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


Baderneiro Miseravel
Jan 14 2011 12:40

The one decent translation I published as of now is the communique by the Workers Solidarity Movement:

Here are some links of the coverage here in Brazil, which are mostly short reports and most rather apologetic of the Ben Ali regime, at least until yesterday:

Govermente closes schools and universities:

Tunisian Capital still has confrontations despite curfew:

Minister is demoted and release of prisoners is announced:

From one of the most reactiory midia channels, "Tunisians celebrate the future leave of President Ben Ali", refering to his promise to leave in 2014:

Edit: Found another new worth noticing right here. The media channels here are clearly and fundamentally supporting Ben Ali, at least for now.,,OI4889430-EI294,00-Tensao+se+reduz+na+Tunisia+apos+promessas+do+presidente.html

A tensão diminuiu esta noite na Tunísia após o discurso do presidente, Zine al Abidine Ben Ali, que prometeu uma mudança "profunda e completa" no país e garantiu que deixará o poder em 2014, embora tenham registrados alguns protestos em bairros do norte da capital.


O presidente tunisiano, que lamentou "profundamente ter sido mal informado e aconselhado" em relação aos fatos vividos, prometeu descer os preços dos alimentos básicos e garantir a "liberdade total da informação e do acesso à internet".

Pouco tempo depois do discurso de Ben Ali, a EFE comprovou que vários sites - como Dailymotion e YouTube -, até agora vetados aos tunisianos pelo Governo, estavam novamente acessíveis.

Em outra mostra que as promessas do presidente são sérias, justo após seu discurso a televisão estatal organizou um debate político ao vivo com duas personalidades da oposição independente, algo inédito até o momento no país.

Jan 14 2011 12:57

Europe 1 (French radio station) did a phone interview with the Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane (he of the hacked website - looks like he wasn't picked entirely at random) this morning (Friday) in which he declares that forming a government of national unity with the (legally-sanctioned) PDP opposition of Mohammed Néjib Chebbi was "doable" even "normal". Chebbi's currently at the front of the demo outside the Interior ministry as reported in the liveblog linked by Mark above.

The words "straws" and "clutching" spring to mind.

14/01/2011 | Mise à jour : 08:44
Le ministre tunisien des Affaires étrangères, Kamel Morjane, a estimé aujourd'hui sur Europe 1 que la formation dans son pays d'un gouvernement d'union nationale était "tout à fait faisable" et "même normale".

Interrogé par téléphone depuis Paris sur la possibilité d'un gouvernement d'union nationale en Tunisie, le ministre a répondu: "Avec le comportement de gens comme M. Néjib Chebbi, je crois que c'est faisable, c'est même tout à fait normal". Mohammed Néjib Chebbi est le chef historique du Parti démocratique progressiste (PDP), formation légale d'opposition mais non représentée au Parlement.


Jan 14 2011 14:03

The Tunisian ambassador to UNESCO, Mezri Haddad, has stated his resignation on a French TV (BFM-TV) interview at about 1pm GMT.

Plus they've just reported that the cops have opened up on the demo outside the Interior Ministry with CS gas. from journos in situ:

«Les policiers ont été débordés par la foule et des manifestants sont parvenus à escalader la façade du bâtiment pour s'accrocher aux grillages protégeant les fenêtres.

"The police have been overwhelmed by the crowd and demonstrators have managed to scale the facade of the building and grab onto the grills protecting the windows"

le Parisien

Jan 14 2011 14:19

from Grauniad live updates page

1402: A reporter for the Reuters news agency says gunshots have been heard near the interior ministry building.

1355: Tear-gas canisters have been fired by the security forces at protesters outside the interior ministry, forcing many to flee. The Associated Press reports that the move came after people climbed on top of the ministry's roof.

Jan 14 2011 14:25

Interesting. Image from from yesterday (13th) in Bizerte. A Tunisian army officer salutes the funeral cortege of a demostrator killed by police. Taken from video.

Jan 14 2011 15:17

some recent updates from the various live streams:


1454: Thirteen civilians were shot dead by the security forces in Tunis and its suburbs in clashes on Thursday, medical sources tell the AFP news agency. Reuters meanwhile says 12 died - 10 in the capital and two in the coastal town of Ras Jebel. Tunisian officials have not yet commented. It is not clear if the deaths came after President Ben Ali ordered police to stop using lethal force against demonstrators.[Le Figaro says the killings took place afterwards]

1447: Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV says protesters are trying to "storm" the Central Bank in Tunis. The bank is on Avenue Mohamed V, to the north of the interior ministry.

1435: Emen Binmluka, a 21-year-old protester, tells Reuters: "A bus came with police in it and they started firing tear gas. Women, children and everyone fled."

1426: Protesters have been sent fleeing down Bourguiba Avenue by the volleys of tear gas fired by riot police outside the interior ministry. The Reuters news agency say a crowd of youths have begun retaliating by throwing stones.


2.56pm: Here is an AP account of the latest clashes.

Tunisian police fired rounds of tear gas at thousands of protesters in the capital Friday after some climbed atop the roof of the interior ministry, a symbol of the iron-fisted government they want to oust. The demonstrators were marching through Tunis to demand the resignation of the country's autocratic leader, President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Many shouted "Ben Ali, out!" and "Ben Ali, assassin!" Another poster read "We won't forget," a reference to the rioters killed, many by police bullets.

Hundreds of police with shields and riot gear blocked the avenue Friday in front of the interior ministry, where over the years there have been reports of torture. The march was organised by Tunisia's only legal trade union, which also went ahead with a symbolic two-hour strike. Plainclothes policemen were seen kicking unarmed protesters and beating them with batons.

Reuters is reporting that 12 people were killed in overnight clashes in Tunis and the northeastern town of Ras Jebel, citing two medical sources and a witness. Ten of the victims were killed after clashes in the capital, two sources from Charles Nicolle hospital told Reuters.

2.51pm: It would be surprising if Arab leaders are not afraid of the Tunisian example spreading. Reuters is reporting on protests in Jordan.

Food price protests sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East reached Jordan on Friday, when hundreds of protesters chanted slogans against Prime Minister Samir al-Rifai in the southern city of Karak. The peaceful protest was held despite hastily announced government measures to curb commodity and fuel prices. Similar demonstrations were held in three other towns and cities across the country, witnesses said. "We are protesting the policies of the government - high prices and repeated taxation that made the Jordanian people revolt," Tawfiq al-Batoush, a former head of Karak municipality, told Reuters at the protest outside Karak's Al Omari mosque.

2.48pm: Things seem to have taken a serious turn for the worse. Angelique Chrisafis is tweeting: Gunshots are now ringing around us and in the other sidestreets around interior ministry. An earlier tweet from her: Running battles amid extreme violence from police. Protestors being chased onto rooftops. This is turniing very, very bad.

This is very bad news for Ben Ali who must have been hoping that his concessions announced yesterday would calm things down. Instead the protesters seem to have been emboldened.

2.42pm: Some tweeters are lumping Ben Ali together with Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, another long-time ruler in the Arab world. "Mubarak & Ben Ali united in repression. Let the Arab street rise up in unison against the stupid Arab regime," tweets Hisham_G

2.29pm: Reuters says gunshots rang out as police fired teargas to disperse some 8,000 protesters outside the interior ministry in Tunis. The Associated Press says tear gas was fired after demonstrators climbed on to the roof of the building.

le Parisien

15h45. Des blindés de l'armée se sont rapidement déployés devant le ministère de l'Intérieur, alors que des unités anti-émeutes pourchassent des jeunes manifestants dans les escaliers d'immeubles résidentiels et dans un centre commercial, où ils se sont repliés. L'avenue Bourguiba est quasiment déserte.

[NB times in original are GMT+1] 14:45 Army armoured cars are rapidly deployed in front of the Minstry of Interior, while riot squads chase young demonstrators in the stairwells of residential buildings and in a shopping centre, where they have fallen back to. Bourguiba Avenue [main drag] is virtually deserted.

15h35. L'Allemagne appelle à son tour la Tunisie à des réformes durables et solides. «Nous avons suivi avec intérêt les annonces du président Ben Ali. Il est important que ces annonces soient suivies d'un changement concret et qu'elles débouchent sur un processus de réformes durables et solides», a indiqué un porte-parole du ministère des Affaires étrangères allemand.

14:35 Germany in its turn calls on Tunisia for durable and real reforms "We have followed with interest the announcements of president Ben Ali. It is important that these announcements are followed with concrete changes and that they result in a durable and real reform processes" a German Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

15h20. Des sources médicales annoncent la mort de 13 personnes jeudi soir à Tunis et sa banlieue. «Les corps de trois personnes atteintes par balles ont été transportés à l'hopital du Kram, près de Tunis, et dix autres ont été emmenés à l'hôpital Charles Nicole à Tunis». Sous l'action des forces de l'ordre, le centre de Tunis se vide de la foule et l'avenue Bourguiba reste irrespirable à cause des gaz lacrymogènes. Quelques manifestants lancent des pierres et des chaises et des parasols des terrasses de cafés en direction des policiers.

14:20 Medical sources annouce the death of 13 people Thursday evening in Tunis and its suburbs. "The bodies of three people hit by bullets were transported to the hospital of Karm, near Tunis, and ten others were taken to the Charles Nicole hospital in Tunis". Under the action of the security forces, the centre of Tunis is emptying of the crowd and Bourguiba Avenue is unbreathable due to tear gas. Some demonstrators are throwing stones and the chairs and parasols from the terraces of cafés at the police"

14h50. «Les policiers reprennent possession du centre ville», constate un des deux reporters du Parisien. Des matraquages en règle se déroulent sans que les manifestants évalués à 10 ou 15 000 ne répliquent pour le moment. «Les forces de l'ordre repoussent tout le monde hors du centre ville en remontant l'avenue et les rues adjaçantes et en tirant des gaz lacrymogènes».

13:50 "The police are taking back possession of the city centre" comment two le Parisien reporters. Systematic truncheoning is being carried out without the crowd, estimated at 10 to 15 thousand retaliating at the moment. "The security forces are pushing everybody out of the city centre via the avenue and side streets and shooting tear gas"

Jan 14 2011 15:28

looks like someone hit the panic button


1521: President Ben Ali has dismissed the government and called legislative elections within six months, the official TAP news agency reports.

edit: more interesting snippets:

16h05. Dans le centre ville, les manifestants ont été dispersés par la police. Devant la gare de Tunis, où près de 2000 personnes sont rassemblées, on assiste à de nouvelle scènes de fraternisation entre militaires et certains manifestants.

15:05 In the city centre, the demonstrators have been dispersed by the police. In front of the Tunis train station, where nearly 2000 people have regrouped, we are witnessing new scenes of fraternisation between the army and certain demonstrators.

Caiman del Barrio
Jan 14 2011 16:21

Govt dismissed, new elections "within 6 months", state of emergency declared:

Jan 14 2011 16:24

Sheesh. All you have to do is sack your government and every two-bit hack in the business seems to think that's the news story of the moment. ho hum.

Meanwhile back in the city, the struggle continues...

[NB original times CET = GMT+1]

16h50. De violents heurts opposent des groupes de manifestants et des policiers anti-émeutes. Un photographe étranger a été blessé à la tête par un tir de gaz lacrymogène, selon des journalistes de l'AFP sur place.

15:50 Violent clashes between groups of demonstrators and riot cops. A foreign photographer receives a head wound from a fired CS gas pellet, according to AFP journalists in situ

16h45. Une banque, aux abords de la gare, est en train d'être saccagée, selon l'un de nos envoyés spéciaux à Tunis. Depuis la dispersion des manifestants, vers 14h30, l'ambiance est désormais tendue aux abords du centre ville.

15:45 A bank in the vicinity of the train station is being looted, according to le Parisien stringers in Tunis. Since the dispersal of the demonstrators, around 14:30 local time, the atmosphere is tense in the vicinity of the city centre.

16h40. La baisse des prix de produits et de services de première nécessité promise jeudi par le président Ben Ali a été suivie vendredi par la publication d'une liste de 19 de ces produits qui vont du pain au sucre en passant par le gaz à usage domestique dont les prix ont été révisés à la baisse.

15:40 The price decreases of goods and services of basic necessity, promised on Thursday by president Ben Ali has been followed on Friday by the publication of a list of 19 of these products which range from bread to sugar, through domestic gas, whose prices have been revised downwards

16h25. Des groupes se sont reformés sur l'Avenue de Paris, adjacente à l'avenue Bourguiba et des policiers les pourchassent à coup de grenades lacrymogènes. Des manifestants réfugiés dans les immeubles lancent des pierres et de briques en direction des forces de l'ordre, selon une correspondante de l'AFP alors qu'un hélicoptère de l'armée survole la capitale.

14:25 Groups have reformed on Paris Avenue, adjacent to Bourguiba Avenue and police are pusueing them with tear gas grenades. Demostrators who have found refuge in the buildings are throwing stones and bricks onto the police, according to an AFP correspondant while an army helicopter hovers over the capital

... and finally... we knew this was coming


1617: The government has also warned that "arms will be used" if the orders of the security forces are not obeyed.

1615: Under the terms of the state of emergency, the government has banned any meetings outside of more than three people, according to state television. There will also be a nationwide curfew from 1700 (1600 GMT) until 0700 (0600 GMT).

1604: A state of emergency has been declared "to protect the Tunisian people and their properties on all the soil of the Tunisian Republic", Tunisian TV7 reports.

So state of emergency, army given orders to shoot, 10 minutes to sunset in Tunis. WIll they or won't they? (the army that is). I guess we're about to find out.

Jan 14 2011 17:11
Mark. wrote:
Khawaga - any thoughts on this?

That analysis is probably right. It won't spread right now. But people will have Tunisia in mind next time riots break out, which could very well happen in the upcoming presidential elections. Folks across the Arab world have now seen that regimes that seems to have existed forever and would exist forever can, if not be brought down, at least shook to its core.

Jan 14 2011 17:16

Hmm. At 17:30 CET (which is also local time in Tunis) the army seized the airport and Tunisian airspace was declare closed. However the following has just been reported

17.45. «Je peux confirmer que l'armée est à l'aéroport. Les blindés encerclent le site de l'aéroport», a déclaré une source aéroportuaire qui était interrogée sur des rumeurs sur le départ précipité de proches du président Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. «Je n'ai pas d'information sur ça mais une personne s'est introduite par la clôture sur le tarmac et une alerte a été donnée», a-t-elle ajouté.

17.45. "I can confirm that the army is at the airport. Tanks surround the airport site, "said an airport source who was questioned about rumors about the sudden departure of persons close to President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. "I have no information on that but one person let themselves through the fence onto the tarmac and an alert was raised, " she added.

Un important convoi officiel, composé d'une dizaine de véhicules aux vitres teintées a quitté en trombe le Palais de Carthage, dans la banlieue nord de Tunis, aux alentours de 16 h 50 en direction de l'aéroport de Tunis-Carthage, selon un journaliste tunisien témoin de la scène, qui souhaite conserver l'anonymat et cité par le

A large official convoy, consisting of a dozen vehicles with tinted windows had stormed out of the Palais de Carthage, a northern suburb of Tunis, at around 16 h 50 towards the Tunis-Carthage airport, according to a Tunisian journalist who witnessed the scene, who wishes to remain anonymous, quoted by le

Un peu plus tôt dans l'après-midi, deux avions Falcon blancs s'étaient envolés de ce même aéroport de Tunis-Carthage, l'un vers 13H40, l'autre vers 13H50.

Earlier in the afternoon, two White Falcon aircraft had flown from the same airport of Tunis-Carthage, 1:40 p.m. for one, the other around 13:50.

Perhaps the first lady is going on a shopping trip?

State TV says that a major announcement to the people is to be made soon. Teases.

Jan 14 2011 17:21

If twitter is to be believed, then the army are in control and Ben Ali has been arrested as he tried to flee the country.

Jan 14 2011 17:28

hahaha you beauty!

1724: Sources tell al-Jazeera TV that the Tunisian security forces have arrested members of Trabelsi family at an airport. Many of the protesters have expressed their anger at the power, wealth and influence of the extended family of President Ben Ali's second wife, Leila Trabelsi. "No, no to the Trabelsis who looted the budget," has been a popular slogan. Many refer to the president's relations simply as "The Family" or "The Mafia", according to the New York Times.
Jan 14 2011 17:31

of course the downside is that this looks coup-tastic

whoops, missed the previous bit

1719: Mahmoud Ben Romdhane of the opposition Renewal Movement tells BBC World News: "At this moment, according to the latest information that I have, the president it no longer in power and a coup has happened. If this information is true, the answer is clear. He will no longer have the power to decide to accept or refuse [the demands for him to step down]."
Jan 14 2011 17:35

people on twitter are saying Ben Ali has left the country and members of his family have been arrested trying to leave

Jan 14 2011 17:44

Well we're still in the twilight zone of rumours. I'm not sure what would be better, if they've arrested Ben Ali as well, or allowed him to run like a rat and leave his wife and the rest of the Trabelsi clan behind.

Jan 14 2011 17:53

Well Ben Ali is definitely out of the country and the army, with the president of the parliament, Fouad Mebazaâ, as frontman.

Jan 14 2011 19:16

Yeah, the president is out, the Prime Minister has taken over:

according to the Guardian, security forces are still cracking down on demonstrations

Jan 14 2011 19:37

According to French TV news, the curfew in the capital is being strictly observed - even journalists are frightened of going out to do their reports in the forecourt of their hotels.
"If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change" (The Leopard).

Valeriano Orobó...
Jan 14 2011 19:51
Samotnaf wrote:
According to French TV news, the curfew in the capital is being strictly observed - even journalists are frightened of going out to do their reports in the forecourt of their hotels.
"If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change" (The Leopard).

That's what i'm afraid...However, let's wait a while before showing our ugly, suspicious and fatalistic face (i'm counting myself too here)

Jan 14 2011 19:58

Euronews is just raw footage from today in Tunis without commentary. Why the fuck would anyone watch scummy Murdoch news when this is on?

Jan 14 2011 20:35

Valeriano O:

let's wait a while before showing our ugly, suspicious and fatalistic face

Didn't mean to sound fatalistic. I was just quoting that because that's clearly what the ruling class is hoping to achieve by this change - but almost invariably changes, particularly in such circumstances of mass independent revolt, also encourage further interesting initiatives from the poor. And the movements in Algeria will almost certainly be encouraged by this...

Jan 14 2011 20:57

I'm still trying to catch up with today's events. Thanks to everyone for the updates.

'The fear has gone … I've been waiting 20 years for today' (Guardian)

Khadija Sharif, a sociologist and university lecturer in Tunis, said: "For years, Ben Ali set about killing off political opposition parties, weakening and dividing them. The street protests are spontaneous, not a movement with a leader.

"Nor has Ben Ali prepared any succession of his own. It's the complete unknown. We're afraid of chaos, no one knows whether there is a possibility of a military coup, or of an Islamist presence."

A senior figure from the Tajdid opposition party said: "There has to be profound democratic change but that will be extremely difficult.

"If it works, it could be the first true democracy in the Arab world. But we must be vigilant and avoid all naivety. Totalitarianism and despotism aren't dead. The state is still polluted by that political system, the ancien regime and its symbols which have been in place for 55 years."

Tunisia: a moment in history

On January 7 – only a week ago, but it seems such a long time now – I discussed what impact a Tunisian revolution might have on the wider Arab world. 

Regardless of what happens next in terms of a Tunisian government, the inescapable fact is that a popular uprising has removed an Arab head of state – a truly historic event. Ben Ali has fled and he is not going to return, despite what anyone may say about whether he has formally resigned or not.

That alone is going to have a huge psychological impact throughout the region. As several people have pointed out on Twitter, while Obama says "Yes, we can", the Tunisians have said "Yes, we do."

Looking around the other Arab regimes, I can't see any of them (with the possible exception of Algeria) at risk of being toppled in the quite same way – at least, not in the immediate future. There are so many differences in the circumstances.

But – and it's a very important "but" – we can expect Arab publics to become increasingly assertive while the regimes become increasingly nervous. For the regimes, though, in the long run it's a lose-lose situation. Either they can seek to tighten their control, thus fuelling popular disaffection, or they can relax their control – which the public will duly interpret as a sign of weakness and seek to exploit. One way or another, they are going to sink deeper into the mire.

Brian Whitaker, 14 Jan 2011

Jan 14 2011 22:11

I've put a translation of this article by CNT Sevilla member Manu García in the library.

The protests in North Africa: what is happening?

Statement of support for the uprisings in Tunisia and Algeria from the CGT:

CGT se solidariza con las movilizaciones en Túnez y Argelia

Jan 14 2011 22:44

Where Tunisia is now: exhilarating limbo (Arabist)

Ben Ali has fallen. An Arab dictator of 24 years has turned out to be removable — not by a relative, former ally or military chief, but by a popular insurrection. This is historic first for the entire region and I will come back to it tomorrow.

In the meantime, though, we should not assume that Tunisia has become an instant democracy. The announcement today that Prime Minister Ghanouchi was assuming the presidency has yet to be accepted. Rioting and looting are continuing in the streets of major Tunisian cities, sometimes targeting the homes and businesses of regime cronies, but also of ordinary citizens. Some suspect police deserters to be looting. The situation is chaotic and the army is showing signs of wanting to impose order.

With no clear leadership with the moral authority to get people to go back to their homes, it may be days before the situation resolves itself. What interim president Ghanouchi does tomorrow in his meeting with the opposition — whose very definition will be controversial, notably over whether En-Nahda's Islamists could become part of an interim coalition government — will be crucial. Right now, there does not seem to be any indication that Tunisians are accepting any government as legitimate...

Tunisia unrest a wake-up call for the region (Guardian)

Echoes of Tunisia's unprecedented mass unrest are reverberating across the Arab world – which is watching in fascination as one of the most repressive regimes in the regions makes far-reaching concessions to people power.

Protests over rising food and fuel prices triggered emergency economic measures from Jordan to Libya and Morocco this week as dramatic scenes of street clashes in the small north African country fuelled official nervousness about a domino effect that could shake other authoritarian states short on jobs, hopes and freedoms.

"Every Arab leader is watching Tunisia in fear," tweeted one Egyptian commentator. "Every Arab citizen is watching Tunisia in hope and solidarity." ...

Jan 14 2011 23:15

The Arabist know is stuff really, really well. I'd trust his analysis over almost any other source. Too bad he's a liberal, though he is at least sympathetic to workers' struggles.

Jan 15 2011 00:31

Recent claims on twitter (unconfirmed)

Situation is pretty bad in Tunisia. Looting by police, violence by masked men, fear among population. Long dark night

I repeat. Situation in Tunisia is critical. Violence has spread amid chaos. Masked men like militias are attacking civilians

France 24: widespread looting of shops & private homes in Tunis, mostly by policemen

On Aljazeera: looting across Tunis... Citizens organizing vigilante groups to protect properties.. The Army is not intervening

Tanks are parked near a TV station in Tunis and eyewitness say masked men are attacking crowds of people on the streets

Latest Rumors: Ben Ali released groups of looters essentially composed of police and former criminals (army report, unconfirmed)

Jungle in Tunisia while I am tweeting this. Policemen stealing people's properties

Photo claimed to be of police looting shops tonight

Jan 14 2011 23:57

Khawaga - have you heard any more about reactions in Egypt to today's events?

According to one claim on twitter, '100s of Egyptians rally at Tunisian embassy in Cairo calling for Egyptian President, Mubarak, to step down.'


Arab World: welcoming the fall of Ben Ali (Global Voices)

Revolution in Tunisia: photo gallery

Jan 14 2011 23:57

Why Tunisia's revolution Is Islamist-free (Foreign Policy)

Unlike in Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, and most other secular Arab autocracies, the main challenge to the Tunisian regime has not come from Islamist opposition but from secular intellectuals, lawyers, and trade unionists. The absence of a strong Islamist presence is the result of an aggressive attempt by successive Tunisian regimes, dating back over a half-century, to eliminate Islamists from public life. Ben Ali enthusiastically took up this policy in the early 1990s, putting hundreds of members of the al-Nahda party, Tunisia's main Islamist movement, on trial amid widespread allegations of torture and sentencing party leaders to life imprisonment or exile. Most influential Tunisian Islamists now live abroad, while those who remain in Tunisia have been forced to form a coalition with unlikely secular and communist bedfellows.

The nature of the opposition and the willingness of the Tunisian government to back down are not coincidental. If it had been clear that Islamist opposition figures were playing a large role in the current unrest, the government would likely have doubled down on repressive measures. The Tunisian government is rooted in secular Arab nationalist ideology and has long taken its secularism and its nationalism more seriously than its neighbors. Habib Bourguiba, Ben Ali's predecessor and the father of the post-colonial Tunisian state, took over lands belonging to Islamic institutions, folded religious courts into the secular state judicial system, and enacted a secular personal status code upon coming to power.

Bourguiba, like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Turkey, viewed Islamists as an existential threat to the very nature of the Tunisian state. He viewed the promotion of secularism as linked to the mission and nature of the state, and because Islamists differed with him on this fundamental political principle, they were not allowed into the political system at all. Bourguiba displayed no desire for compromise on this question, calling for large-scale executions of Islamists following bombings at tourist resorts. He was also often hostile toward Muslim religious traditions, repeatedly referring to the veil in the early years of Tunisian independence as an "odious rag."

Ben Ali, who served as prime minister under Bourguiba, has taken a similarly hard line. Unlike other Arab leaders such as Morocco's King Mohammed VI or Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, he has been unwilling to adopt any sort of religious title or utilize Islamic imagery to justify his rule. Most importantly, Ben Ali never attempted to co-opt Islamists by controlling their entry into the political system, but instead excluded them entirely from the political dialogue.

This history is vital to understanding why the protests were successful in removing Ben Ali's government. There is an appreciation within the corridors of power in Tunis that the Islamists are not at the top of the pile of the latest unrest. The protesters, though they represent a threat to the political elite's vested interests, have not directly challenged the reigning creed of state secularism.

Ben Ali's fate may have been sealed when military officers -- who had been marginalized by the regime as it lavished money on family members and corrupt business elites -- demonstrated a willingness to stand down and protect protesters from the police and internal security services. However, a military coup would also represent no ideological challenge to the regime -- the state's mission of advancing secular nationalism will continue even after Ben Ali's removal from power. And in the event that the military willingly cedes power and holds new elections in six months, the decimation of the Islamist movement over the last two decades means that any serious challenger is bound to come from a similar ideological background...

Jan 15 2011 00:42

After several hours of speculation on twitter it appears that Ben Ali's plane touched down in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

Some reactions: 'As a citizen and Saudi blogger, I am sad because a dictator Ben Ali in my country', and 'I'm a Saudi from Jeddah and I feel ashamed and angry my country is sheltering the Tunisian dictator.'

Jeddah also played host to exiled Ugandan dictator Idi Amin...

wiki wrote:
He escaped first to Libya where he stayed until 1980, and ultimately settled in Saudi Arabia where the Saudi royal family allowed him sanctuary and paid him a generous subsidy in return for his staying out of politics. Amin lived for a number of years on the top two floors of the Novotel Hotel on Palestine Road in Jeddah.

Edit: on twitter just now: 'The Royal Saudi Crown has just issued a statement saying it was welcoming Ben Ali and his family on Saudi territories.'