sparked Protests

Tunisian Official Arrested over Street Vendor’s Suicide that Sparked Protests

Tuesday, 27 September, 2022 - 05:45
Tunisian flag is raised up to the highest flagpole in Tunis, Tunisia on 20 March 2017 [Amine Landoulsi/Anadolu Agency]

Tunisian security authorities arrested on Monday the mayor of Mornag, a town south of Tunisia, after the suicide of an unlicensed street vendor whose scale was seized by municipal police.

The vendor, Mohamed Amine Dridi, 25, hanged himself on Saturday, two days after municipal police prevented him from selling fruits at a stall.

The suicide sparked popular nightly protests and clashes in the city after the victim’s family accused the municipal police of preventing Amine from working, and of seizing his scale, and pushing him into forced unemployment.

On Sunday night, street protests and clashes erupted between young protesters and security members, who used tear gas to disperse the angry demonstrators.

Similar tragic incidents are frequent between Tunisian police forces and street vendors in a country where the parallel economy is above 50 percent.

Head of the Tunisian Federation of Municipalities, Adnan Bouassida, rejected the arrest of the mayor of Mornag.

He told local media outlets that the detention is not justified since the mayor is implementing legal measures against street vendors working without licenses.

On Monday, the Interior Ministry said it was investigating the circumstances of the young man’s death.

It later affirmed the vendor who committed suicide had "serious family problems", an allegation denied by his family.

Meanwhile, demonstrators took to the streets on Sunday night in Douar Hicher, an industrial suburb of Tunis, in the governorate of Manouba.

They protested against poor living conditions, price hikes and food shortage over the past few months, lifting loaves of bread in the air.

Angry youths also burned tires in a new escalation of pressure on the Tunisian authorities.

The North African country is dealing with a grave financial crisis, with an inflation running at 8.6 percent and shortages of food items in stores across the country.

The protests came at a time when Tunisia is also witnessing a severe political crisis, since President Kais Saied seized control of the executive authority last year and dissolved parliament, in a move his opponents described as a coup.

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