A regional Tunisian labor union has suspended a nearly weeklong strike in an impoverished central town after hundreds were injured during clashes with police.
The Regional Workers Union in Siliana announced a provisional halt to the strike Sunday, hours after agreeing to a deal with the central government in Tunis, the capital of this North African nation.
In the deal, regional governor Ahmed Mahjoubi of the moderate Islamist party Ennahda was pulled from his post amid accusations of neglecting public concerns and refusing dialogue. A union leader said the strike would resume if he returned.
The economically downtrodden town southwest of Tunis has faced days of protests and violent clashes with police that were reminiscent of a popular uprising two years ago that grew into Tunisia’s revolution.
“We decided to suspend the general strike,” Ahmed Chefai of the UGTT union’s executive board for the town of Siliana told a crowd of around 100 people.
He did not specify for how long the suspension would last but said they were waiting for the implementation of a deal negotiated on Saturday with the government dominated by the Islamist party Ennhada.
The agreement provides for sidelining Governor Ahmed Ezzine Mahjoubi, a speedy review by the courts of those imprisoned in April 2011, funds to care for the wounded and a development program which must still be clarified.
“The governor is permanently gone. He belongs to the past, he will never set foot again in Siliana,” said the union leader as the crowd broke into applause.
He also that a delegation of the UGTT had asked reinforcements deployed in Siliana since Tuesday to withdraw in keeping with a key demand made by the protesters.
More than 300 people have been injured in five days of violence in Siliana after mounting clashes, strikes and attacks by hard-line Islamists known as Salafists across Tunisia that have plunged the country into a political impasse.
The violence also came ahead of the second anniversary of the revolution, triggered on December 17, 2010 when a young fruit and vegetable seller set himself alight in the town of Sidi Bouzid to protest against police harassment.
The protest saw the exit of former strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and ignited a wave of similar protests across the Arab world.
Protesters in Siliana have been demanding the governor’s resignation, financial aid and the withdrawal of police from the town, blaming it for the violence this week.
Meanwhile calm prevailed on Sunday in Siliana, southwest of Tunisia, and in neighbouring regions where clashes on Saturday night pitted police and protesters.