Watchlist: Protests in Tunisia on Anniversary of Revolution

Week of January 15th

Tunisians gather to protest in Tunis (Source: Hassene Dridi/Associated Press)


Protests in Tunisia Turn Violent

Nearly 800 Tunisians have been arrested in protests that kicked off Monday opposing austerity measures passed by the government. The austerity measures saw tax raises and price hikes. This comes at a time when the Tunisian economy, especially its youth, are struggling. In recent years the Tunisian Dinar has plummeted and unemployment amongst youth has soared. One person was killed and many were injured on both sides as the unrest spread to multiple regions across the country. Most Tunisians taking to the streets are between the ages of 15 and 30. The U.N. human rights commission issued a statement calling upon the Tunisian government to ensure "that those exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are not prevented from doing so." While these protests may look like the beginning of another revolution in Tunisia, protests like this are common, especially in the month of January, as it marks the anniversary of the ousting of former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. JEREMY WAXMAN


Tensions between North and South Korea Thaw

With a military hotline reopened between North and South Korea as well as additional high-level talks on the way, tensions have begun to ease if only marginally. Considering the last round of talks was around two years ago, these meetings certainly give cause for optimism. South Korean President Moon Jae-In particularly sees it as a “groundbreaking chance” to improve inter-Korean relations. Small-scale interactions involving the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics, the reunion of Korean families during the Lunar New Year as well as general discussion could be a gateway to more substantial talks. Although the North’s nuclearisation persists as a source of concern, the fact that the two Koreas are talking is promising. Whereas fears of war abounded last month, it seems compromise and communication can still be made. The South will have to confront the North’s nuclear ambitions eventually, but for now it can use these talks to let cooler heads prevail. WARREN YU


Pope Francis to visit South America The Pope is set to begin a six-day apostolic trip to South America this week, where he will visit Peru and Chile. He plans to meet with Catholic bishops along with indigenous peoples, the sick, prison inmates and youth groups. However, his trip may be overshadowed by protests and violence in both countries over church-related corruption and scandals. Last week at least five churches in Santiago were attacked by bombs, and threatening messages to the Pope were left behind. Tensions have risen over whether the Pope has done enough to prevent sexual abuse from occurring within the church. Many residents of the southern city of Osorno are opposed to Francis’s visit due to his appointment of Juan Barros as bishop there in 2015. Barros is accused of covering up sexual abuse. Despite these tensions, the Pope, accompanied by heightened security, will begin his trip on Monday. MAYA ZREIK


Run-off Election in the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic faces a run-off election in upcoming weeks to determine the country’s next President, as the results from Sunday’s general election failed to yield sufficient votes for either candidate. With all polls closed, incumbent Milos Zeman lead his opponent Jiri Drahos by nearly 12%, but fell short of the 50% of votes necessary for victory. Zeman, infamous for his controversial pro-Russia foreign policy and staunch anti-migrant stance, was the nation’s first president elected in a direct election. After promoting his divisive platform, he stands to lose this position to the pro-West, pro-EU Drahos in the upcoming elections. The run-off will eliminate all but the top two candidates from the ballot, leading some to believe Drahos will have even greater support in the next election. ANNA HAYNES

Middle East

Iraqi PM Abadi and VP Maliki Both Seek Premiership

The incumbent prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi announced on Sunday that he would run for re-election in the upcoming elections in May. Al-Abadi, who took over the premiership in 2014 from Nuri al-Maliki, is widely credited for reorganizing and strengthening the Iraqi army and paving the way for the defeat of the so-called Islamic State (IS). The PM announced his bloc as a “Victory Alliance,” one that would contest not only the premiership, but the current parliament as well. Similarly, as well as ironically, the former prime minister of Iraq, preceding al-Abadi, Nuri al-Maliki, similarly launched a campaign to be the future prime minister. Al-Maliki, who currently serves as the vice-president, and his bloc constitute the more conservative base of the Shia Dawa party. His previous rule as prime minister was marred by controversy and critique, he is often blamed by Iraqi politicians for the army’s collapse and alienation of the Sunni base in Iraq. It will be interesting to see how the population will react to the two new candidates, both different, yet similar, in various ways. This first re-election in a post-IS Iraq will set the tone for a future reconstruction period in the recovering nation. AYAH KUTMAH

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