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Terrorism & Security

Tunisia protesters defy curfew in capital

The protests in Tunisia over high unemployment rates continued in the capital overnight, with another death and a call for a strike as government appeasement efforts failed.

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Bloomberg reports that the military remained deployed on Tunis streets for the second day Thursday, and many businesses remained closed after the curfew ended at 6 am. A Tunis-area labor union has called for a two-hour strike Friday.

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In attempts to quell the protests, Tunisia’s prime minister announced Wednesday that the interior minister had been fired, and that the government would release arrested protesters and conduct investigations into corruption. The day before, Ben Ali had promised to provide jobs for Tunisian youth and to create 300,000 new positions by the end of next year.

But these moves have not appeased a population that appears fed up with systemic corruption and repression. As University of Denver Professor Rob Prince reports on Tunisia-focused group blog Nawaat, the motto of the protesters has become “Yezzi Fock,” which means “It’s enough” in Tunisian dialect.

“Enough” refers to the high levels of unemployment in the country, the pervasive corruption, especially of the two ruling families and the decades of seething repression which has kept Zine Ben Ali in power now for 23 years.

The Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday that the protests in Tunisia are a warning to regional autocratic regimes with similar political and economic situations.

The Tunisia protests, combined with the eruption of riots in neighboring Algeria last week and recent unrest in Jordan, are worrying signs for Cairo. Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, also has a bulging youth population that has a far harder time landing jobs than other segments of society, and a tightly managed political system that has left little room for dissent.

And Foreign Policy reports that rumors – which turned out to be false – of a military coup in Tunisia illustrate the crisis in legitimacy for Ben Ali’s regime.

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