While touring in Tunis for the day, I stumbled upon a demonstration outside the Ministry of the Interior.
After getting lost in the medina’s many souks this morning for over an hour, I missed a meet-up with an individual I have been corresponding with on Couchsurfing. Although I probably missed out on a great chance to tour the city with a local, I gained the opportunity to witness a protest going on outside a government building in central Tunis.
A group of people collected outside Tunisia’s Ministry of the Interior early this afternoon to show their discontent to the newly elected president, Beji Caid Essebi.
A Tunisian journalist on-site described the primary motivation of the men gathered as regarding the high education level of many police officers, and the disproportionate wages. This is a problem not limited to the police, as Tunisia is facing ongoing issues with both unemployment rates and changes to university admissions procedures.
Another grievance put forth by the protesters dealt with the desire by some to be allowed to carry firearms off-duty for their own protection, possibly in response to the alleged murder yesterday of an officer on his way home from work in the capital.
Passerby joined the growing crowd, as the number of people spilled from the sidewalks of the Ministry across the busy Avenue Habib Bourguiba. One woman displayed the two-finger ‘victory’ symbol, remembered from the 2011 protests that sparked the Arab Spring and brought Tunisia its first free presidential poll last month. The gesture was picked up by a number of others.
Military vehicles were mobilised outside the French Embassy at approximately 12:45 local time, and began moving in the direction of the protest as the on-duty police presence increased.
Despite the obvious emotion in the chants and banners, the general atmosphere remained calm. Police were observed stopping and questioning a few individuals in the crowd, including some international journalists. By around 15:00 local time, the demonstrators’ banners were nowhere to be found, and the somewhat lessened crowd began moving up a side street.
I was unable to follow, as I was stopped and questioned repeatedly by an unnamed individual.
When pressed for further information about the demonstration, the Tunisian journalist replied, “This is not your problem. This is not your country. Go home.”