Agricultural Workers Hunger Strike Continues in Southwestern City of Redeyef

The agricultural workers in the Tunisian southwestern city of Redeyef are continuing their hunger strike, which began on January 9th.

According to Fahem Boukadous, a journalist for Al-Hiwar Al-Tunsi who was imprisoned in 2008 for covering the Redeyef uprising, the agricultural workers began the strike as a result of the government’s indifference to their demands. A separate general strike was held yesterday, January 17th, in support of the hunger strike.

Boukadous indicated that the minister of employment visited the area of Redeyef on January 4th to address the protesters concerns. However, Boukadous stated that, “None of the development promises made by the minister have been kept.” The government’s indifference, Boukadous said, may result in even worse living conditions in the rest of the Gafsa mining basin.

Boukadous emphasized the fact that no public or private property was damaged during the ongoing protests. Phosphate production has recently resumed in the town as well.

Adnen Haji, the General Tunisian Union’s (UGTT) representative in Redeyef who co-organized the 2008 Gafsa uprisings, denied the statement of Abed Znidi, coordinator of the Ettajdid party in Redeyef, about the manipulation of agricultural workers to reach broader political ends.

“Workers from all sectors in Redeyef have the same basic demands for reforms and governmental intervention,” asserted Haji, going on to say that the protest was the product of widespread frustration with the government’s neglect of the community’s pressing needs. Haji also confirmed the role of the UGTT in organizing the protest.

The hunger strike has recently garnered attention from the government, with the minister of social affairs scheduling a meeting with UGTT representatives in Redeyef for this upcoming Friday, January 20th, to negotiate the demands of the protesters.

Haji stated that the protests may cease if the solutions proposed by the representative of the government are adequate. However, Haji went on to say that if the negotiations do not effectively address the needs of the Redeyef workers, the protesters would “close down Gafsa Phosphate Company and may escalate the protest.”

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