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 13 2011 13:55

Deaths in Tunisia despite curfew

At least six people have been killed in renewed clashes in Tunisia, in spite of a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the capital, Tunis, and surrounding suburbs.

Clashes erupted early on Thursday in the district of al-Kerm, north of Tunis, witnesses told Al Jazeera. Those killed include three people in the town of Menzel Bourguiba, one person in Bizerte, and one person in Tataouine.

Eye witnesses also said that a sixth person was killed in the capital after a curfew was imposed. There have also been violent clashes with police reported in Douz.

Sources told Al Jazeera that protesters chanted anti regime slogans in several Tunisian cities, including Bizerte, Sidi Bouzid and Kairouan...

Sporadic gunfire rung out overnight outside Tunish, indicating youths had defied the curfew order from Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's government…

Jan 13 2011 14:18

Tunisia liveblog: concession or confrontation? (updated through the day)

1400 GMT: Reports and photos are circulating of the death of Omar Bel Haj, 19, in Sfax yesterday.

1350 GMT: In addition to the confirmed death of a Swiss-Tunisian woman (see 1330 GMT), opposition politician, a union leader, and witnesses say at least four other people were killed last night. One of the dead was named as Mejdi Nasri, 25, a resident of the working-class Ettadamen suburb of Tunis.

The deaths occurred around Tunis and in Bizerte to the north.

Witnesses also say that about 10,000 people are marching today in Sidi Bouzid, where the current wave of protests started almost a month ago.

1340 GMT: Since the mainstream media is now buzzing about social media and its role in recent events, here's a fact: 18.6% of Tunisia's population use Facebook, a higher rate than in Germany.

1335 GMT: The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has called on the Tunisian Government to investigate police killings of civilians and has expressed concern that activists were being arrested and tortured.

Pillay said, "We are trying to verify the number killed. Human rights organizations report almost 40 killed. So clearly that is a result of some excessive measures used, such as snipers, the indiscriminate killing of peaceful protesters."

1330 GMT: The Swiss foreign ministry has confirmed that a Swiss-Tunisian dual national was killed on Wednesday night.

The woman, aged 67, was hit by a stray bullet while watching a demonstration in the town of Dar Chaabane in northern Tunisia...

0730 GMT: Wednesday was a frenetic, shifting 24 hours in Tunisia. It began with overnight demonstrations in the suburbs of Tunis, moved to a mix of Government statements, military manoevures, and mass displays of protests, and ended with stories of a curfew broken by hundreds of youths in the capital.

So where is Tunisia now? The Government's unexpected political move, with the replacement of the Minister of Interior and promises to release detainees and investigate corruption, was twinned with a show of force, as military units established a high-visibility presence in the cities, including Tunis.

Yet all of this was supplanted later in the day by a set of images coming out of Sfax, the second-largest city in Tunisia. Its official population is 400,000, and tens of thousands of them had come out on the streets in a mass rally. The overhead video of the crowd stunned even the most optimistic activist (and, presumably, even the highest-level Government official). This was followed by images of a smoking Government building and, in contrast, of the demonstrators singing the National Anthem.

The general strike and demonstration in Sfax was only part, however, of what is intended to be three days of stoppages and protests, culminating in Tunis on Friday...

Jan 13 2011 14:32

Recently on twitter

UN calls on Tunisian govt to investigate civilian killings

A lot of shooting going on in Tadhamon (Tunis) according to @Flag_Dark @yadh_boussetta #sidibouzid

Violent clashes in downtown tunis extensive use of tear gas

Paris St. Tunis Police on motorcycles chasing after civilians from diff age groups and pointing guns at them.. to scare them

RT "@bahaakayyali: 3 killed in the last hour in #Tunis #SidiBouzid #Tunisia" 8 minutes ago from Twitter for BlackBerry®

According to @FENNICHE , many corpses arrive to Charles Nicolle hospital in Tunis

Tunisian forces in Manzil Bouzarfa. Shutting down all stores, businesses, gov offices and the weekly market

the funeral of Dr. Hatem BETTAHAR #SidiBouzid

look at what the police is doing

Sfax as it was yesterday, hidden by the medias

AFP: the student Omar HADAD 19 years old, was shot dead in Sfax 12/01/2011 when he was participating in a protest

Government cancels today all sporting events scheduled in #Tunisia

[Video] Sakher El Materi denies his escape to Montreal :

unknown source just dropped this in Anonymous IRC. I think journalists should read

Interesting read! #Tunisia protests fueled by social media networks -

You can spot several Tunisian flags among the Jordanian crowd. #SidiBouzid is everywhere now

The president will give a speech in the parliament house at 4 pm

"shooting in downtown #Tunis"

16 morts à Nabeul selon Al Jazeera

Jan 13 2011 14:54
Rob Ray wrote:
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?

The army seem to be sitting on the fence at the moment. I've seen no reports of them firing at protestors, unlike the police, although I may have missed something. Early yesterday morning it did sound very much as if a coup was in the offing and it's unsurprising that rumours were flying around on twitter. I'd say it's still a possibility. If this happens one parallel might be Portugal in 1974 when the armed forces finally ditched the regime.

Jan 13 2011 16:54

On the army topic - there was a newflash item in le Figaro at 11:27 which claimed that the army had been withdrawn from the streets of Tunis (see here). At around the same time I pretty sure I saw a piece from one of the US outlets (nyt, wsj or wp, can't recall) which said the troops had been withdrawn after a successful curfew had meant a quiet night. That (the quiet night bit) subsequently appears to have been BS - makes one wonder whether that story was put out to explain the withdrawal of the army?

Pure speculation based on probably inaccurate information. What we can say that 22 years of Ben Ali's dictatorship (give or take one or two recent North Korean or Egyptian-style "elections") means that he has made sure that there is no ready-made opposition capable of presenting themselves as a safe pair of hands to the US and EU if they were looking for an alternative management. It may well be that the army is the only place an alternative that might get external backing could come from.

In the meantime, reports are that rioters have stormed and wrecked the beachside pleasure palace of the First Lady's favoured son, the much-hated Mohamed Sakher el-Materi, who was exposed in the recent Wikileaks report (released Dec 7) that added to the furore in Tunisia (see

11. (S) El-Materi's house is spacious, and directly above and along the Hammamet public beach. The compound is large and well guarded by government security. It is close to the center of Hammamet, with a view of the fort and the southern part of the town. The house was recently renovated and includes an infinity pool and a terrace of perhaps 50 meters. While the house is done in a modern style (and largely white), there are ancient artifacts everywhere: Roman columns, frescoes and even a lion's head from which water pours into the pool. El Materi insisted the pieces are real. He hopes to move into his new (and palatial) house in Sidi Bou Said in eight to ten months.

12. (S) The dinner included perhaps a dozen dishes, including fish, steak, turkey, octopus, fish couscous and much more. The quantity was sufficient for a very large number of guests. Before dinner a wide array of small dishes were served, along with three different juices (including Kiwi juice, not normally available here). After dinner, he served ice cream and frozen yoghurt he brought in by plane from Saint Tropez, along with blueberries and raspberries and fresh fruit and chocolate cake. (NB. El Materi and Nesrine had just returned from Saint Tropez on their private jet after two weeks vacation. El Materi was concerned about his American pilot finding a community here. The Ambassador said he would be pleased to invite the pilot to appropriate American community events.)

13. (S) El Materi has a large tiger ("Pasha") on his compound, living in a cage. He acquired it when it was a few weeks old. The tiger consumes four chickens a day.

Tunisian bloggers had satirically called to Free Pasha Now! Tunisie : Libérez Pasha !

from NYT -

HAMMEMET, Tunisia — Protesters swarmed this beachfront tourist destination near the newly restive capital on Thursday, overwhelming the police and ransacking businesses as well as the luxurious mansion of a member of the president’s family.

Social media appeared to play a strong role in organizing the violence, as it has throughout the three weeks of demonstrations and riots that have threatened the government of the authoritarian president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The unrest spread this week to the capital, Tunis.

Early on Thursday, an Arabic Facebook page called on the people of Tunisia to prepare to sacrifice their blood in Hammemet, where several members of Mr. Ali’s extended family have mansions. The page is named “The People of Tunisia are setting themselves on fire, Mr. President,” a reference to the young unemployed man who set himself on fire last month, setting off the wave of growing unrest.

By midday, hundreds of rioters were rampaging through the streets here, several banks were aflame and police officers huddled defensively, shields raised, around their station.

The rioters marauded through the beachfront mansion of the presidential relative, Safia Trabelsi, pulling out a television and two all-terrain vehicles and setting them aflame. A horse ran free in the mansion’s yard.

Two of the rioters said the police had directed them away from attacking the police station and toward the mansion.

The damage was evidence of deep anger at the great wealth and lavish lifestyle of President Ben Ali’s second wife, Leila Trabelsi, and their extended family, including their son-in-law, the billionaire businessman Mohamed Sakher el-Materi. There have been reports that he has fled to Montreal.

No news of Pasha though...

edit: heh. missed this. For all those of you who doubt the accuracy of web polls, here's the poll archive from the Nawaat blog - Nawaat poll archive

Last poll? opened last October,

Q: "in your opinion, what would be the most appropriate solution to the current political situation in Tunisia?"

1. Revolt
2. Civil Disobediance
3. Negotiate with the regime an agreement for the departure of Ben Ali
4. Start again with building democratic opposition
5. Implore the great architect to stick with it for life

#1 takes it by a mile

Rob Ray
Jan 13 2011 17:02

This is pretty stunning if it's true - a resignation letter from the Foreign Minister has appeared on what appears to be his official website in several languages. Can't tell if it's a real one or a hack job though:

I assumed the fate of the Tunisian citizens, after marrying the daughter of one of Ben Ali’s first cousins, and was a member of the family and part of their clan. I am not proud of my own family, and in an honest declaration, would be ready to be judged in court at the same time as they will be. This will be my last service to the Tunisian citizens, in hope that with my resignation, citizens of Tunisia will be more graceful towards me and my family.


I am profoundly convinced that these are not terrorist acts, but citizens exerting their right to strike against a regime who abandoned them for two decades. For this reason, I do not deem myself a member of this oppressing and manipulating government. In a last resort to save face with the international media, the government is working hard from within to portray the protesters as mindless terrorists destroying their country and refusing any peaceful discussion. The government has hired teams of their own police in civilian attire that go around ravaging the suburbs in an effort to spread doubt and disseminate the truth about the tunisian people.

Jan 13 2011 17:48

BusinessWeek mentions that Al Arabiya has reported Kamel Morjane's resignation, though I can't find a transcript of that report on their site.

Photograph of Mohamed Bouazizi for use in reports, websites or what have you:

and if anyone can translate arabic, his last posting to his FB page is included in this tribute article.

Jan 13 2011 22:30

Tunisia liveblog: concession or confrontation?

2140 GMT:Comment of the Night via Twitter....

"Just switched to Tunis TV.There is a democratic debate going on.Is this a joke or what? The country turned democratic in one hour."

2040 GMT: The Tunisian authorities have lifted the block on the multimedia site Nawaat and on the video site YouTube and Daily Motion.

It is also reported that the photographic site Flickr and even sites for pornography are now accessible.

2030 GMT: Just to round off the highlights of the President's speech: he also ordered the reduction of bread, milk, and sugar prices.

1914 GMT: Ben Ali says, "We will give freedom to the media and we will put an end to censorship of the Internet. We must find social remedies."

He assures, "This is not a Presidency for life" and asks those who wish to campaign in 2014 to present themselves.

1910 GMT: The main take-away line from Ben Ali's speech: "All Tunisians must oppose these acts of violence. We do not accept that a single drop of Tunisian blood has been spilled."

He continues, "We must put an end to these acts of violence and looting." He is ordering his Minister of Interior to ensure a stop to firing of live ammunition.

1900 GMT: President Ben Ali is now speaking on national television. It is his third speech during the current protests.

He assures, "I understand Tunisians and have understood their political demands. What has been happening hurts me."

1840 GMT: A graphic video has been posted on Facebook claiming to be of a man killed today by gunfire in Zarzis.

There are also claimed videos of gunfire in the streets.

1705 GMT: The Tunisian Foreign Ministry has denied (full statement is not accessible at this point) that Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane has resigned.

1645 GMT: A contact advises EA that the Foreign Minister's website and Twitter account may have been hacked, leading to a fake resignation letter.

1625 GMT: It appears that the Foreign Minister, Kamel Morjane, may have resigned in a letter on his website:

Citizens of the Republic of Tunisia, After witnessing the recent event that our country has been enduring since December17th 2010, I declare my inaptitude [sic] in pursuing my function in a serene and objective environment as intended.

I declare hereby my official resignation from my function as a minister of foreign affairs at the Tunisian government. In a last effort to assume my responsabilities, I am asking the families of the tunisian martyrs to accept my sincere condoleances and my deep regret faced to their common tragedy....

A Twitter account in Marjane's name has also announced the resignation and linked to the website.

1610 GMT: There are unconfirmed reports that an American journalist has been wounded by gunfire and taken to hospital.

1550 GMT: Witnesses have told AFP that police shot dead a demonstrator near the centre of Tunis today. Another demonstrator was seriously wounded --- an unconfirmed report said he also had died.

Claimed footage of the incident (warning: graphic) has been now been posted in our Video Section.

Security forces tried to disperse protesters with tear gas before opening fire.

1445 GMT: The Los Angeles Times reports on a gathering of about 50 Tunisian actors and artists in the Tunis theatre El Teatro to speak out, through plays and songs, about current events: "The republic is in a coma."

1415 GMT: The International Federation for Human Rights claims eight people were killed and more than 50 wounded overnight violence near Tunis.

AFP names two of the victims as Mejdi Nasri (see 1350 GMT) and 24-year-old Malek Habbachi.

Jan 13 2011 22:25
Rob Ray wrote:
This is pretty stunning if it's true - a resignation letter from the Foreign Minister has appeared on what appears to be his official website in several languages. Can't tell if it's a real one or a hack job though
liveblog wrote:
1705 GMT: The Tunisian Foreign Ministry has denied (full statement is not accessible at this point) that Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane has resigned.

1645 GMT: A contact advises EA that the Foreign Minister's website and Twitter account may have been hacked, leading to a fake resignation letter.

1625 GMT: It appears that the Foreign Minister, Kamel Morjane, may have resigned in a letter on his website

Jan 13 2011 22:29

Tunisia: the last days of Ben Ali

Today is exactly four weeks since the start of the Tunisian uprising and I was planning to write another summary of the day's main events. But, honestly, I can't. There's so much going on, so much chaos.

Let me just point to two things which, basically, say it all.

One was the demonstration today in Kairouan. I've been there on holiday and it's not an especially big town. But look at the video: that protest is huge, huge, huge. 

The other is this report from the New York Times: "Tunisia Rioters Overwhelm Police Near Capital". Referring to today's events in Hammamet, it says:

The police on Thursday all but abandoned this exclusive Mediterranean beach town — haven to the capital’s rich and powerful — as rioters calling for the ouster of Tunisia’s authoritarian president swarmed the streets, torched bank offices and ransacked a mansion belonging to one of his relatives.

That is not the only place where the security forces are fighting a losing battle. 

Regional commanders are no doubt bracing themselves to deliver the bad news to President Ben Ali if they haven't already done so: they can no longer cope and the only way to restore order now is through a political solution.

Ben Ali is speaking as I write this. In any normal country it would have been his resignation speech. Instead, he has  promised to stand down in 2014, but the thought in many Tunisians' minds must surely be: why wait till then?

In the meantime, he seems to be offering a bit more freedom and promising to stop shooting demonstrators. But even that seems too late now and, anyway, after 23 years of repression who is going to take him at his word? The Muslim weekend is upon us and, I suspect, many Tunisians will judge that this is the moment to finish him off.

Unless the president has some totally unexpected tricks up his sleeve (which I doubt), he'll be gone well before 2014. If the protests continue on the same scale this weekend, I'd give him about three days.

Brian Whitaker, 13 Jan 2011

Jan 13 2011 22:47

Al Jazeera: Tunisia president not to run again

The Tunisian president has announced in a televised address he will not seek a new term in office.

The announcement by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who has been in power since 1987, came amid violent protests across the country over unemployment and rising food prices.

He said he will not seek re-election when his presidency comes to an end in 2014.

"I understand the Tunisians, I understand their demands. I am sad about what is happening now after 50 years of service to the country, military service, all the different posts, 23 years of the presidency," Ben Ali said.

Ben Ali ordered reduction in the prices of bread, milk and sugar, and also instructed security forces to stop using firearms against protesters in his speech on Thursday evening.

Yet despite the president's announcement that live ammunition would not be used, Al Jazeera learned that three more people were killed in Aouina, a suburb of Tunis - less than an hour after the president's speech.

"I couldn't understand because the president just said that they'd stop using live ammunition, but they still shooting people," the witness told Al Jazeera.

The young man said that he heard screaming outside his apartment and discovered that that police had just shot three people. Despite the president's speech, he said the protests and police violence was continuing, as it had the previous night.


All censorship of the internet and traditional media will be halted, the president said...

Jan 13 2011 22:51

Channel 4 news appear to have woken up. BBC, ITV, Sky News etc still playing 3 wise monkeys.

Amusingly Channel 4 new's coverage decided that the protests have moved from being simple economic protests, to political protests "spearheaded by the middle class". You can have any revolution you like so long as it's middle class, according to C4 it would seem. roll eyes

Jan 13 2011 23:17

Confirmation on twitter that is no longer blocked in Tunisia.

Also on twitter, "General Strike tomorrow confirmed! l'UGTT confirme : Greve Generale demain a Tunis, et manif a 11h !"

Jan 13 2011 23:20

That'll be that middle class spearhead again then.

Jan 13 2011 23:36

Sounds like it.

Elsewhere on twitter, "Demonstrations across the country, internet blocks are down, the government is panicking. Is the end near in #Tunisia?" and "Police still shooting protestors until now in capital's suburbs...nothing changes but youtube so far!". Also "Right Now (phone call): clashes everywhere Ibn Khaldoun, Intlaka, Kram, Marsa and Khereddine live ammo is still massively used".

Jan 13 2011 23:46

Warning: video includes graphic and harrowing footage

Jan 14 2011 00:03

Opinion on twitter

Anyone who believes #BenAli's "promises" believes the hollow words of a despot of 23 yrs who'll say anything to cling to power.

Fans of "lie to me" serial, have you noticed Ben Ali's slight smile? So don't miss Tomorrow's demonstration In Tunis.

I'm sure that 50 Tunisians or more did not die just to get YouTube access. The government must make meaningful reforms.

So far basically Ben Ali has lifted censorship off the internet (easy, just a button!). The rest: BIG QUESTION MARK.

We don't want BelAli 2.0, too many bugs, unstable platform!

Ben Ali reaction wasn't for Tunisian people but in response of the criticism of France.

La manif de demain a tunis est super super super super importante,,,, loosing momentum would be the end...

Can't believe what's happening on Tunisia TV. They r debating merits & drawbacks of Ben Ali & his future

Please please watch TV7 so everybody understands that we didn't move a fucking notch ! Don't screw again like in 1987 plz !!!

Tunisian newspaper editor to Al Arabiya TV interviewer "Tomorrow's newsheadlines will not be propaganda for the president".

Once more: Every #Arab leader is watching #Tunisia in fear. Every Arab citizen is watching Tunisia in hope and solidarity.

Jan 14 2011 01:04
Mark. wrote:
Tunisia's youth finally has revolution on its mind

The following was posted in the comments for this article in response to arguments by Guardian reading trolls that Tunisia is about to turn Islamist.

Thank you Sam for your article, it reminded me of how i lived in Tunisia before I decided to cowardly pack my bags and go abroad for postgraduate studies and to live somewhere where I can speak mind.

Unfortunately those who left are many and are often those who could contribute to build a better and secular Tunisia. but let's say that they are the fortunate as many in Tunisia cant travel at all. Visa restrictions by the west and the lack of economic means or academic diploma. I feel guilty most days for being the one who left instead of fighting for freedom, the rule of law and democracy and I hope that one day I can return to my land. At this moment i feel that that day is may be close.

I want to say to those of you who compare Tunisia with the rest of the Arab and Muslim world do not put apples and pears together they are not the same. you are being unhelpful.

This is a Tunisian whole country protest not for an islamic marxist socialist or western state. this is a protest against a corrupt government. As for Mr Ganouchi [Islamist leader of An Nahdha - Mark] he is not supported in Tunisia and will never be welcomed to power. in fact the marxist Hamami has more support base. in fact these rumours of the islamist taking over is what kept dictators in power for so long. we have to face our fears.

The protest movement is mainly led by the unions and include academics, artists and intellects of whom most of you know nothing. Tunisia is not Iran nor Pakistan or egypt algeria or any other country go and read history if you want to know about it.

I emphasise there is no islamic state as an alternative, the tunisian people want a free state and a life without tyranny and respect for the individual human being.

Jan 14 2011 01:49

Stores left empty as panicked Tunis residents stock up on goods

You could sense the panic in the streets of Tunis on Wednesday morning. As rumours of a curfew spread, people became more and more nervous that they would be blocked in their homes with nothing to eat.
I went out to get some groceries and noticed that many salesmen were emptying their shop fronts and lowering their shutters. I tried to speak to several vendors. They were apologetic, saying they had to close shop, but without giving me a reason.

I also saw clothes shops empty their stocks into trucks to before closing to avoid merchandise being stolen. In supermarkets there was a massive rush to stock up on lasting food produce, and shelves were quickly left empty.

I wanted to go to the city centre at around 2pm, but my friends urged me not to. The entire perimeter was cordoned off by police. Security was strongly reinforced after yesterday’s protests. Today there was a demonstration organised by teachers protesting school closures. I heard that it was violently repressed by the army.

Jan 14 2011 01:54

Tunisia, Algeria riots unlikely in Egypt, experts say

Amr Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian political analyst, said he believes there is no risk of spill-over from the Tunisian social movement into Egypt, because “in Tunisia, the revolt has been triggered by middle class, university-educated youth, while in Egypt demonstrations of that scale could only have the urban poor as a basis.”

Choubaki also notes that, “With the exception of the Mahalla textile workers’ demonstration in 2008, Egypt has not witnessed a single massive movement of protest but rather small and scattered gatherings to ask for salary raises or cheaper staples.”

From 2006 to 2008 there have been demonstrations in Egypt led by working class youth, yet, while educated youth supported the movements, they did not participate.

Another important factor that differentiates Egyptian from Tunisian movements is the role of the trade unions. In Tunisia, the major trade unions have managed to keep a margin of freedom from the state apparatus, while accepting some compromises, which has made it possible for the UGTT to call for strikes and support the ongoing demonstrations.

According to Abdel Rahman, “in Tunisia, the official trade union has gained a certain degree of independence, while in Egypt the official trade unions are completely submitted to the state and their main objective is to fragment the social movement instead of mobilizing them.”

Also referring to the Mahalla demonstration that happened in 2008, he stressed that “the Egyptian trade unions fragmented the movement on purpose.” Today, according to Choubaki, the unions have lost their credibility entirely. “Trade unions are dead in Egypt. An official body cannot represent the people and the workers,” he explained.

Khawaga - any thoughts on this?

Jan 14 2011 02:08

On the alasbarricadas thread

pretextat_tach wrote:

13 Ene 2011, 16:26

El número de manifestantes muertos va en aumento. La FIDH (Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos) ya ha identificado 66 muertos durante los disturbios (21 reconocidos oficialmente por el estado).

En Francia se siguen organizando manifestaciones de solidaridad. Este sábado se han convocado en Toulouse y Cahors...


14 Ene 2011, 00:56 

Los disturbios han cesado, aparentemente, después de un discurso proclamado por Ben Alí a las 20.00 horas de la tarde en el que promete :

- Ordenar la bajada del precio de los productos de primera necesidad (pan, leche, agua)

- Prohibir que la policía agreda a ningún nuevo ciudadano (" a no ser que alguno intente quitarle el arma a un policía).

- Retirar la censura de los medios (Dailymotion y Youtube han vuelto a estar en funcionamiento y los usuarios han comenzado a hacer circular por la red - en Facebook- el libro "La regencia de Cartago, un libro expresamente prohibido en Túnez) y dar más cancha libre a la oposición (totalmente censurada hasta ahora).

- Mandar formar una Comisión de Servicios que investigue buscando responsabilidades en todas las muertes acaecidas durante las manifestaciones.

- No volver a presentarse a las próximas elecciones y ha asegurado que no cambiara la constitución (según la cual, por excederse en edad, no podría volver a presentarse a estas).

Mientras tanto, mientras el discurso se emitía en directo en la televisión, dos nuevos manifestantes morían a mano de la policía en Kairouan.

Posteriormente, muchos manifestantes han salido a las calles a celebrar las nuevas medidas prometidas en el discurso.

Jan 14 2011 04:32

Also this solidarity text in French:

Vive la révolte des jeunes prolétaires tunisiens et algériens !
La Tunisie, elle aussi, a subi la crise économique de ces dernières
années. Et c’est sur les masses prolétariennes que, comme dans tous les
pays, développés ou non, les conséquences sont retombées. Les statistiques indiquent que la Tunisie est le pays qui a le revenu par habitant le plus
élevé d’Afrique; mais elles disent aussi que si le chômage est
officiellement de 14% (pour une population de 10 millions d’habitants), il
est en réalité plus proche des 30%, sans compter un vaste sous-emploi, et
touche particulièrement les jeunes. Le régime tunisien est soutenu par les
impérialismes européens parce qu’avec sa répression omniprésente il leur
offre un main d’oeuvre à bon marché et sévèrement contrôlée par la police.
La hausse récente des prix à la consommation est le motif de fond qui a
déclenché les violentes protestations qui, à partir des villes du sud se
sont étendues à tout le pays et jusqu’à la capitale Tunis.
Le 17 décembre la police confisquait dans la ville de Sidi Bouzid la
charrette d’un jeune de 26 ans , diplômé en informatique sans travail,
contraint de faire le marchand ambulant pour vivre, pour défaut de
licence. Désespéré devant la perte de son unique moyen de vivre et de
faire vivre sa famille, Mohamed Bouazizi se faisait brûler devant le
gouvernorat (il mourra de 5 janvier). Indignées, des centaines de
personnes descendirent dans la rue et s’affrontèrent avec la police à
coups de pierre et de bouteilles incendiaires. La police répliqua en
tirant à balles réelles sur les manifestants !
Trois semaines après le début des manifestations il y a plus de 60 morts,
des centaines de blessés, plus de cent arrestations. A la misère, au
chômage, à la faim, le gouvernement du président Zine Ben Ali, solidement
installé au pouvoir depuis 23 ans avec son clan ajoute donc une répression
bestiale. Ce n’est qu’après des semaines de répression passées sous
silence non seulement par les organes de propagande tunisiens, mais aussi
par les médias européens, que Ben Ali a limogé le ministre de l’intérieur,
relâchait certains emprisonnés et promis la création de 300.000 emplois.
Mais il ne s’agit que d’une manœuvre pour calmer la colère et personne ne
croît à ces promesses : les manifestations continuent, de même que la
répression sanglante et la révolte des jeunes gagne maintenant Tunis.
Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, Thala, Regueb, Feriana, Menassi, Ariana, Mezl
Bouzayane, etc. : ce ne sont pas des lieux touristiques où les touristes
européens vont passer des vacances bon marché ; ce sont les villes où la
police tunisienne assassine pour défendre le pouvoir rapace et corrompu de
Ben Ali !
La protestation prolétarienne, nouvelle «révolte du pain», ne s’est pas
arrêtée ; elle a passé la frontière pour gagner l'Algérie, le pays le plus
riche du Maghreb grâce à son pétrole et son gaz. Comme en Tunisie, la
plupart des villes, Alger y comprise, ont connu des manifestations
violentes de jeunes prolétaires à la suite des hausses brutales des prix
des produits de première nécessité, alors que le chômage est en pleine
augmentation . Là aussi la jeunesse s’est révoltée contre une société qui,
en dépit des énormes rentrées d’argent obtenues par l’exportation des
produits pétroliers, ne lui donne aucune perspective, contre une société
qui ne garantit même plus la survie de ses esclaves salariés !
La police qui tire sur les prolétaires manifestant, y compris violemment,
contre la violence économique et physique à laquelle ils sont soumis en
permanence, voilà l’expression la plus claire de la domination de classe
de la bourgeoisie sur la société toute entière et sur le prolétariat en
particulier. C’est aussi la démonstration que dans cette société
bourgeoise où le capitalisme dicte les conditions de vie et de mort des
masses, la seule force sociale qui a la puissance de tenir tête à ce
pouvoir meurtrier et de finalement l’abattre, est la classe prolétarienne.
Le silence par lequel les médias des grands pays «démocratiques» et
«avancés» d’Europe et d’Amérique ont tenté de cacher la violence et la
répression que ces régimes font régner dans leur pays, est le signe de la
crainte d’une contagion - même aux pays européens où les populations
prolétariennes d’origine immigrée pourraient servir de canal de
transmission de la révolte. Est-ce par hasard que Alliot-Marie, la
ministre française de l’Intérieur, a publiquement proposé à ses homologues
algérien et tunisien le «savoir-faire» français en matière de maintien de
l’ordre ?
La brutalité de la répression, la censure des médias nationaux et la
complicité des organisation syndicales vendues au pouvoir bourgeois
démontrent que les appels des autorités au «dialogue» ne sont qu’une
sinistre farce. Elles démontrent surtout que ce n’est que par la force
qu’on peut répondre à la force, que ce n’est que par l’organisation de la
force prolétarienne que l’on peut répondre à l’organisation de la force
Aujourd’hui en Tunisie et en Algérie les courants les plus réactionnaires,
comme les forces religieuses, ne sont pas encore entrée en action. Mais
les prolétaires doivent s’attendre à ce que même les dirigeants qui se
vantent leur défense de la «laïcité» comme en Tunisie, n’hésiteront pas,
si les fusils de la police sont insuffisants pour sauvegarder l’ordre
bourgeois, à recourir à la réaction religieuse, de même qu’ils utiliseront
le mensonge démocratique ou nationaliste – voire à un recours de l’armée
dans le cas où il faudrait déposer Ben Ali.
La bourgeoisie foule toujours aux pieds les «droits démocratiques» qu’elle
inscrit dans ses lois, elle utilise tous les moyens disponibles – des plus
violents aux plus insidieusement pacifiques – pour plier le prolétariat
aux exigences de sa domination de classe, domination politique sociale et
militaire qui lui est indispensable pour exploiter toujours davantage les
Les prolétaires ont potentiellement la force de vaincre la bourgeoisie, à
condition de rompre avec la politique et les organisations interclassistes
des syndicats et des partis prônant la collaboration des classes, même
s’ils se prétendent «ouvriers», dans le seul but d’empêcher la lutte
prolétarienne contre le capitalisme. Les manifestations de Tunisie et
d’Algérie sont provoquées par les mêmes causes et rencontrent les mêmes
obstacles . Une organisation de défense prolétarienne authentiquement de
classe, en rupture avec les impératifs de la conservation sociale et la
soumission au capital, non seulement organiserait la lutte contre les
mesures antiprolétariennes avec des méthodes de classe – appel à la grève
de tous les catégories de travailleurs, formation de piquets et de comités
pour diriger la lutte, organisation de la défense contre la répression
policière ; elle se lierait aux luttes des prolétaires du pays voisin pour
unifier les grèves, pour renforcer la lutte de défense des conditions de
vie et de travail prolétariens sur le terrain même que la bourgeoisie a
choisi : le terrain de l’affrontement ouvert et violent.
Aujourd’hui ce sont encore une fois les prolétaires des pays au
capitalisme moins développé qui indiquent aux prolétaires des pays plus
riches et donc plus oppresseurs que la voie à suivre n’est pas celle de la
protestation pacifique, légale et impuissante, mais celle de la révolte
contre les injustices et les exactions bourgeoises. Les prolétaires des
pays européens, d’Allemagne, d’Espagne, de France ou d’Italie mais aussi
ceux d’Amérique qui sont les principaux soutiens des Etats maghrébins,
devront se révolter comme leurs frères de classe d’outre-méditerranée ;
ils peuvent leur transmettre l’expérience politique des grandes luttes de
classe du passé.
C’est sur cette voie que les prolétaires pourront reconquérir toute leur
force de classe et redevenir, non plus une vague menace, mais un danger
réel pour le régime d’exploitation capitaliste qu’il leur faudra détruire
à jamais dans le monde entier !
Hier Michèle Alliot Marie disait à l’Assemblée Nationale que "Le
savoir‑faire, reconnu dans le monde entier, de nos forces de sécurité,
permet de régler des situations sécuritaires de ce type. C’est la raison
pour laquelle nous proposons effectivement aux deux pays de permettre dans le cadre de nos coopérations d’agir pour que le droit de manifester puisse se faire en même temps que l’assurance de la sécurité ."
Comment ne pas faire le rapprochement avec une autre annonce de M
Hortefeux il y a un mois à Grenoble, lorsqu’il inaugurait la formation
d’une brigade spéciale d’intervention anti-émeutes, l’UMIR ? Cette unité
de 38 personnes rassemble “pour la première fois” sous un même
commandement des policiers et des gendarmes, elle est composée de six
policiers en civil de la BAC, quinze policiers en tenue de la compagnie
d’intervention, d’une équipe cynophile et de quinze gendarmes. Quand
Hortefeux voyait Grenoble comme un laboratoire de ces nouvelles méthodes,
il faut croire que Michèle Alliot-Marie a vu plus grand et s’est dit que
l’UMIR trouverait en Tunisie un laboratoire idéal.

Jan 14 2011 08:37

Rough translation of last paragraph (the rest is largely banal) about Michèle Alliot-Marie ( the Minister for Foreign and European Affairs)'s statement concerning Tunisia and Algeria:

Yesterday Michèle Alliot-Marie said to the National Assembly "The expertise, recognised throughout the world, of our security forces, allows us to sort out these kinds of security situations. That's why we are, effectively, proposing to the two countries to permit us, within the framework of mutual co-operation, to take action to assure the right to demonstrate, whilst at the same assuring security".

How can we not make the connection with another announcement by M.Hortefeux (the Minister of the Interior) a month ago in Grenoble when he inaugurated the formation of a special anti-riot brigade, the UMIR? This unit of 38 people brings together, "for the first time" the police and the gendarmes (note: a section of the army used for policing work, not ordinary cops as most people outside France believe) under the same command, it's composed of 6 plain clothed cops from the Brigade Anti-Criminelle, 15 uniformed cops from the intervention company, a team of dog-handlers and 15 gendarmes. When Hortefeux sees Greonoble as a lab for these new methods, you have to believe that Michèle Alliot-Marie has a greater vision and that means that the UMIR will find in Tunisia an ideal laboratory.

Jan 14 2011 11:31

Tunisia: double or quits

In his speech to Tunisians last night, President Ben Ali went for double or quits. Either he has done enough to quell the protests with his offers to stand down in three years, to allow more freedom of expression (with qualifications) and to stop shooting demonstrators (again, with qualifications) or the game is lost. If it fails, he has only one card left: resignation.

Last night, drivers in Tunis could be heard hooting their horns in apparent approval of the president – though there were claims on Twitter that this was not spontaneous but orchestrated by the regime. On the plus side, internet censorship appeared to have been lifted, largely if not totally. On the minus side, there were reports of further shooting, even after the president had ordered it to stop.

This morning, the UGTT (the main trade union) is due to hold a general strike and demonstration in Tunis. It is expected that the ruling party will organise a counter-demonstration and the result could easily be a massive punch-up.

A BBC report says the "opposition" has (cautiously) welcomed the president's promises but opposition politicians are not the same as the protesters on the streets who may well have other ideas. Pledges, even when they are made on television, don't count for much in the Arab countries and ordinary folk treat them very cynically.

But let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that Ben Ali survives this weekend and buys some more time. What then?

First, Tunisia will not revert to what it was. People will be far more outspoken, less inhibited than they were before. The mainstream media may not change much (after all, some of them are owned by Ben Ali's family) but politics will have to open up.

That, in turn, means more danger for Ben Ali. He will obviously try to use the time he has bought to prepare the way for a successor of his own choosing, but it won't be plain sailing. He has made economic promises that he can't deliver and that could blow the whole thing off course.

Meanwhile, there is other unfinished business: calls for inquiries into the shootings, for example, and the promised investigation into corruption. Corruption is a major flashpoint, because there is no way it can be tackled credibly without arresting most of Ben Ali's family.

If he does survive the current uprising his future still looks pretty bleak. At best, he will be what we in the west call a lame duck leader – not at all what the situation demands.

At present, though, all that is still hypothetical. Which way it is going to go will be decided on the streets over the next few days. The ball is back in the protesters' court.

Brian Whitaker, 14 Jan 2011

Jan 14 2011 11:55

On twitter now (claims may be unconfirmed)

From official sources trabelsi family left the country at 3.30 am

Paris lawyer says Tunisian communist Hamma Hammami taken from his home this morn, house ransacked

Some rare honesty: "The most imminent threat to U.S. interests in the ME is not war; it is revolution"

Press freedom : no Tunisian TV is covering the demonstrations happening now

Free Tunisia! Big demonstration now in Tunis!

Pictures from protests in Tunis right now via @Maniftunis

Guys, please watch live feed of demo in Tunis against Ben Ali

Thousands of Tunisians are demonstrating outside the Ministry of Interior in the capital, shouting : BEN ALI, LEAVE NOW !

Crowd of 5,000 protests outside Tunisia's interior ministry, demanding president's resignation - Reuters

Tunis now: people sitting in front of the interior ministry chanting "come join us Police!"

BBC is liveblogging #Tunisia

1108: The BBC's Adam Mynott in Tunis says: I'm outside the interior ministry and there are extraordinary scenes. Thousands of people have gathered in a public demonstration that could not have taken place in this country 24 hours ago. This is a response to what President Ben Ali said on national television on Thursday, when he said he would allow more freedom of speech. Well, the people here are testing that. I have been told there are 6,000 or 7,000 people here. They are saying that the country now has the opportunity for change. But interestingly, they are saying that change can only happen if President Ben Ali, his extended family and his followers go. The rally is surrounded by dozens of police and soldiers, but crucially they have not so far intervened as they have in recent weeks.
Baderneiro Miseravel
Jan 14 2011 11:54

This is really really exciting...thanks for reporting this Mark.!

I've been translating some of the pieces you've been posting here, so people who speak portuguese may know a little bit more and express solidarity. Just letting ya know.

Jan 14 2011 11:59

Thanks Baderneiro - could you post up links to translations? Links to any mainstream media coverage in Portuguese would be interesting too if you have the time.

Jan 14 2011 12:18

I'll have to take a break from updating this until tonight. In the meantime could people post any breaking news that sounds interesting?