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10 Aug, 2012 16:13

Violent protests strike birthplace of Tunisian uprising (VIDEO)

Security forces dispersed hundreds of protesters with rubber bullets and teargas in the Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the Arab Spring revolutions. Activists called for the removal of the Islamist-led government and the local governor.

At least six people were injured in the ensuing clashes as enraged protesters pelted police with stones on Thursday. Earlier in the day hundreds of demonstrators attempted to force their way into the local government offices, prompting the police to fire warning shots into the air.“Where are Sidi Bouzid’s rights, Where are the martyrs’ rights?” chorused the protesters. "The people want the regime to fall!"A number of opposition groups took part in the protests including the Republican Party, the Tunisian Workers Party and Al-Watan, as well as political independents.   Although the Tunisian economy has made some progress this year, many citizens remain frustrated that they are not seeing the results of last year’s revolution. Analysts say that the protests were expected in Sidi Bouzid as the area is marginalized, with poor living conditions and high unemployment."The residents of Sidi Bouzid live in very difficult conditions, especially with the water and electricity cuts seen recently," said political expert Ahmed Manai to AFP.Tunisia’s ruling Ennahda party has come in the firing line recently with NGOs claiming the government is cracking down on freedoms with increasingly Islamist-orientated policies. Ennahda recently proposed a draft law that seeks to punish crimes against “sacred values” with up to two years in jail. Rights groups are also up in arms over a proposed article for the new constitution that stipulates that the “complementary nature” of men to women rather than their equality. The draft legislation provoked the ire of opposition groups, with 200 activists gathering outside the National Constituent Assembly in Tunis on Thursday. A number of the activists tried to force entry into parliament but were repelled by police.The city of Sidi Bouzid was the cradle of the Arab revolutions, triggering a wave of uprisings across the Middle East. It was sparked off by a street vendor who self-immolated in protest over sub-standard living conditions and then-President Zine al-Abidine’s autocratic rule. His protest became the catalyst that led to the eventual resignation of dictator al-Abidine in January of last year.