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

Posted By

Jan 12 2011 00:41


Attached files


Jan 12 2011 02:02

A new chronicle: Ben Ali of Tunisia: the beginning of the ending

Ben Ali’s in laws are reportedly left the country and have headed to Canada “ Canadians please do not welcome them, they are thieves, do not let them enjoy your great citizenship and refugee privileges” Tunisian protesters are said to receive them in the airport.

The Moroccan newspapers say that Ben Ali has fired his army chief staff Rashid Amar because he ordered the army to attack the protesters in fact to protect them. He appointed the chief of Military intelligence instead of him.

The army has been deployed to several areas in the country.

Up till now 12 civilians have been killed alone tonight in Tunis , the capital.

I think we must think now in a coup d'état scenario. 

The story is rapidly developing in Tunisia

Jan 12 2011 02:12

And finally for tonight...

Just now on twitter

Huge security on all ways to the Presidential palace in Tunis #sidibouzid guys shall I go to bed or continue to see Ben Ali's end

Video of woman describing the arrival in Montreal of El Materi, magnate and Ben Ali relative

As #JasminRevolution clashes approach the Presidential Palace, Ben Ali's in-laws flee to #Montreal?

The dictator's 3 daughters along with their husbands flee the country #SidiBouzid

Eyewitness : Ministery of interior surrounded by the military

Mike Harman
Jan 12 2011 02:57

OK so I'm going to do this:

1. Merge the first and second posts on this thread together.
2. Convert this to a news article
3. Add a second path alias for it (so it's available at /news and /forums)
4. Write a short introduction to the thread as the basis for the news article.

Then we can try to improve the article itself from there.

Edit - this is now done. Will try to sort it out a bit more later.

Jan 12 2011 07:16

Don't in any way want to derail this excellent and informative thread, but just to respond to joselito's

Probably stuff you already know.....

(post #103) - no i didn't.
And for extra information about the uprising in Kabylie in 2001, other than the Encylopaedie des Nuisances one previously mentioned, check out this.
Also, today there's a Guardian article, expressed obviously in liberal terms, on the possible spread of social movements in the Arab world.

Mike Harman
Jan 12 2011 07:33

Just seen this:

Suggests there's been a military coup and there's a new acting president. Not sure if this is new information or just the same things that Mark. picked up last night summarized.

The most recent reports from those within Tunisia state and from what we’ve seen on Twitter are that the Ben Ali regime has been brought down by a military coup and that General Rachid Ammar has been given temporary status as President. However, it’s again worth noting that these are rumors. The latest update from the only news source that we’ve seen covering anything about Tunisia comes again from Al Jazeera and does not mention anything other than unrest:
Jan 12 2011 08:34
Red Marriott wrote:
sabot wrote:
Ya, I'm a bit suprised that we dont have any news articles on this yet.


If I knew more about the situation over there I'd do it myself.

I wouldn't let that stop you or anyone else taking it on; thanks to Mark primarily (and others) there are already enough facts and links on this thread to create a very useful article. Doing that would be part of a learning process for anyone who wants to know more about the region, its history and ongoing events. An OK article would also be likely to attract those sympathetic to its viewpoint who had more direct knowledge of events.

On another thread posters are promoting the idea of libcom blogs being submitted for some bourgeois media prize - yet, despite many regular posters who shoot the bull on here, 2 weeks in and no news article on a major insurrection? Priorities are all upside down.

TBH, I dont have much experience writing up articles and it will definitely need a good proof read before posted. Any ideas for a beginner?

Mike Harman
Jan 12 2011 08:54

There's some stuff here -

With this specifically, since events are moving so quickly, it might be worth trying to do a timeline summary of events - this would allow for later updating as well. For a lot of people it's going to be the first thing they see about it so that format allows them to get an idea quickly, and can link off to twitter, other articles and this thread for more information.

It'd be more or less just picking things out from here, and formatting it with dates in a single post with an introduction. This doesn't preclude either you or someone else writing something more analytical in a separate article later.

Also like Mark. said, trying to build up an image gallery would be great as well, all posters on the site can make image galleries now I think (if not I can fix that or give you permissions).

Jan 12 2011 11:52

Mike - Thanks for sorting that out. Check this link for continuing updates today.

Tunisia LiveBlog: Will President Ben Ali "Go the Way of Romania's Ceausescu"?

1125 GMT: Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has announced on television that most detainees arrested since the start of protests in mid-December are being freed.

Ghannouchi also announced the appointment of a new Minister of Interior, Ahmed Friaa, replacing Rafik Belhaj Kacem. Friaa is a former mayor, Minister of Communications, and Dean of the National Engineering School of Tunis.

It is also reported that he has called for an enquiry into allegations of corruption and the behaviour of officials in the current crisis.

1035 GMT: Labour activists have told Al Jazeera that there will be general strikes in the provimces of Kasserine, Sfax, and Gabes today, with plans for a strike on Thursday in the provinces of Kairouan and Jendouba and on Friday in Tunis.

The General Union of Tunisian Workers has called for a fact-finding commission to investigation the firing of ammunition into crowds. It has also demanded the immediate withdrawal of military forces from cities and the end to use of special forces by the Ministry of Interior.

1020 GMT: Troops have been deployed in Tunis this morning, according to AFP.

Armoured vehicles are in the streets, and troops are taking up positions at major intersections and at the entrance to the Cite Ettadhamen quarter, where clashes occurred on Tuesday night.

This is the first time troops have been deployed in the capital since the start of current protests in mid-December.

0945 GMT: This image is from a couple of days ago, but I thought it striking enough to feature again --- a group of students assemble themselves to spell out in Arabic, "No to Murder":

0730 GMT: There are reports of an attack on the Tunisian Embassy in Switzerland overnight. Attempts to set a fire caused slight damage.

Earlier this week, there was a similar attack on a Tunisian Consulate in a Parisian suburb. 

0715 GMT: On Tuesday, protests continued across Tunisia, with two incidents of note in and near the capital Tunis. Police broke up a gathering of about 100 artists in the centre of the city, and last night they fired tear gas and shot into the air to disperse demonstrators when they smashed shops and set fire to a bus, two cars, a local government office, and a bank in the suburbs of Ettadem.

The crowd chanted, "We are not afraid, we are not afraid, we are afraid only of God." 

Earlier in the day, as more footage emerged of protests, responses by security forces, and the tearing down of President Ben Ali's image, discussion focused on the death toll. Witnesses and activists put the weekend's number of dead at more than 50, and the Government edged up its official tally to 21 last night…

Jan 12 2011 12:50

Recently on twitter (claims may be unconfirmed)

BREAKING NEWS: Tunisian interior minister fired, says prime minister

Tunisian president fires interior minister, orders release of all detained in #SidiBouzid unrest accr to (Reuters) 

TV7: Ben Ali orders release of all ppl detained during protests except those involved in criminal activity

Tunisian President fires minister of interior, appoints a new one - from same clan -, orders release of all Uprising detainees

Tunisian state-run TV: Ben Ali appoints new Prime Minister

Ben Ali announces release of prisoners, while reports say opposition figure Hamma Hammami kidnapped last night

BreakingNews: 30,000 people in streets in Sfax city in Tunisia

Trouble in Tunisia: Unrest Reaches Capital City - TIME #sidibouzid

Screenshot de la bourse #freetunisia #sidibouzid

It's hard to track what's going on unless you speak French or Arabic but there are significant developments in Tunisia - see #SidiBouzid

Appeal to army, security bodies, not to let Ben Ali flee Tunisia (French)

Thala, police firing on protestors with live ammo right now. Ben Ali is a murderer and a liar

Manifestation #sfax : 1 death at least just wait for his name

Video: tens of thousands marching in Sfax today فيديو: مظاهرة ضخمة في صفاقس اليوم #sidibouzid

New Min of Interior Friaa - Former Min of Comms, mayor, & Dean of Engineering

Troops move to curb tunisia unrest: Armed forces were stationed on the capital's streets for the first time sinc...

Economist: Will Ben Ali be tunisia 's Ceausescu?

BBC News: tunisia n interior minister sacked: tunisia 's president dismisses Interior Minister”

New on Arabist: Uncertainty in tunisia

Video: The Latest Protests of "Tens of Thousands"

Tunisie : la France ne condamne pas... elle propose son aide à Ben Ali:

Le #Maroc interdit une manifestation de soutien aux #tunisiens

2 Martyrs in Douz today, one of them is a university professor at a French university

I repeat: The liberation of detainees is conditioned. Source TV7. It's a lure I tell you people!

#Army at 7novembre one of #Sfax main streets. confirmed by phone!

2 morts ce matin a sfax.. source sure de l'hopital de sfax

2nd largest HQ of the dominant political party (RCD) in Sfax is on fire

Sfax today: bombes lacrymogènes

Street protests, tear gas and deployed army this second in #Mednine in southern Tunisia

teargas in bizerte..police is filming evreybody taking part in manifestation

Jan 12 2011 12:25

Tunisia: whisperings of coup just rumor

Early Wednesday morning, January 12, reports of a coup in Tunisia spread like wildfire on Twitter.  At approximately 5:10am CET, Wessim Amara (@wes_m) was amongst the first to tweet:
"Phone confirmation that the army has surrounded the ministry of interior #coup #tunisia #zaba"

Following the tweets of @wes_m and others, the Twitter stream became filled with news of a rumored coup


In the end, however, the reports of a coup were false; Nasser Weddady (@weddady), whose report of a possible coup had quickly become a Top Tweet, apologized, noting:

the rumor of a coup today is the answer to what people really want.
Jan 12 2011 12:32

On the alasbarricadas thread

pretextat_tach wrote:

Ey, qué de información en español sobre lo de Túnez, qué guay

Yo no tengo mucho que aportar, pero he hablado esta mañana con gente que está viviendo las revueltas allí en directo, en el desierto al Sur de Túnez (concretamente en Tozeur) y me han comentado que el gobierno dio ayer toque de queda, que se han extendido las manifestaciones a más ciudades, que hay un montón de gente en la calle manifestando, quemando bancos y supermercados y que se ve muchísima solidaridad por parte de todxs (lxs que no se atreven a salir a la calle, salen a los balcones a tirarle alimento, tabaco y agua a lxs manifestantes y cosas así..). A ver que mas va saliendo por aquí...


Jan 12 2011 12:51

Tweetin' bout a revolution

I have spent a lot of time over the last few days following the Tunisian uprising on Twitter. With reporting on the ground severely curtailed by the authorities, with the western media slow to catch on to the significance of the events, and the Arab media – with a few rare exceptions such as al-Jazeera – nervously wondering what they can safely say, Twitter has become the first port of call for information.

Follow the hashtag #sidibouzid (after the town where the uprising started) and you'll find a jumbled collection of tweets in French, Arabic and English. At first it all looks very chaotic but, after a while, you start to recognise whose tweets are worth taking seriously and whose are not.

Where tweeters provide links, you can jump off to other places on the internet and often find confirmation of what they say: grainy videos of riots and demonstrations, and the dead and dying in hospitals. The Tunisian uprising may be under-reported, but it is not going unrecorded.

The discourse about Tunisia on Twitter is unlike any you would find in the mainstream Arab media where journalists, for the most part, are heavily constrained and constantly looking over their shoulders. It's free and uninhibited, much more like a private conversation among friends in some smoke-filled shisha cafe – except that it's happening on the internet and the whole world can listen in.

In a cafe conversation, of course, people say things off the top of their heads and mix fact with rumour and gossip. Normally, that wouldn't matter much, but because the Tunisia conversation has become such an important source of information – by default rather than design – here it matters rather a lot.

Last night, some of the Tunisia tweeters found themselves in the situation that journalists dread: getting a story seriously wrong. A rumour went round that the army had seized power and ousted the president. This was swiftly retweeted and also picked up by one or two bloggers.

Since then, there has been no confirmation and the coup story appears to be untrue – probably a case of people being too eager to believe the rumours they want to believe.

This morning, the over-hasty tweeters are licking their wounds and their mistake will no doubt fuel the argument that Twitter, and citizen journalism more generally, is unreliable as a source of information.

But it's not quite as simple as that. Unreliable in comparison to what? If you read the Tunisian newspapers and nothing else, you would scarcely be aware that an uprising is taking place. The country's citizen journalists, on the other hand, have been providing a much more complete picture.

Another point to keep in mind is that tweeters may get things wrong, but they are rarely wrong for long. Other tweeters can challenge them, often within minutes.

The beauty of Twitter and other social media is that they are largely self-correcting. The coup story was disputed and, before long, a consensus had been reached that there was probably nothing in it. The erring tweeters were embarrassed but graciously admitted their mistake. Which is more than can be said for the regime of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

Brian Whitaker

Jan 12 2011 16:40

a few more links

Morning Star - Around 50 killed at Tunisia jobless protests - Tunisia: The revolution will not be televised

Anarkismo - Protestas en el Norte de África ¿qué está pasando?

Google translate of the last one:

Protests in North Africa What is happening?

Protests against the high cost of living, unemployment and corruption are growing since the end of the year in North Africa, extending both in Tunisia and in Algeria by more and more cities and involving more social sectors, so that the situation in both countries has become extremely unstable, to the concern of the United States and the European Union, the top two international guarantors of the oligarchic political systems that are perpetuated in the Maghreb posing as "buffer state" before the advance of Islamic fundamentalism in the region.

Bouteflika in Algeria and Tunisia Ben Ali (as Mohammed VI in Morocco) are presented to the outside as "strong men" who need a strong hand to subdue and keep out the enemy within, at the cost of plunging to their populations in poverty disciplined and take them under an iron fist, crushing or hindering any attempt to organize most popular or political change, crushing ethnic minorities and promoting the state apparatus through social agencies, unions and related policy to ensure continuity of the system . All with the support or complicity of an "international community" that values, above respect for human rights, have stable partners in the framework of the "war on terror" and with good trading partners.

The immolation of a fruit vendor in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid to protest the injustices of the regime and the lack of prospects in life was the spark that led to a protest movement first in that town and its surroundings and then all over Tunisia demanding a democratic opening and a reversal of anti-popular economic policies dictated by international financial organizations. The population of the coalfields, lawyers, journalists, youth from poor neighborhoods are being the most active and more visible in the protests. The television channel Al-Jazeera and the Internet sites and blogs, despite all the checks and attempts to silence his voice, have become two sources of information and important contact to coordinate and expand a movement trying to hide and minimize the official media, the only ones allowed.

Demonstrations have spread in recent days to neighboring Algeria, which is experiencing a political and social situation very similar. The rise in the price of food and other staples, growing unemployment especially among the youth population and a suffocating system that prevents the expression of popular demands in other ways have led to thousands of people take to the streets in Mass demonstrations have been violently suppressed. The Algerian government faced the situation with the method of stick and carrot, decreeing the one hand the lowering of taxes on commodities and facilitating the import and the other as his Tunisian counterpart, blood and fire to repress the protests, threatening to bring down the full weight of the law against their leaders and ensuring, in a nod to its international backers, all due to a hand in the darkness that wants to destabilize the country, referring to the jihadist threat. Algeria, as well as being a stronghold in the fight against the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the Maghreb, is a major exporter of gas and a key player in Europe's energy supply.

It is critical that we are able to disseminate and support the most effective way the struggle of peoples in North Africa. The best way to stop the spread of fundamentalism in the region is not encouraging corrupt governments, oligarchies and faithful followers of the IMF's austerity policies, what exactly do win auditorium fundamentalist discourse among the neglected social sectors, but promoting structural changes in fund in economic and social policies that raise the standard of living of the masses, promote its political involvement, regardless of class and increase control over the rich natural resources of the region.

It is clear that this policy does not promote an "international community" whose interests go through the "good political climate" for their investments and control and a cheap supply of strategic raw materials for many Western states.

The only ones who can open the way for a secular Maghreb with genuine democracy and social justice movements are born from the womb of the oppressed classes and articulate their interests, giving a relentless battle against the scourge that blights. Secure our ties with them.

Manu Garcia
January 10, 2011

Jan 12 2011 17:53

actually the wikileaks 2009 cable on Tunisia has some quite quotable bits for article writers:

Tunisia is a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems.
The problem is clear: Tunisia has been ruled by the same president for 22 years. He has no successor. And, while President Ben Ali deserves credit for continuing many of the progressive policies of President Bourguiba, he and his regime have lost touch with the Tunisian people. They tolerate no advice or criticism, whether domestic or international. Increasingly, they rely on the police for control and focus on preserving power. And, corruption in the inner circle is growing. Even average Tunisians are now keenly aware of it, and the chorus of complaints is rising. Tunisians intensely dislike, even hate, First Lady Leila Trabelsi and her family. In private, regime opponents mock her; even those close to the government express dismay at her reported behavior. Meanwhile, anger is growing at Tunisia's high unemployment and regional inequities. As a consequence, the risks to the regime's long-term stability are increasing.
Notwithstanding the frustrations of doing business here, we cannot write off Tunisia. We have too much at stake. We have an interest in preventing al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other extremist groups from establishing a foothold here. We have an interest in keeping the Tunisian military professional and neutral.
Jan 12 2011 20:01

Events in Tunisia, January 12

The regime is clinging on and making some minor concessions which are probably far too late. The security crackdown is obviously placing huge demands on the police and military. In a trial of strength, can the protesters stretch them to breaking point? Maybe the endgame is approaching but the big question is how it can be brought to a conclusion.

A brief summary of reported events in Tunisia on Wednesday:

• Interior minister, Rafik Belhaj Kacem, dismissed; replaced by Ahmed Fria, former communications minister.

• Prime minister announces release [not confirmed] of all those arrested during recent events except those involved in looting and burning.

• President sets up committee of inquiry into abuses during recent events, plus a second committee to look into corruption (!) and mistakes by some officials. 

• Both houses of parliament to meet Thursday to discuss (surely, "approve") president's decisions.

• Stock market falls again.

Massive demonstration in Sfax, followed by tear gas.

Hatem Bettahar, assistant professor (said to be a French citizen) shot dead – apparently by a government sniper in Douz.

• Protests in Hammamet (important tourist destination). One or more dead; police station burned.

• Ruling party headquarters in Dar Chaabane (Nabeul) on fire

• Army increasingly visible on the streets of Tunis and other cities.

• President Ben Ali should have created 810 new jobs by now, in line with Monday's promise of an extra 300,000 jobs over two years.

• Hamma Hammami, Communist Party spokesman, arrested.

• Former political prisoner Lamari Ahmed arrested.

• Abdelwahhab Maatar, lawyer for rapper El Général, reportedly arrested.

• Headquarters of ruling party in Sfax said to be on fire.

• Curfew declared in Tunis and suburbs from 8pm tonight until 5.30am tomorrow. Air France/KLM cancel late-night flight from Paris to Tunis.

• Some of presidential family reportedly arrive in Canada.

Brian Whitaker, 12 Jan 2011

Jan 12 2011 21:55

Recently on twitter (claims may be unconfirmed)

DAY 27 of Tunisian Uprising is stronger than ever. Protests have spread virtually everywhere in the country, North to South

Day 27 of Tunisian Uprising: 2 dead in Tuzer, 1 dead in Sfax, 2 dead in Hammamat, 3 dead in Dar Shaaban, 15 injured in Nabel

General strike in Sousse

BBC News - tunisia imposes curfew in Tunis to quell protests

The Sick Man of the Middle East: Is tunisia 's strongman president about to fall?

According to @viagramoniak, chaos reigns in Marsa (Tunis) - gun shots, car alarms, cries & shouts

Can anyone check this? RT @shackow: RT @SBZ_news: Bezert sees violent clashes btw police & protestors-city out of control

Report: According to a witness from Nabeul there are 15 injured and 4 of them are in a critical condition

A women was killed in Dar Chaabane when cops opened fire on the crowds #SidiBouzid 

Report of rioters defying curfew in Tunis suburb of Soukra. If true, very bad news for Ben Ali

[Video] Massive march of protest in Hammamet 12/01/2011 -

Right now in Slimane(in the capital) #SidiBouzid

Video reportedly of Professor Hatem Bettaher of the University in Gabes after he was killed

Traditional Media Abandon Tunisia to Twitter, YouTube by @curthopkins

video [GRAPHIC]: today in Douz (South) protester shot dead by police #sidibouzid الشهيد حاتم بن طاهر أستاذ بجامعة قابس

"Tunisians Document Protests Online" | #SidiBouzid | (

Tomorrow protest in front of Tunisian Embassy in #London near South Kensington

REUTERS: Tunisian people shout slogans as they demonstrate against President Ben Ali in Marseille. #SidiBouzid

Tomorrow: Solidarity stand in Amman, #Jordan with #Sidibouzid

IFJ Backs Journalists Strike against Violence and Press Gag in Tunisia | AidNews -

#Tunisia finally fixture on frontpage: Mayhem Spreads in Tunisia - Curfew Decreed #Sidibouzid 

New Tunisia Update: Z:a woman is killed by sniper tonight in Nabeul

Rightnow a clash in Hammam Chott(Ben Arous Gov) between police and protesters

News of death of #Tunisia actor Faraj Attiya by police fire circulating widely. No Evidence to confirm em yet.

Jan 12 2011 22:09

Tunisia imposes curfew in capital (Al Jazeera)

A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been called in Tunisia's capital after rioters demanding action on food prices and unemployment brought their protests to the heart of the city.

The army deployed armoured vehicles around Tunis on Wednesday as the government sought to put a lid on the unrest which has left at least 20 people dead across the country.

The Tunisian president sacked Rafik Belhaj Kacem, his interior minister, on Wednesday after he was widely criticised for its ruthless response to the protests.

However, the measures did little to immediately calm the situation as hundreds of protesters hurled stones at police at a key intersection in Tunis. Officers responded with volleys of tear gas, driving the protesters to disperse into adjoining streets. Stores in the area were shuttered.

It was not immediately clear whether there were any injuries or arrests. Two army vehicles were posted at the intersection, which is close to the French embassy.

In another neighbourhood in central Tunis, hundreds of protesters tried to reach the regional governor's office but were blocked by riot police. And at the main national union headquarters, police surrounded protesters who tried to break out. Tensions also erupted along the edges of the capital.

The interior ministry ordered the curfew from 8pm (1900 GMT) to 5:30am on Thursday, citing "disturbances, pillaging and attacks against people and property which have occurred in some districts of the city".

Tunis had been spared the protests that began in mid-December, and turned violent in the west of the country at the weekend when security forces opened fire on demonstrators, until Tuesday when rioters attacked a local government office in the Cite Ettadhamen quarter...

Jan 12 2011 22:18

Five more killed in Tunisia clashes

Five people were killed in renewed clashes in Tunisia on Wednesday, witnesses said, and protesters fought with police in the capital in defiance of a curfew aimed at stemming the worst unrest in decades.


In the Sahara desert town of Douz, three witnesses told Reuters at least four people had been killed when police opened fire, including one university professor.

Two witnesses told Reuters that police in the town of Thala, scene of fatal shootings at the weekend, fired teargas to try to disperse a crowd of people but when that had no effect they opened fire, killing 23-year-old Wajdi Sayhi.

The victim was deaf, said his brother, Ramzi.

"The police told him to go home but he heard nothing, and they fired towards him," he told Reuters by telephone. "They (the government) promised us and promised us and now they have promised us death," he said.


The government declared a nightly curfew for Tunis and surrounding suburbs from 8 p.m. (1900) until 6 a.m., saying it was in response to violence.

When the curfew fell in the El Omran neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city, hundreds of youths who had been throwing stones at police carried on, a Reuters reporter at the scene.

He said police responded with tear gas and by firing into the air. The youths had earlier set fire to a bank branch...

Jan 13 2011 00:41

Recently on twitter

Flamethrowers to stamp down the protesters !!!

Video: Hammamet, clashes between police and protesters

Update #OpTunisia: A : Hammamet Body being carried down the street, protester...

video: Beja (North) today باجة اليوم #sidibouzid

Douz today's protest "No to Ben Ali"

video: Sousse today, protesters demanding the release of all prisoners

Night protest in Mahdia

Whoops the police cop disappeared

Crise de liquidités des banques tunisiennes


Jan 13 2011 01:07
Jan 13 2011 01:26

This is an op-ed written by a friend of mine. He mentions that there have been strikes promised by syndicates (in North Africa syndicates are professional trades such as journalists, lawyers, doctors, engineers and so on).

Issandr El Amrani wrote:
As I write these lines, a 7pm curfew has been imposed in Tunis, perhaps the clearest sign thus far that the wave of protests and discontent that has taken over Tunisia since 17 December is not about to end.

I have spent the day following the scraps of news that come out of social networks and websites, being directed to the temporary websites where Tunisian online activists are storing videos of the protests--video-sharing sites are quickly blocked by Tunisian authorities and hence must change all the time. I spoke to a well-to-do young Tunisian from a prominent family who has effectively decided to give up what would have been a life of privilege by siding with the protesters and denouncing the corruption of the ruling family.

I read the sometimes deeply eloquent, sometimes quite hilarious responses to the speech that Tunisian President Zein al-Abideen Ben Ali delivered on Monday, in which he missed the opportunity to calm the situation by insinuating that demonstrators were foreign agents, promising the creation of 300,000 jobs in two years (that’s 17 new jobs every hour!) for unemployed graduates and thanking Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi for offering to make it easier for Tunisians to go work in Libya.

There are strong rumors that the chief of staff of the army has just been dismissed for calling on police officers not to shoot protesters with live bullets (as they did over the weekend, claiming at least 35 victims and wounding many more). Other rumors circulating include that criminals have been released from prison to be used as hired hands against protesters, as several days of general strikes by various professional syndicates have been announced.

Schools and universities have been closed until further notice. The Tunisian stock market reached its lowest point in months today, as police beat up lawyers and artists that planned to stage a peaceful protest. Hotels that are normally full of Europeans fleeing the bitter winter are apparently empty, and in any case a stroll down Tunis’s Avenue Habib Bourguiba would be impeded by the numerous security troops.

I watched videos of demonstrators in poor towns in central Tunisia, for the first time since Ben Ali became president in 1987 in a coup, tear down portraits of their ruler and burn them, all the while chanting against the obscene corruption of his wife Leila Trabelsi and her family.

I have not been to Tunisia since 2003, in good part because after that trip--despite meeting some charming people--I never wanted to return. Having traveled to many Arab countries, I am no stranger to heavy security states and ubiquitous informants. But even Syria under Hafez al-Assad seemed freer and more relaxed than Tunis, where I was constantly followed and warned about leaving my laptop in my hotel room. Most shocking of all was the palpable fear one felt among ordinary people, a resignation that went far beyond being careful when discussing politics. It was a capitulation.

Tunisia may be, by the region’s standards, a relatively prosperous country with a sizeable middle class and decent education levels. But it’s supposed “economic miracle” (not so miraculous when ones considers how regime cronies control much of the country’s economic fabric) is in actuality a human nightmare. One felt stuck in a Hitchcock film, permanently assailed by a creeping sense of dread and unease.

The Tunisian regime has already lost more than power: it has lost legitimacy, and its demise is probably now merely a matter of time. Ben Ali’s rule has destroyed Tunisia’s political fabric and heavily damaged that of its civil society. This is why he could not see the warning signs that made his country, supposedly North Africa’s best model, turn against him. Without real politics--political leaders who can genuinely claim to represent people--there was no one to tell him what was happening, and no one with the moral authority to end the protests once they started. And now, it seems, the only means at his disposal to end the protests is repression and brutality.

That could work for a while. It may even work for several years, until Ben Ali is too old to rule. But it appears doubtful that the Ben Ali system will survive beyond the man.

There is an important lesson to learn for Tunisia’s neighbors, or indeed any ruler tempted by the illusion that growth alone can create a sound economic environment. Politics is not something distinct from economics, it is the mechanism by which an economy and a society is regulated. All the countries in North Africa have seen increasing income disparities, social frustration brought about by economic reforms and high-profile corruption among ruling elites. All of them feature political classes--from ministers to elected representatives--that generally can boast of little popularity or representativeness. All of them have young populations deeply frustrated by the status quo that are looking attentively at the Tunisian uprising.

If Tunisia’s lesson is lost on regimes, it won’t be lost on the people.

Jan 13 2011 10:54

US State Dept. is really cranking it up to 11 on this one.

From the AFP yesterday (today only available thru secondary reporters like Hurriyet and Al Ahram, direct AFP story seems to have disappeared from )

"We are not taking sides" regarding the deadly clashes between protesters and government forces in Tunisia, US State Secretary Hillary Clinton said according to an English-language transcript of an interview with Al-Arabiya television, received by AFP on Wednesday.

"But we are saying we hope that there can be a peaceful resolution. And I hope that the Tunisian government can bring that about," she said.

Tunisia's foreign ministry had summoned US ambassador Gordon Gray on Monday after the State Department expressed concerns about "reports of the use of excessive force by the government of Tunisia" against demonstrators.

"We regret that because, obviously, we have got a lot of very positive aspects of our relationship with Tunisia," said Clinton.

"What the ambassador and what the State Department back in Washington did was just express concern that this is a protest that has, unfortunately, provoked such a reaction from the government, leading to the deaths of mostly young people who were protesting," she added.

Ahram online

not sure if that Mrs. Clinton is anyway related to this Mrs. Clinton reported today:

Clinton Blasts Arab Governments on Reforms

DOHA, Qatar—U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasted Arab governments for corruption and stalled political reforms Thursday and warned that extremist groups were exploiting this lack of democratic development to promote radical agendas in the Middle East and North Africa.

Mrs. Clinton said the situation is exacerbated by the large population of young people in the region, who she said were finding few jobs or channels through which to express their aspirations. If left unaddressed, this issue could set the stage for more violence and conflict, she said.

"While some countries have made great strides in governance, in many others, people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order," Mrs. Clinton told the Forum of the Future, a regional conference established to promote democracy and good governance. "The region's foundations are sinking into the sand."

The U.S. secretary of state added: "If leaders don't offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum… Extremist elements, terrorist groups and others who would prey off desperation and poverty are already out there appealing for allegiance and competing for influence."


But apparently the US coverage is more interested in her remark about Jared Loughner being an "extremist" (shock, horror, outrage!) and, oh yeah, some apparently hilarious footage of her tripping over on her way onto the plane. Go Team USA!

Meanwhile, on Tunisia itself, we have the following gem from that bastion of self-regarding US liberal intellectualism, the New York Times:

Tunisia is in some ways the most European country of North Africa. It boasts a relatively large middle class, liberal social norms, broad gender equality and welcoming Mediterranean beaches.

pass the sick bag...

edit: just found this, the official US State Dept. transcript of that Clinton Al Arabiya interview - v. quotable:

Rob Ray
Jan 13 2011 11:41

The guy who posted the flamethrower vid (can't tell what it is exactly cos of the dark/distance but definitely not mollies or gas cans exploding) actually seems to have a good line going on related vids:!/video/?id=174905639212943

Jan 13 2011 12:32
Jan 13 2011 12:41

Tunisia's youth finally has revolution on its mind

I am part of the new generation that has lived in Tunisia under the absolute rule of President Ben Ali.

In high school and college, we are always afraid to talk politics: "There are reporters everywhere," we are told. Nobody dares discussing politics in public; everyone is suspicious. Your neighbour, your friend, your grocer might be Ben Ali's informer: do you or your father want to be forcibly taken to an undefined place one night at 4am?

We grow up with this fear of activism; we continue studying, going out and partying, regardless of politics.

During high school, we begin to find out the intricacies of the "royal" family and hear stories here and there – about a relative of Leila [Trabelsi, the president's wife] who took control of an industry, who has appropriated the land of another person, who dealt with the Italian mafia. We talk and discuss it among ourselves – everybody is aware of what's going on, but there is no action. We quickly learn that Tunisian television is the worst television that exists. Everything is relayed to the glory of President Ben Ali, who's always shown at his best. We all know he dyes his hair black. Nobody likes his wife, who has a wooden smile: she never seemed sincere.

We do not live, but we think we do. We want to believe that all is well since we are part of the middle class, but we know that if the cafes are packed during the day, it is because the unemployed are there discussing football. The first nightclubs open their doors and we begin to go out, to drink and enjoy the nightlife around Sousse and Hammamet. Other stories are circulating – about a Trabelsi who gave someone a horrible kicking because he felt like it, or another who caused a car accident only to return home to sleep. We exchange stories, quietly, quickly. In our own way, it is a form of vengeance: by gossiping, we have the feeling we're plotting.

The police are afraid: if you tell them you're close to Ben Ali all doors open, hotels offer their best rooms, parking becomes free, traffic laws disappear.

The internet is blocked, and censored pages are referred to as pages "not found" – as if they had never existed. Schoolchildren are exchanging proxies and the word becomes cult: "You got a proxy that works?"

We all know that Leila has tried to sell a Tunisian island, that she wants to close the American school in Tunis to promote her own school – as I said, stories are circulating. Over the internet and under the desks, we exchange "La régente de Carthage" [a controversial book about the role of Leila Trabelsi and her family in Tunisia]. We love our country and we want things to change, but there is no organised movement: the tribe is willing, but the leader is missing.

The corruption, the bribes – we simply want to leave. We begin to apply to study in France, or Canada. It is cowardice, and we know it. Leaving the country to "the rest of them". We go to France and forget, then come back for the holidays. Tunisia? It is the beaches of Sousse and Hammamet, the nightclubs and restaurants. A giant ClubMed.

And then, WikiLeaks reveals what everyone was whispering. And then, a young man immolates himself. And then, 20 Tunisians are killed in one day.

And for the first time, we see the opportunity to rebel, to take revenge on the "royal" family who has taken everything, to overturn the established order that has accompanied our youth. An educated youth, which is tired and ready to sacrifice all the symbols of the former autocratic Tunisia with a new revolution: the Jasmin Revolution – the true one.

• This article was originally published in French on

Jan 13 2011 12:50

From the comments for the article above

There will be a peaceful protest this Saturday the 15th of January at 11 am in front of the Tunisian Embassy on London.

Please come to show you support to innocent Tunisians dying as we speak.

Jan 13 2011 12:56
BERN, Switzerland - The Swiss Foreign Ministry says a Swiss woman has been killed during unrest in the north of Tunisia.

The ministry said Thursday the woman was a Swiss-Tunisian dual-citizen.

Swiss radio reports that the woman was killed by a stray bullet while watching a demonstration late Wednesday.

Jan 13 2011 13:09

Protesters shot dead as angry crowds defy Tunis curfew

At least four people were killed in Tunisia in overnight clashes between police and young demonstrators, an opposition politician and a union leader have said.

The latest deaths around Tunis, and Bizerte to the north, happened as protesters defied a government-ordered curfew...

A nightly curfew in Tunis and the surrounding suburbs was introduced yesterday but failed to prevent crowds in at least two neighbourhoods ransacking buildings and throwing stones at police, who responded with teargas and gunshots into the air.

A resident of the working class Ettadamen suburb of Tunis, 25-year-old Mejdi Nasri, died after being shot in the head in the clashes, according to two witnesses and his cousin...

Rob Ray
Jan 13 2011 13:17

This violence is unacceptable. The perpetrators must be identified and brought before the courts,” said a spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton. “And we cannot accept the disproportionate use of force by the police against peaceful demonstrators."

Suggests a very mixed view from the EU, I can't see them backing Ali if things continue to go south for him - hint to elements of the regime that they need to find a new chief?