The Sidi Bouzid revolution: Ben Ali flees as protests spread in Tunisia

The Sidi Bouzid revolution: Ben Ali flees as protests spread in Tunisia

Friday 14 January 2011 -- After a dramatic 24 hours when Tunisia's dictator president Ben Ali first tried promising liberalisation and an end to police shootings of demonstrators and then, this evening at 16:00, declaring martial law, he has finally fallen from office. While the rumours are still swirling, one thing is clear, Ben Ali has left Tunisia and the army has stepped in. The comments after this article contain continuous updates of the uprising.

The day began with a mass demonstration called by Tunisia's trade union federation, the UGTT, in the capital Tunis. Between 10 and 15,000 people demonstrated outside the Ministry of the Interior. The initially peaceful scene broke down at around 14:30 local time as police moved in with tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd, some of whom had managed to scale the Ministry building and get on its roof. From then on, the city centre descended into chaos with running battles between the riot police and Tunisians of all ages and backgrounds fighting for the overthrow of the hated despot.

Finally, armoured cars from the army appeared on the street and a state of emergency and curfew was declared with Ben Ali threatening the populace that the security forces had carte blanche to open fire on any gatherings of more than three people. Soon, however, he disappeared from view and the rumours began to circulate. The army seized control of the airport and there were reports of convoys of limousines racing to the airport from the Ben Ali families palace. Finally the official announcement came. Ben Ali is gone. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi appeared on state TV to announce that he was in charge of a caretaker government backed by the army.

Tonight the long-suffering people of Tunisia may rejoice that their last four weeks of heroic resistance has finally seen off the dictator who ran the most vicious police state in North Africa over them for the last 23 years.

But tomorrow morning will find the army in charge. What will happen tomorrow and the days to follow is anybody's guess. But the people now know that they have the power to overthrow a long-entrenched dictatorship, how much easier to take on a new unstable regime.

Report by Workers Solidarity Movement

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Jan 12 2011 00:41


Attached files


Jan 9 2011 00:38

Angry Maghreb: day 23 in Tunisia (Egyptian Chronicles blog)

I notice that in Facebook people are demanding that the protesters should have one single demand which is to topple the current corrupted regime.

Tunisia: The uprising has a hashtag

Minutes after Ben Ali and his ringing phone addressed the nation, Weddady had shared on Twitter a link to a video of the speech that someone had already uploaded to YouTube.

It quickly provided some much-needed levity with tweets flowing in from around the Middle East taking a guess at who could’ve been calling Ben Ali. Stevie Wonder to say “I love you?” joked one tweet.

I imagined President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who has ruled my country of birth for the past 29 years, calling to tell Ben Ali to shut up before he made it even worse for the rest of the totalitarian old men in power.

When activists in Cairo protested in solidarity with Tunisians, they made that connection: “Revolution till victory. Revolution in Tunisia. Revolution in Egypt,” they chanted (and then told the rest of us via Twitter).

How could they not make the connection? Corruption, nepotism and unemployment taunt them in both countries. Activists in Jordan and Lebanon also held solidarity protests.

And that’s why Tunisia counts.

Recently on twitter

Now the army and the police are using the live bullets to stop protests in Kassrin

Talah : The police forces are shooting in the air to stop the protests

a young man killed in Telah at 21:30

New clashes between police and protesters in Meknessi and #SidiBouzid

Now,a clash between police and citizens in Meknassi, and the locally says that the police are using a new stronger tear gas

Breaking news from #sidibouzid: 2 killed as live rounds used in Tala, 8 others in critical condition

Thala, Kasserine Tunisia: 90 year-old Bechir Lembarek Hayuni dies after inhaling police gas

Thala, Kasserine tunisia : Two young men shot dead by police dring protests; Ahmad Ben Ammar Boulabi and Marwan Gennawi

From Kasserine (~50 mi west of #SidiBouzid): one thirteen-year-old has been shot, along with two men. A massive march has erupted

Kasserine - Tunisia: angry protesters get to the streets after police killed at least 3 citizens in the same town

Live bullets against protesters killed a 13 years old boy & the army is deployed in Kasserien city in #Tunisia

They were killed by the police. The army is there only to watch public buildings and prevent foreign interventions

Unconfirmed: Up to seven ppl may have beeen killed when policed open fired on protestors in Kasserine

Nobody really knows how many were killed and injured tonight in Kasserine

Few minutes ago in Meknassy , A new young man shot dead with a live bullets

l'armée et surtout la police empêchent les ambulances de venir au secour des habitant Blessés (transport par les habitants)

à thala ont me dit une 12 personne blessés par balle , rabi yoster , wallah 9aher. ..vraiment très mal au coeur ce soir

Attention le Bilan est vraiment provisoir , il y a bcp bcp de Blessés rien à Kaserine 17 blessés par Balle

une catastrophe , putain de merde je recoi des info et j'ai vraiment le coeur gros ,à thala il y a au moins 5 mort et kaserine4

Sont morts a kassrin cette nuit: Mounir Lembarki, Rauf Alboside, Alarbi Saleh, Mohammad Osode (liste partielle)

N'ayons pas peur des mots. Ce qui se passe cette nuit en Tunisie est du terrorisme d'État pur et simple

Video from Kasserine

Jan 9 2011 12:11

Tunisian police kill protestors

The Tunisian regime has responded to American calls for restraint ... with live bullets. A number of protesters were shot dead last night – possibly 10 or more.

Most reports attribute the shootings to the police, though the army has now been deployed some areas – allegedly to protect government buildings.

The increasing use of live ammunition may be a measure of the Ben Ali regime's desperation at its inability to control the disturbances sweeping the country.

Al-Jazeera reports that in Thala (Kasserine province, near the Algerian border), four people were killed when police opened fire after first using water cannons to try to disperse a crowd throwing stones and petrol bombs. A government building had been set on fire.

The nawaat website shows some gruesome scenes from last night's events in Thala, including the picture above.

There was also trouble yesterday in the city of Kasserine. Reports on the internet named four people as having been killed there: Mounir Mbarki, Raouf Bouzidi, Saleh Fridhi and Mohamed Asswadi. According to AFP, a 12-year-old child died in Kasserine when shot in the head.

In Meknassy (Sidi Bouzid province), two people – Chihab Alibi and Youssef Fitouri – were shot dead, according to a note posted on Twitter.

Tunisia's main trade union, the UGTT (which is normally regarded as close to the government) now appears to have swung its weight behind the protesters.

Surrounded by riot police, several hundred of its members observed a minute's silence in the capital yesterday. In remarks quoted by AFP, the union's deputy general secretary, Abid Brigui, said:

"We support the demands of the people in Sidi Bouzid and interior regions ... The UGTT cannot but be with this region, behind those in need and demanding jobs.

"It is against nature to condemn this movement, it is not normal to respond with bullets."

AFP quotes an opposition economist as saying that by doing this the UGTT is "making a great about-turn".

Brian Whitaker, 9 Jan 2011

Jan 9 2011 12:22

This is serious

We now have the unprecedented situation of major civil disturbances in two neighbouring Arab countries, both of them arising for similar reasons. (For the latest developments, see below.)

On its own, the trouble in Algeria might not be a particular cause for concern (or celebration, depending on how you look at it). Algeria, after all, has witnessed plenty of violent strife in the past and I wouldn't yet go so far as to characterise the events there (unlike those in Tunisia) as a popular uprising against the regime.

But with large-scale riots and demonstrations now happening simultaneously in two countries side by side, we are moving into uncharted territory. There are signs that the protests in both countries are starting to inspire and sustain those in the other – which could make them far more difficult for the authorities to quell.

It's all looking much more serious than a week ago. Anything could happen now. And maybe it will.

Brian Whitaker, 9 Jan 2011

Jan 9 2011 12:25

Al Jazeera: protesters killed in Tunisia riots

At least twenty people have been killed in clashes with police in two cities in Tunisia.

Six people were killed and another six wounded in the city of Tala, 200km southwest of the capital Tunis, on Saturday, after security forces opened fire on protestors.

Another 14 people were killed in similar clashes in the Kasserine region, union sources told Al Jazeera...

Map of the protests

Jan 9 2011 13:29

Recently on twitter

Tunisia7 (official TV) : 2 dead and 8 injured last night in Talah

Talah : After using the tear gas, the police attacked the funeral with live bullets

Shots, used in Talah

The police (snipers) use the steyr AUG (Effective range Sighted for 300 m-450-500m-)to shot the demonstrators

According to a source in Kassrin’s hospital, 20 men were killed

Most pictures [of dead & wounded] show that the police shot to kill: torsos & heads

Medical doctors now protesting in #Kasserine...

Moncef Marzouki to senior Tunisian army officers: History will judge. Do not execute Ben Ali's orders

Moncef Marzouki: responsability of killings lies primarily on senior officials in Tunisian army

Maniftunis, rassemblement dans 1 heure Avenue HAbib Bourghiba à 14h - Tunis

Pantin : le consulat de Tunisie victime d'une «petite explosion»

manif déclaré a cité el khadra, cité ezohour, ariana,mornag, la marsa, ben arous, bizerte

Manel Bouallagui, a wife and a mother, was shot dead in front of her home in the village of Rgueb in #Sidibouzid

Video from inside hospital of the dead and dying, presumably Kasserine ***warning: unedited and graphic footage***

Eyewitnesses in Kasserine report that the police has been preventing ambulances from reaching the injured

Eyewitness confirms to Radio Kalimah that a number of dead bodies were thrown in waterways by police froces in Kasserine

Eyewitness says at least seven victims were thrown by police in waterways in Kasserine

Witnesses confirm that the Army is not involved in any of the killings that have been taking place since protests started

Raouf Kadoussi, dead. Chaher Abidi and Naseem Jallai seriously injured after being shot by police in Rgueb village in #Sidibouzid

The police attacked the protesters with live bullets in Selyana and Jebeniana

Jan 9 2011 13:23

I just checked the Guardian site to see what they had to say about the killings. The last mention of Tunisia was the islamist comment is free piece on Tuesday.

And the bbc...

At least two person have been killed in fresh unrest over unemployment in Tunisia, officials say...


Tunisia latest

1300 GMT: Opposition leader and activist Moncef Marzouki has posted a video message, on Facebook, to senior officials in army. He said that they carried the burden for recent violence and they have a responsibility to protect the people, not the regime.

Marzouki, asking the military not to carry out President Ben Ali's orders, said, "History will judge you."...

Jan 9 2011 16:05

holy shit…

Thanks for the continued updates however

Jan 9 2011 21:08

I can't believe this isn't being reported in the mainstream media. I mean, it sounds like things are getting pretty heavy over there, but all I've seen of it is one brief article in the Guardian.

I second Steve, thanks for the updates, Mark.

Jan 9 2011 21:27

Claims for the death toll in Kasserine alone are now running at between 26 and 40. As you say it's hard to believe this isn't being reported.

The battle of Kasserine 2011 (Egyptian Chronicles blog)

Kasserine , Tunisia is known internationally thanks to the battle of Kasserine in 1943 but in perfect world it should be all over the news now before the news of South Sudan referendum after what happened last night in the governorate and its cities !!

The battle of Kasserine 2011 , this is the best headline to describe what happened exactly last night , it was a battle from one side , the side of the security forces that open its fire against the angry civilians in one of the darkest moments in the history of Tunisia...

La Tunisie à feu et à sang, 40 morts

Officiellement on parle d’une dizaine de morts depuis samedi à Thala et Kasserine, mais duc côté des manifestants le bilan est beaucoup plus lourds, on y avance 40 morts et des centaines de blessés, des chiffres difficilement vérifiables pour l’instant...
Jan 9 2011 21:25

I don't understand why it isn't being reported though - civil unrest in other countries normally gets at least a passing mention.

Part of me wonders if it's the whole 'food prices/economy angle' - but then they reported the Haiti food riots a few years back.

Jan 9 2011 21:48

And meanwhile in Algeria at least four people were reported killed and more than 800 injured. Around 1,000 protestors had been arrested.

Mohamed Zitout, a former Algerian diplomat, - "It is a revolt, and probably a revolution, of an oppressed people who have, for 50 years, been waiting for housing, employment, and a proper and decent life in a very rich country. "But unfortunately it is ruled by a very rich elite that does not care about what is happening in the country - because they did not give people what they want, even though the government has the means to do so, the people are now revolting."

Mohamed Ben Madani, editor of The Maghreb Review, said the situation was "out of control" and that the protests could continue for weeks. "The government simply ignored the people since they were elected to office and basically now they [i][the people] have come out into the streets asking the authorities to give them jobs and to share the wealth of the nation," [/i]

Layachi Ansar, professor of sociology at Qatar University - that the cutting of food taxes and duties was "a superficial measure" that doesn't address "the deep crisis" going on in Algeria, connected with the "unequal distribution of wealth - this wealth is spoilt by corruption, by bad governance and lack of accountability of government officials and state civil servants".

Dalila Hanache, an Algerian journalist with the news website Echorouk, said that the protests went beyond just rising prices. "I hear young people in the neighbourhood who say these clashes and protests are not the result of high food prices only, they think there are lots of problems in this country - educational, problems in the health sectors, in all sectors of government,"

Jan 9 2011 23:33

Auto - I was watching the news on bbc earlier on and I was really expecting to see it reported. It's not just the deaths it's the potential implications for the whole Arab world.

According to Brian Whitaker in his Guardian comment is free piece on 30 December, "The biggest story from the Middle East this week … No, the biggest, most important and most inspiring story from the Middle East this year is one that most readers may only vaguely have heard of, if at all. It's the Tunisian uprising."

I'm not any kind of expert on North Africa or the Middle East but this judgement sounds realistic to me. That was before protests spread to the whole country and beyond its borders.

Looking for that quote I found that the Guardian put up an AP report a couple of hours ago, quoting interior ministry figures of eight dead in Thala and Kasserine. So the story is being covered after a fashion but not in a way that might bring some pressure to stop the killing. I don't really have an explanation for the lack of interest from the media here.

I haven't heard of any foreign reporters operating within Tunisia though. I saw something about, I think, Le Monde trying to send someone to Tunis and being refused. English language journalists covering the 'Middle East' are more likely to be based somewhere like Cairo or Beirut that isn't so much closer to Tunisia than London is. Al Jazeera have also been barred from the country but they're managing to report the uprising quite well.

Tunisia's press blackout


Plus de 50 morts à Kasserine, Thala, Feriana, Regueb, Meknassi

Activist crackdown: Tunisia vs Iran

Finally, to the American media, I offer the following reminder: You don't work for the government. This is not Iran, nor China, nor Tunisia; we have a thriving free press that has the liberty to pursue and cover whatever story it deems important. Just like Iranians did in 2009, Tunisians are taking to the streets to protest a brutal dictatorship, but unlike in the summer of 2009, the American media is largely silent.
Jan 10 2011 00:41

Recently on twitter

Today protest in the city of Sfax #sidibouzid التجمع الجماهيري اليوم بصفاقس

Riots are moving to the north (El Kef)

Message received in Kef Tunisia : City hall, Post office, Department stores, court house ALL ON FIRE. Fuck Ben Ali & his mafia

urgent ; 2 premiers martyr à kef mais le bilan peu être aussi lourd qu'à kaserine , j'attends des infos

Report: Clashes continuing between security forces and protesters in Sidi Bouzid

Confirmed information: A new young man attempts suicide(immolation) in Meknassy

The police opened fire on the protesters in the Meknassy and there are some injuries

There are some injured cops in Meknassy

Some protesters were killed after been shot by the police in Meknassy

A young mother of two,Manel Boallagui 26, s among the 5 dead in Erregueb as confirmed by eye witness

5 killed by police shots in Tunisian city of Regueb, according to @benmhennilina #SidiBouzid

2day I saw 5 dead killed by police bullets, I 'm not afraid 2 say ths system is criminal

The little stable "moderate" arab Tunisia is moving

Tunisia frees rapper critical of government | News by Country | Reuters

A Thala les militaires demandent à la police de cesser de tirer sur le peuple (témoin sur place)

Breaking: Ben Ali sacked army chief of staff General Rashid Amar and replaced him with military intel dir. Gen Ahmed Shabbir

Meanwhile in Tunis:

articles in English:

Tunisian friends: is there any call to tourists to stop vacationing in #Tunisia? Would you support such a call?

No, because the eventual victims are the Tunisian people. Sanction has never worked with dictators

Appel a la police: ne tirez pas sur vos freres “@evildrako: chanson d'actualités de Psycho M

Le visage hideux de la bourgeoisie en temps de crise par Mohamed BELAALI:

Erregueb January 9th, 2011: Tonight , I went to Regueb after hearing about clashes between demonstrato...

La police Tunisie nne cible la jeunesse engagée dans la scène artistique, médiatique

For fear of either consequences or embarrassments, #Morocco bans solidarity demos with #SidiBouzid

Many Impressiv Tunisian Anonymous Pics from Tunisia

nawaat's polls are here

Jan 10 2011 00:43
Jan 10 2011 03:23

It is being reported on the TV news here in France , but relatively low on the list of reports, and they don't mention the higher figures for the death toll. Still, it's certainly not a blackout (Tunisia got about 3 minutes the other day) - and Algeria is being mentioned as well. I'd guess the lack of reporting in a time where things are beginning to happen in the UK and elsewhere is because, although they can be placed as a response to a dictatorship and to incredibly high food price rises, which are not things that make for any direct identification in the vast majority in Europe (yet), they don't want it to be seen that lots of different movements worldwide are starting up. Plus it kind of undermines Islam as the bogeyman v. rebel identity that helps the divide and rule. Plus there are, obviously, a lot of capitalist interests in maintaining social peace (capitalist war is another thing) in the Middle East, and the possibility of the spread of class war in that region is not something they want to give too much publicity to. Still, they'll almost certainly have to give these developments more publicity if only to ty to portray them within their ideological categories and to try to offer the carrot of reform.
All this is off the top of my head - and I'm no expert in the region at all. But I think if winter begins like this, we can look forward to an even more explosive spring - and not just in North Africa.

Jan 10 2011 07:43

Perhaps these struggles, Tunis and Algeria, Morocco and Egypt, showing no presence whatsoever of islamicist groups points to a long overdue change in the terrain of class war in the muslim world.

Jan 10 2011 07:50

The struggles in Algeria in the 1990s and this century also showed no presence of Islamicist groups (except as very brutal counter-revolutionary forces) - but this time struggle's happening on several different fronts (maybe even Gaza?). I guess the main problem, as always, is the chasm between the unemployed and the employed working class - but I'd guess - in Tunisia at least - this is breaking down.

Jan 10 2011 10:53
joselito wrote:
Perhaps these struggles, Tunis and Algeria, Morocco and Egypt, showing no presence whatsoever of islamicist groups points to a long overdue change in the terrain of class war in the muslim world.

Maybe there's a general secularist feeling around. See the CEMB forum for example. They have a thread on the Tunisia uprising too.

Jan 10 2011 11:37
Jan 10 2011 11:21
Jan 10 2011 21:35

Mis-reporting Tunisia

The Tunisian uprising is beginning to get more coverage in the English-language media, so this may be a suitable moment to look at the sort of coverage it is getting.

Considering the horrific violence meted out by the police over the weekend, the Ben Ali regime is being given an extraordinarily easy ride.

The Chicago Tribune, along with numerous other papers, carries a report from the Associated Press which refers to "rioting to protest joblessness and other social ills".

Apart from a reference to "mobs" attacking an office of the ruling party, there is no indication that this "unrest" (as AP puts it) might have a wider political context beyond "unemployment and social ills" – not even a single line about the repressive nature of the Ben Ali regime.

From the report, you would also imagine there is nothing but rioting – no mention of the very many peaceful protests (or the authorities' way of dealing with them).

Meanwhile, the New York Times uses a Reuters report which talks of a "wave of unrest":

Protesters say they are angry about a lack of jobs, but officials say the rioting is the work of a minority of violent extremists intent on damaging Tunisia.

Once again, there is no real context about the nature of the Tunisian regime. After quoting the call from Nejib Chabbi, the opposition politician, "to spare the lives of innocent citizens and to respect their right to protest peacefully", Reuters goes to some lengths to explain the regime's position:

Officials said the police had fired only in self-defense when violent crowds attacked, ignoring warning shots. The government said in a statement that the police were "doing nothing more than carrying out their legal and legitimate mission to maintain order and guarantee the safety and liberty of citizens".

It continues:

"President Ben Ali has said the violent protests are unacceptable and could discourage investors and tourists, who provide a large part of the country’s revenues. The authorities say they had responded to the protesters’ grievances by starting a program with employers to provide jobs for 50,000 unemployed graduates.

"Tunisia has recorded strong economic growth in the past decade, but it has not been fast enough to satisfy demand for jobs. Unemployment is particularly acute among the young in the interior of the country."

In one report, the BBC talks about "protests over rising food prices and unemployment in Tunisia" and adds: "The government says those responsible are extremists intent on destabilising the country."

However, another BBC report notes:

"Demonstrations are rare in Tunisia, where there are tight controls aimed at preventing dissent. The unrest has been linked to frustrations with the president and the ruling elite."

The Independent newspaper in Britain, also using an AP report, says:

"The protests against unemployment and lack of investment have lasted nearly a month. The authorities say the rioting is the work of a minority of extremists. President Ben Ali has said the protests are unacceptable."

Brian Whitaker, 10 Jan 2011

Talking of mis-reporting here's a BBC video on the uprising.

Jan 10 2011 12:26

Recently on twitter

Now: Big manifestation in #Kasserine (cite El-Zouhour)...

Breaking News - Five dead people shot by the police were discovered this morning in Talah

in #Sfax, police forces using bullets to stop a demonstration (location "route de l'aeroport")

The 2 cities to make this revolt unnassailable by Benali are Sfax and Tunis #sidibouzid #jasminrevolt sfax has started moving

Manifestation in #Kairouan now in front Habitat bank..stones and tear gas bombs used

I now know exactly the effect of tear gaz bombs:burning eyes, tears, can't see, unbearable pain in chest and nose, awfull smell

Strikes for #sidibouzid in all over the country

Manar University Campus, police forces attacked the student with the tear gas

manif campus manar (2) #sidibouzid #OpTunisia

Tunisia to respond to protests

Today's high school protests for #sidibouzid spread like fire all over the country, who said our youth was lost and unconscious?

Tunisia: “Please tell the world Kasserine is dying!” #sidibouzid #jasminrevolt

Rap from #Tunisia: "President, your people are dying!"

don't forget that Tunisian #blogger Slim #Amamou is still arrested and held incommunicado

New blog post: [Video] A Song For Tunisia: The Free Knows No Fear #SidiBouzid

Classes are suspended at ma3had al namoothaji in Sousa

Notice the gaz from the bomb & how people running in all directions, an old lady passed out!#kairouan

Video: Today's General strike in Ar-reqab إضراب عام اليوم بمدينة الرقاب حزنا على القتلى #sidibouzid

"5 news bodies found in Thala this norning. 3 in local police station. Families were not allowed to recover them." #SidiBouzid via @TunNews

Sbeitla, in #Kasserine, protesters set on fire the office of ben ali's party #SidiBouzid #JasminRevolt

Clashes between students attending Farhat Hashad, Al Habib Thamer, and Nov 7th institutions and the police in Binzart

Breaking news: European Union requests #Tunisia to release arrested people

People protesting in Nafta (south of #Tunisia)...

5 more killed in #Kasserine this morning (cite El-Zouhour and El-Karama) #SidiBouzid #JasminRevolt

More shocking videos and photos from Tunisia: (Article in French)

Protest in the hospital of Sfax #sidibouzid

The news of the firing the army general is unverified

Army in Fariana (#Kasserine state)... But not stopping the protesters...

Tunisia Sunday LiveBlog: At Least 20 & Up to 51 Dead in Saturday/Sunday Clashes

Mike Harman
Jan 10 2011 12:35

Mark. - if you have time, writing this up for a news article would get this some more attention - we can put it on the front page of the site, and it'll show up in google news etc. (I could probably transfer the comments on here to the news article as well if that's useful).

About a week or two ago there was a very small protest in Egypt when the government tried to reclassify a school (not really up on the details, I know someone who went to that school a long time ago and it was on his facebook). Just one school, but several hundred people at the demo, and it may be a sign of other things going on there as well.

Jan 10 2011 12:53

Mike - I'll see what I can do though I don't think I'll be able to write anything today and it might just be something that serves as an introduction to the thread. I've been regretting not starting this as a news article in the first place.

Mike Harman
Jan 10 2011 12:55

Something that just introduces the thread is fine, also it's completely fine to update news articles once posted - an admin has to approve the edit but that's the only hurdle.

Jan 10 2011 13:02

It would be good if someone could do a photo gallery at some point as well.

As far as moving the comments I've put up links to this thread elsewhere and they will need to keep working. I'm not sure whether that will be a problem or not.

Jan 10 2011 12:59
Jan 10 2011 21:21

An eyewitness account from Tala

Tunisian blog Khayl wa Layl (Horses and Nights) posted a letter from a woman (Ar) from Tala, detailing some of the horrors they have been witnessing over the last few days.

Six people were killed in Tala, which is located 200km southwest of the capital Tunis, and another six injured when the police opened fire at protesters there yesterday, said news reports.

In her letter, she writes:

The protests started in 2008, but despite their recurrence over the previous years, no one responded to our demands, despite the fact that they were simple. The last demand followed the death of Bouazizi. We should note that the demands were peaceful despite the continuous repression from the regime, and in the absence of basic rights, such as the right of expression. The oppression of the security forces on the protesters was the final straw. This is why they burnt the first symbol of the regime, the Gathering Hall, and the first symbol of the violation of privacy, the police station.

The letter continues:

That was last Monday. On Tuesday, at 10am, students from the institute tried to leave to take part in a demonstration. They were surrounded there but some students were able to escape, while the rest were suffocated with the tear gas bombs. At noon, the rest were able to leave, and the confrontations started. The people of the town last night fell asleep at the sound of live ammunition, and woke up this morning at the sound of the screaming mothers of martyrs, and the sound of the recitation of the Quran and the start of the period of mourning. The martyrs accounted for are as follows: Ahmed Omari, 17, a student; Ahmed Bala'abi, 30; Ayman Rutabi, 14; Marwan Jamli, 19; and Ghassan Shneeti, 18, a butcher, and his family's only bread winner. All this was happening as Tunisia was busy with a football match, with total disregard to the meeting between the unarmed people of my beloved Tala and forces, armed with weapons. The repression continued with the disconnection of electricity. All the shops were shut and it was with difficulty that we were able to take the injured to the hospital. Even with those buried, the barbarians agreed on condition that they be buried by the women alone! And while a funeral procession for one of the martyrs was on its way to the burial grounds, it was attacked with tear gas, which led to leaving the coffin on the street. After several attempts, they were able to collect the body, and bury the martyr and on their way back, they were attacked once again with live ammunition and bombs. A hospital source in Tala also confirms the death of a nurse from the attack of the security forces.

The woman concludes her letter saying:

Tala is now enveloped in sadness and quiet. Is this the quiet before the storm? Or will the sea of blood continue to rise in the face of the total disregard of Tunis 7 (a television station), which is not speaking the truth!!

Amira Al Hussaini 10 January 2011

Jan 10 2011 22:10

Tunisia closes universities to quell unrest

Tunisia's government ordered the indefinite closure of all schools and universities on Monday


"Following violence in universities and lycees and while awaiting an investigation to establish who was responsible for inciting students we have decided to stop all the lessons in all educational establishments .... from tomorrow, Tuesday, until further notice," the official TAP news agency quoted the Education Ministry as saying.


In the provincial towns that were the scene of many of the deaths at the weekend, there was renewed confrontation though not on the scale of previous days


In the town of Gassrine, about 200 km (125 miles) southwest of the capital, a witness said a funeral procession for civilians killed at the weekend turned into a confrontation.

"Police opened fire into the air," Mohamed Ali Nasri told Reuters by telephone from the scene.

In the town of Rgeb, witnesses said funeral processions for people shot in earlier clashes also turned violent.

"The town is encircled by the police. There are 2,000 protesters in a confrontation throughout the town with the police, who are using teargas and are opening fire," Kamel Labidi, who said he was at the scene, told Reuters by telephone.


In the towns of Thala, Gassrine, Seliana, Rgeb and Meknassi army trucks were sent in to re-enforce police, residents said.


Manifestations à Tunis, Morts à Regueb


Speech by Ben Ali this afternoon

Jan 10 2011 22:07

Report on twitter from Kasserine that 'the army have kicked the police out of the city'. Also 'bloody confrontations between police and protesters in Gafsa'.


'Police station set on fire in Kasserine today'

'Kasserine protesters taking off huge Ben Ali's banner from a governmental building'

'Right now: a clash in Bizerte'