A mass suicide has been attempted by unemployed graduates in the western border town of Kasserine over the situation faced by many of the region’s long term jobless.
27 unemployed graduates swallowed toxic substances outside the Governorates headquarters, Mosaique reported. Following the attempt, they were transported to the regional hospital where medical sources confirmed that 11 of the protesters had been discharged. However, one of the demonstrators, a woman of unknown age, is considered to be critical and remains in intensive care.
Speaking to KasserineFm, Manaim Tarchi, spokesperson for the Kasserine protesters, told the radio station that the suicide attempt had come after the protesters had lost faith in what they had come to see as the government’s endless promises of jobs and infrastructure reform.
Commenting to Tunisia Live, a representative of the unemployed graduates’ union, the UDC, (Union des Diplomes Chomeurs) Cherif Khraifi stressed that this current protest is a continuation of that which followed the death of Ridha Yahyaoui in January 2016. Yahyaoui, an unemployed graduate from Kasserine, was electrocuted after climbing an electricity pole in protest over social conditions within the region. Yahyaoui’s death sparked a series of protests resulting in rioting and ultimately, a nationwide curfew.
Khraifi added that a separate demonstration had been ongoing in front of the Ministry of Employment in Tunis for eight months following the apparent dismissal of the unemployed graduates’ concerns by former Employment Minister, Zied Laadhari who, Khraifi said, had told demonstrators that their protest was damaging the international perception of Tunisia.
However, rather than place the blame for the current situation upon the country’s present government, Khraifi stressed “all consecutive governments since the revolution have failed to consolidate the economy of the country”. Khraifi also ackowledged the support the UDC and their membership had received from organizations such as the UGTT and the Tunisian League of Human Rights, adding that their demands had remained unchanged since the revolution; employment and development.
Unemployment, and specifically graduate unemployment, in Kasserine remains a critical issue for the town’s inhabitants. According to the 2014 census, unemployment among higher education graduates in Kasserine stands at 33.4 percent, almost double the national average of 15.6 percent Poor social circumstances within the town have also been exacerbated by its proximity to the Chaambi mountains, site of numerous terror attacks in recent years.
Rahma is preparing a master thesis in Anglo-American studies. She is interested in politics and foreign affairs. Since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution, she volunteered for several Tunisian associations such as ATIDE, Sawty and others. She writes articles about post-revolution Tunisia.