Tunisia said on Thursday it is lifting a nationwide night-time curfew imposed last month following violent demonstrations against unemployment, the worst social unrest witnessed in the country since its 2011 revolution.
“In light of the improvement in the security situation, it was decided that from Thursday … the curfew on all Tunisian territory will be lifted,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
The curfew was imposed after protests that started in the central town of Kasserine, where an unemployed man was electrocuted during a January 16 demonstration over the lack of economic prospects.
During a visit to Paris last month, Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid told FRANCE 24 his government was committed to tackling unemployment. “We are aware of our difficult mission… and fully aware of the situation,” said Essid. “But we are a young democracy. And in youth, there is a period of adolescence to navigate.”
The unrest, the worst since the uprising five years ago that ousted longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, spread to several other towns and to the capital of Tunis, where shops were burned and looted in one suburb in the night of January 21.
The authorities announced the curfew the next day, and protests ebbed after continuing for a while in Kasserine and the nearby town of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the 2011 revolution.
Tunisia in November imposed another night-time curfew in the capital and suburbs after a deadly bus bombing claimed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. It was lifted in December.
Following the November 24 suicide attack that killed 12 presidential guards, the government also declared a nationwide state of emergency, which remains in place.
A ‘success story’ with economic and security problems
While Tunisia is considered a rare success story of the 2011 regional uprisings known as the Arab Spring, the authorities have failed to resolve the problems of social exclusion.
Tunisia has the dubious distinction of exporting the highest number of fighters to the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq. More than 3,000 Tunisians are believed to be fighting in the Middle East.
Instability in neighbouring Libya has also increased the security threat, with terrorist attacks over the past year targeting Tunisia’s critical tourism industry. A March 2015 attack on the National Bardo Museum in Tunis killed more than 20 people, mostly European tourists. Three months later, two hotels were attacked in a tourist resort north of the city of Sousse.
Meanwhile poverty has been increasing. Unemployment stood at 15.3 percent in 2015, up from 12 percent in 2010, due to weak growth and lower investment.