Over 300 Tunisian protesters were arrested Thursday in connection to widespread demonstrations against new austerity measures, Interior Ministry Spokesman Khelifa Chiban has announced.
With one protester dead, several injured and a total of over 600 arrests, human rights groups have denounced Tunisian authorities for adopting indiscriminate means of repression and “inexplicable violence.”
“The police are arresting protesters in every region,” Heythem Guesmi, a member of the Manich Msamah organization, told The Guardian. “They’re not even interested in the looters and the anarchists. They’re seeking our protesters and accusing them of things that just don’t make sense.”
The peaceful protests, which began last week, took a violent turn Monday evening with demonstrations erupting in at least 10 locations across the country, including the nation’s capital, Tunis.
Citizens rebelled against the government decision to raise prices on a number of household goods, including data and telephone services, coffee, tea, cooking gas and cars, among hundreds of other items. Salary levels, however, remain stagnant as job opportunities slip away and employment for younger generations are likely to decrease.
State news agency Tunis Afrique Presse reported numerous acts of vandalism, looting, the burning of national security offices and a synagogue bombed with a petrol explosive.
Tunisia's unity government — which includes Islamists, secular parties and independents — has portrayed the unrest as driven by "criminal elements."
"The government will not revise the budget or even some of its articles because some troublemakers have come out in the street," Investment Minister Zied Ladhari told Mosaique FM radio.
Activists like Ahmed Sassi, however, hold a diametrically opposed opinion.
“These are well-educated, well-behaved people, not hooligans or lawbreakers in any way,” Sassi told The Guardian.