Hundreds of people are marching on the freeway near Siliana, blocking all traffic between the city and Tunis. According to an eyewitness account, the march involves people from all walks of life.
The General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) called yesterday for a march against police brutality in Siliana, an impoverished governate in the interior north-west of Tunisia.
The demonstrators will travel a 5-kilometer loop, calling for an end to the violence and the dismissal of the governor of Siliana, Ahmed Zine Mahjoubi. “This march is meant to transmit a message to authorities, that neglected our calls for the governor’s resignation,” said Dr. Hassen Manai, a member from the Tunisian League of Human Rights, to Tunisia Live
yesterday. In a symbolic act, the demonstrators will march away from the city, satirically offering to leave the city in order to let the government rule in whatever fashion it deems appropriate.
“I am a higher educated person, and I still do not have job, I’ve been unemployed since 2009,” said Sami Guirat, a participant at the demonstration. “I am participating in this march to push the authorities to find solutions to our social problems and to penalize those who shot and blinded protesters.”
The demonstrations, which began four days ago, have involved several clashes between the police, and has left Siliana with a great deal of damages and roadblocks.
1:55 p.m. The march, headed by UGTT leaders, was calm this morning. The protesters walked approximately 10km on the freeway that heads to Tunis before turning back to Siliana’s city center.
The protest seemed to fade away until young protesters headed to the police headquarters and are now throwing rocks at nearby police forces.
2:15 p.m. The police is now attempting to disperse protesters with tear gas.
2:30 p.m. Around a hundred protesters are gathered in front of the UGTT’s headquarters in Tunis’ Mohamed Ali square in support of fellow demonstrators in Siliana. They are condemning what they consider an excessive use of force by security agents against protesters in Siliana during the past two days.
This protest is organized by the Union of the Unemployed and the General Union of Tunisian Students, known by its acronym UGET.
“Our main objective is threefold: stop the repression of Siliana inhabitants, fire Ahmed Zine Mahjoubi, the governor of Siliana, and the resignation of the government,” said Bilal Rekik, a youth member of the Popular Front political coalition.
Some, present at today’s protest in Tunis, floated the idea of sending a caravan of union members to support Siliana protesters in the face of what they see as police suppression. “We are thinking about organizing a caravan to Siliana to break the siege on the region,” said Ayoub Amara, a leading member in the Union of Tunisian Communist Youth.
5:20 p.m. The UGTT organized a peaceful protest in Siliana this morning with people of all kinds attending, but now the demonstrators are mainly young people, and have begun to throw stones and Molotov cocktails at security forces.
The National Guard has intervened with tanks and begun to fire live bullets into the air in an effort to disperse the crowd.