gafsa_ai.jpg  Demonstration in Gafsa Elementary teachers in Tunisia staged a one day strike last Monday October 5th in solidarity with trade unionists who have been jailed after protests in the Gafsa region of the country  The protests started as a result of the actions of the phosphate mining corporation and escalated into general protests about high prices and the high rate of unemployment. As a result of the protests 34 trade unionists were jailed for up to 10 years in a trial described by human rights organisation Amnesty International as unfair. The regional director of Amnesty said:  “The Tunisian authorities must immediately stop criminalizing social protest. Instead of trying peaceful protesters and trade unionists, the authorities should investigate the allegations of torture previously raised by the defendants.” Of those arrested four were members of the teaching union - the Elementary Education General Syndicate and of these Adnan Al Haji, Basheer Al Abidi, Al Tayeb Men Othman and Tariq Halim were all sentenced to the maximum ten years in prison although this has subsequently been reduced by the court of appeal. The strike of teachers in solidarity with their jailed colleagues was a success with 60% of members heeding the call to strike, according to the union. A member of the union said that the strike was "an important step that responds to the principles of the Tunisian General Labour Union, namely realising social justice and defending the right to work - this was the essence of the protest in the mining basin" The Education General Syndicate is anxious to raise the profile of the prisoners in the Gafsa region. Meanwhile the IMF is encouraging Tunisia to continue with neo-liberal policies in response to the economis crisis: "The policy of opening up Tunisia’s economy to the global economy, which continued despite the international economic and financial crisis, and sustained continued structural reforms, particularly in the financial sector, should enable the Tunisian economy to benefit fully from the global economic recovery and to increase its long-term growth potential", states the latest report from the IMF. According to a report by Amnesty, the benefits of improved growth in Tunisia, which have been used to justify a repressive government have not been evenly shared with the South of the country including the Gafsa province being particularly badly affected - even though much of the country's wealth come from the phosphate mines in that region. To read the Amensty report in full go to: