In a remote town in Tunisia's
interior, protesters angry over joblessness and harsh police tactics call for the downfall of new Islamist rulers, echoing the revolt that ignited the Arab Spring two years ago.
Siliana, 90 miles from the coastal capital, has been convulsed as thousands of largely unemployed youth battle riot police firing tear gas and birdshot.
Of at least 252 wounded, medical sources say 17 have been blinded through police use of birdshot, and UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay condemned the government on Friday for what she called excessive violence.
"You may have taken away our eyes but you can't take away our voice!" reads a slogan daubed in red paint on a wall.
Protesters in Tunisia (Photo: AP)
"The people want another revolution" and "Ennahda, go away! Game over!" say others.
The revolutionary graffiti recall Sidi Bouzid, the deprived town to the south where a street peddler burned himself to death two years ago in despair at the confiscation of his fruit cart.
Clashes in Siliana (Photo: Reuters)
His suicide provided the spark for an uprising in Tunisia that spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria
Aware of comparisons between Siliana and Sidi Bouzid, the government temporarily removed the local governor on Saturday and promised jobs to victims of the 2010 uprising. Police stopped using birdshot.
"Siliana will be the second Sidi Bouzid, we're going to get rid of these Islamists who know nothing of Islam," Omrani said.
'You may have taken away our eyes but you can't take away our voice.' Tunisia (Photo: AP)
Ennahda was late to respond to the protests, after first accusing leftists who lost last year's elections of fomenting the unrest by provoking Tunisians in impoverished areas into confrontations that would drive away foreign investors.
The protests began on Tuesday after a call by the leftist labor union UGTT to take to the streets to demand jobs, investment and the removal of Ennahda's Islamist governor.
The protests are the fiercest since Salafis attacked the US embassy in Tunis in September over an anti-Islam film made in California, in violence that left four people dead.
They also mirror conflict in Egypt,
where secularists have mobilized in recent weeks against post-Arab Spring Islamist rulers whom they accuse of doing little to reform security policies and treating non-Islamists with disdain.
"The government is reproducing the behavior of Ben Ali's regime," said Iyad Dahmani from the centre-left Republican Party.
"It's an arrogant government that thinks its election victory means it can use tear gas and birdshot on people instead of giving them jobs and investment."
The Western-backed government secured international funding last week for an economy suffering from the financial crisis in the European Union, Tunisia's main trading partner.
Clashes broke out again on Saturday between around 3,000 people throwing stones and security forces firing tear gas and live rounds into the air from inside armored vehicles.
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