Ann Talbot
December 30, 2010

Demonstrators demanding jobs clashed with security forces as protests spread across Tunisia. A social eruption on such a scale is virtually unprecedented in this highly repressive and tightly controlled North African country.

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Eighteen-year-old Mohammed Amari was shot dead when police opened fire on demonstrators in Sidi Bou Zid, a town some 200 kilometres east of the capital, Tunis. The protests began there on December 17 when police confiscated the merchandise of 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, accusing him of trading illegally without a permit. He set fire to himself in protest at his treatment.

Bouazizi survived his ordeal and was taken to a burns unit in Tunis. But another young man has since committed suicide by touching a high-voltage cable. Before he died he shouted, “No to misery! No to unemployment!”

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The desperation of these young men reflects the high level of unemployment in Tunisia. Officially, joblessness is 14 percent, but the real level is much higher.

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