The situation in the southeastern town of Agareb has returned to normality after a weekend marked by confrontations between residents and National Guard forces. The unrest came the day after a local motorcyclist was hit by a National Guard vehicle on Friday evening, January 18.
Member of the UGTT labor union, Taieb Bahri, who followed the events in Agareb from the ground, explained to Tunisia Live that the motorcyclist’s death was not necessarily the reason for the clashes.
“The involvement of the National Guard [in the accident] was a coincidence. Anyone could have been in their place,” Bahri said. “It was fate.”
“People as well as the victim’s family understand it was an accident, yet [the unrest] was due to the… reaction of some security agents that allowed tension to arise,” Bahri continued.
On Saturday, as residents were bringing the motorcyclist’s casket from the local mosque to a nearby cementary, recounted Bahri, some young people in the funeral procession held signs critical of the National Guard, which responded with tear gas.
Such a reaction prompted further protests in front of the local National Guard station. Security forces resorted again to tear gas in a bid to disperse demonstrators, who were calling for the withdrawal of the National Guard from the town and the deployment of national army units instead, said Bahri.
Regional National Guard officials were not available for comment at the time of publication.
Governor of Sfax Fathi Derbali called the reaction of protesters “exaggerated,” state news agency TAP reported.
After security forces withdrew from Agareb in response to protesters’ demands, a group of residents stormed the local headquarters of the National Guard on Sunday and burnt documents and other such records without damaging the surrounding equipment. The reason for the selective destruction of paperwork remains unknown.
With the departure of security agents, locals have taken it upon themselves to establish a committee for local law enforcement and are addressing the security vacuum in the area.
“People have volunteered their time to safeguard public institutions until the military is deployed,” Bahri explained.
In addition, residents are currently cleaning the streets from the debris that resulted from the clashes and reopening their businesses.