AP Explainer: Why are youth protests sweeping Tunisia?

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Police officers face demonstrators during clashes in Ettadhamen City near Tunis, Tunisia, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. A growing groundswell of youth unrest, tapping into a well of economic frustration, is sweeping Tunisia and worrying its leadership all the way to the top. It is, after all, the country that triggered the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

TUNIS – A growing groundswell of youth unrest, tapping into a well of economic frustration, is sweeping Tunisia and worrying its leadership all the way to the top. It is, after all, the country that triggered the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions.

A third of the North African nation’s young people are unemployed — and many are angry about their stagnant fortunes. For the fourth consecutive day, they have taken to the streets in violent demonstrations across the country of 11.7 million -- from the capital of Tunis, to the cities of Kasserine, Gafsa, Sousse and Monastir.

The protests have led to a muscular response from authorities who fear a repeat of the protests that led to the ousting of strongman President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali 10 years ago. The army has been deployed in four hot spots. Here's a look at what is going on:

TUNISIA'S PROTEST MOVEMENT IS GROWING

Since Friday, protest groups that are growing in size by the day have been out in force every night. They are staging simultaneous, often-violent demonstrations in cities around Tunisia.

The groups have been pelting municipal buildings with stones, throwing Molotov cocktails, looting, vandalizing and clashing with police. The unrest is concentrated in poor, densely populated districts where trust with law enforcement is already lacking.

The army was called in by the government on Sunday night to quell tensions and protect the country’s institutions. Police said many hundreds of protesters have been arrested.

WHAT ARE THEY PROTESTING?