By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
TUNIS: Tunisian authorities have suspended four people over the attempted suicide of an unemployed man that sparked days of protests, media reports said Tuesday.
A local government leader in Sidi Bouzid and three of his aides have been removed from duty, including a female officer who had a confrontation with 26-year-old Mohammad Bouazizi, the Achourouk daily reported.
The female officer slapped and spat at Bouazizi, who was selling fruit and vegetables on the streets to support his family, Le Temps daily reported.
Bouazizi doused himself with gasoline and set himself alight on December 17, sustaining severe burns, triggering days of protests in the region against high youth unemployment.
Bouazizi left the education system in high school and did not have a degree, contrary to reports that he was a graduate, Le Temps reported.
Tunisia has struggled to create jobs for young people, particularly in poorer interior regions such as Sidi Bouzid.
Thousands of people took to the streets on December 24, the worst day of rioting, where they burned the local headquarters of the national guard, who responded with gunshots that killed an 18-year-old protesteo.
The protests spread to the capital Tunis Monday, where several hundred gathered to demonstrate solidarity with the protestors in Sidi Bouzid.
“The root of the problems is the high rate of unemployment for university graduates, the high price of raw materials and agriculture being the sole source of work,” said the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights.
“Unemployment is the immediate problem, with all that can follow,” said Touhami Heni, the regional head of Tunisia’s major union.
Tunisia’s unemployment rate is 14 percent, but the percentage of graduates without work is about double that, prompting a warning from the IMF.
“The weakness of the development model has caused inequality between regions, as witnessed by the fact that 90 percent of [investment] projects are in coastal areas, and 10 percent in the interior,” said opposition leader Rachid Khechana. He said the situation was aggravated by the migration of thousands of graduates from poorer interior regions to coastal cities in search of work.
In an acknowledgment of the plight of the region’s young people, Development Minister Mohammad Nouri Jouini announced a 15 million dinar ($10 million dollar) employment program. – AFP