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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report by Workers Solidarity Movement

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Jan 12 2011 00:41


Attached files


Jan 15 2011 00:27

Arab activists hope Tunisia uprising brings change

CAIRO - Arab activists celebrated the anti-government protests that ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Friday as the uprising raised hopes for similar change in other countries accused of having repressive regimes.

Thousands of messages congratulating the Tunisian people flooded the Internet on Twitter, Facebook and blogs, and many people replaced their profile pictures with red Tunisian flags.

Dozens of Egyptian activists opposed to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade regime danced outside the Tunisian Embassy in Cairo, chanting "Ben Ali, tell Mubarak a plane is waiting for him too!"


Egyptian human rights activist Hossam Bahgat said he was glued to the news watching the fall of the Tunisian government and hoped that his countrymen could do the same someday.

"I feel like we are a giant step closer to our own liberation," he told The Associated Press. "What's significant about Tunisia is that literally days ago the regime seemed unshakable, and then eventually democracy prevailed without a single Western state lifting a finger."


"What happened in Tunisia ... will give unimaginable momentum to the cause for change in Egypt," he said...

Jan 15 2011 00:49

Medics: 13 shot dead in Tunis unrest since Thursday night

The bodies of three people struck with bullets were taken to the hospital at Kram, close to Tunis, and 10 others have been brought to Charles Nicole hospital in Tunis," one source told AFP Friday.

The figure was confirmed by another medical worker who took part Friday in a major demonstration against Ben Ali in the city centre and was dispersed by police firing volleys of tear gas.

Two other people were reported killed in police fire in clashes in the central city of Kairouan late Thursday...

Jan 15 2011 02:17

Report from CGT North Africa

El pueblo tunecino dispuesto a acabar con la dictadura de Ben Alí. Al discurso del presidente, responde saliendo a la calle, exigiendo que se vaya.

Ayer, jueves, el presidente Ben Alí prometió que se iría en el 2014, que soltarían a todos los presos, bajaría el precio de productos de primera necesidad y que no se utilizarían armas de fuego.

La respuesta del pueblo tunecino fue salir a la calle, exigiendo que Ben Alí se vaya ya y sea juzgado por sus crímenes. “Prefiero pan y agua que seguir con Ben Alí”, decía una pancarta. 13 muertos se han producido en los enfrentamientos de la noche.

Hoy por la mañana, el pueblo tunecino se ha vuelto a expresar masivamente. La avenida Habib Burguiba, la avenida principal de la capital estaba ocupada por decenas de miles de personas reclamando libertad y justicia, acabar con la dictadura y la corrupción del régimen. Lo que comenzó como un levantamiento con reivindicaciones sociales se ha ido desarrollando como un movimiento de rebeldía contra el régimen, que ha tomado la iniciativa y que exige la creación de un gobierno provisional que prepare unas elecciones libres. No se aguanta ni un minuto más a un dictador ensangrentado con más de 80 muertos desde que empezó la intimada tunecina.

La manifestación se ha plantado frente al Ministerio del Interior, protegido por gran número de policía. Se grita. “Ministerio del interior, ministerio del terror”, “homenaje a la sangre de los mártires” “No a los Trabelsi” (la familia de la mujer del presidente).

Delante del ministerio, Radia Nasraoui, abogada y activistas de derechos humanos, exigía la liberación de su marido, Hamma Hammami, dirigente del Partido de los obreros comunistas tunecinos (POCT), detenido el miércoles por la policía.

Manifestaciones se están desarrollando por todo Túnez con la exigencia de que Ben Alí se vaya, que se juzgue a los criminales y a los corruptos que han convertido el país en su finca particular (la familia del presidente).

En Sidi Bouzid, donde comenzó la rebelión, una manifestación de más de 1.500 personas salieron a la calle tras el discurso del presidente, gritando “Fuera Bel Alí”.

La UGTT, sindicato único tunecino, ha ido convocando en las últimas semanas huelgas por zonas. En Túnez estaba convocada hoy una huelga de dos horas. La realidad está desbordando estas convocatorias que se están extendiendo a huelga general total.

Desde internet se impulsa el movimiento difundiendo videos, informaciones, convocatorias. A partir del discurso del presidente, han vuelto a funcionar muchos blogs y sitios web censurados estos días.

En algunos lugares se han creado comités populares para organizar la revuelta, fijarse objetivos y evitar destrucciones sin sentido.

No para de aumentar el número de muertos, pero el avance del movimiento popular parece imparable y cada muerto es redoblar la esperanza de que un cambio profundo en Túnez está al alcance. La esperanza se vive en las miradas y en los corazones.

Jan 15 2011 13:34

Democratic revolt in Tunisia and international silence (machine translation)

What happens when the media ignores an uprising? 

What happens when the media ignores an uprising?

I have been grappling with this question for over a year now. I was one of the first to follow the protests in Iran and write about them. I was naturally angered when I saw the focus of the world shift from an issue as important as democracy in the Middle East to the death of Michael Jackson --- but there’s little you can do.

What appalled me further was how the US media  spent weeks ignoring the protests that forced Tunisia’s president out of the country today. I cannot tell you how many times I searched on New Yahoo! and Google News for stories and found almost none. Wire stories copied and republished only pass the buck.

Americans on social media kept begging for press and broadcasters to take up the coverage. In Europe, France 24 and BBC had coverage almost every day, but this did not change the perception of US media moguls.

Today, as dismayed as I was, I got an answer to my question: What happens when the media ignores a revolution? Sometimes,the answer is: Nothing. The media can help mobilize support for victims of earthquakes like the one in Haiti. The media can also help create an atmosphere where people can feel  that they should care about those overseas. But, when the media refuses to cover a revolution, it really does not carry any impact.

That’s what people in Tunisia proved today by forcing their dictator to jump ship and leave the country. In a few hours, those US outlets who paid no heed will tell you how important it is that, for the first time in decades, a country in the Middle East has forced out an autocrat. Then you’ll have analysts telling you how important it is for US interests that this wave continues or maybe doesn't continue. There will be cute little graphs that Anderson Cooper can pull around on those big computer screens. Hey, it’s all going to be happening!

But this will be too late. The mainstream will not be part of the global wave of online support who witnessed a ground-breakingly inspirational event that will live on in memories for years to come and that could influence views on the Middle East, democracy, and human rights for decades.

But I’m not going to leave my judgement there.

I think millions of Americans who use Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, Youtube and other social media sites were part of the audience that watched this momentous event unfold. Mainstream media outlets may have failed to open  eyes to the yearning for democracy, to show Americans that Arabs aren’t just killers and terrorists, but are also peaceful students who want freedom, jobs, and the right to vote and have it counted fairly. 

But social media did not fail. It succeeded just as it came through for those looking for news about Iran in 2009, bringing the world together and making people feel closer by spreading information about this event online.

I'm afraid that the longer this continues, the more mainstream media will lose credibility and coverage to social media.

Or wait…should I really be afraid? Maybe the fear is for something past. Maybe it should not replace the hope for something present, something far more important than "all the news fit to print".

Josh Shahryar, Friday, January 14, 2011 

The first twitter revolution?

Reporters were prevented from traveling to cover protests in Sidi Bouzid, and the reports from official media characterized events as either vandalism or terrorism. Tunisians got an alternative picture from Facebook, which remained uncensored through the protests, and they communicated events to the rest of the world by posting videos to YouTube and Dailymotion. As unrest spread from Sidi Bouzid to Sfax, from Hammamet and ultimately to Tunis, Tunisians documented events on Facebook. As others followed their updates, it's likely that news of demonstrations in other parts of the country disseminated online helped others conclude that it was time to take to the streets...

Tunisia and the new Arab media space

I'd point to one other aspect of this which often gets overlooked. Al-Jazeera and the new media  ecosystem did not only spread information -- they facilitated the framing of the events and a robust public debate about their meaning. Events do not speak for themselves. For them to have political meaning they need to be interpreted, placed into a particular context and imbued with significance…
Jan 15 2011 11:01

Euronews video: Overnight unrest after Tunisia’s president flees

Tunisia PM holds coalition talks as soldiers patrol

(Reuters) - Hundreds of soldiers patrolled the streets of the Tunisian capital Saturday where the prime minister was due to meet opposition parties to try to form a coalition after protests swept the president from power...

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi took over as caretaker president…

Ghannouchi confirmed reports that members of Ben Ali's family had been arrested, but did not say who. He said it was a "provisional measure."

Tunisian air space, closed Friday, was reopened and the official news agency said all airports were open...

Army roadblocks stopped access Saturday to Bourguiba Avenue, Tunis' main thoroughfare and scene of clashes Friday. Several hundred soldiers as well as tanks, military jeeps and armored personnel carriers manned the approaching roads, still littered with the debris from Friday's violence...

In working class suburbs, residents lined the streets with metal bars and knives to ward off looters...

Jan 15 2011 15:03

Ben Ali is still president (

After fleeing Tunisia yesterday, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali made a circuitous journey around the Mediterranean. His plane first headed south to Libya, then north towards Paris where he was apparently told he would not be welcome. After a reported refuelling stop in Italy, the plane eventually landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Ben Ali is now a guest of the Guardian of the Two Holy Shrines, His Majesty King Abdullah. 

Whether the king will offer him a long-term home there remains to be seen, though it's perhaps worth recalling that Saudi Arabia gave permanent refuge to the Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, after he was deposed in 1979.

A statement from the official Saudi Press Agency said: "We have welcomed in the Saudi kingdom the arrival of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his family."

Note the reference here to Ben Ali as "president". Legally speaking, this is correct, because there has been no announcement of his resignation. He has fled the country but he is still, technically, head of state.

This has an important bearing on what may happen next inside Tunisia. For the sake of legitimacy during the transition, it's desirable to follow the letter of the constitution – which is what Ben Ali did when he seized power in 1987. Very shortly after being appointed as prime minister, he had President Bourguiba declared medically unfit for office and became acting president himself, as specified in the constitution.

There are two different provisions in the Tunisian constitution: one to cover the president's "temporary disability" (Article 56), and the other for a vacancy caused by the president's "death, resignation or total incapacity" (Article 57).

Ben Ali's departure is being treated as a case of "temporary disability" – which is probably why prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has been cagey about saying whether or not he will return. In these circumstances, Ghannouchi legally assumes the duties of president, but with two important caveats: he cannot dissolve parliament and the existing government must remain in place until the end of the president's "disability".

Interestingly, Ben Ali dismissed the entire government (with the apparent exception of Ghannouchi) before leaving – so the rule about the government remaining in place doesn't strictly apply. This has opened the way for Ghannouchi – if he so chooses – to form a government of national unity that includes opposition politicians.

If Ben Ali had opted for the alternative course – immediate resignation – the chairman of parliament, not Ghannouchi, would have become acting president. However, that course also requires the holding of new presidential elections within 45-60 days (something even the opposition would probably not want, since it allows them little time to organise, especially during the present chaos). 

Ghannouchi, 69, is not a popular figure. He has been prime minister since 1999 and is regarded as one of Ben Ali's long-term henchmen. Not surprisingly, there is talk among the Tunisian protesters of trying to oust him too. If they succeed, the constitutional position will become very murky indeed.

There doesn't seem to be an ideal solution but, if constitutionality is to be observed, a broadly-based and short-lived transitional government under Ghannnouchi (regrettably) may be the least bad option – assuming that Ben Ali can be persuaded to resign shortly, triggering a presidential election in, say, April or May. That would allow Tunisians to choose a new leader without letting Ghannouchi become too entrenched. When – and if – Ben Ali announces his resignation, Ghannouchi must cease to be acting president (at least, according to the constitution)..

On the other hand, there's a nightmare scenario where Ben Ali could refuse to resign and sit out the rest of his term in Saudi Arabia until October 2014. That would give Ghannouchi almost four years to consolidate his position – and it may be what Ben Ali has in mind.

Having Ben Ali as a guest also gives King Abdullah an opportunity to manipulate Tunisian politics behind the scenes. He could, for instance, insist on Ben Ali resigning as a condition for staying in the kingdom or, alternatively, he could continue to protect and honour him as a "president-in-exile".

Brian Whitaker, 15 Jan 2011

Edited to add

Ben Ali is no longer president

An update to my post earlier today. Tunisia's constitutional council 
has now decided that the chairman of parliament, Fouad Mebazaa, should be acting president – and not prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi.

The council says that Article 57 of the constitution, rather than Article 56, should apply. In other words, Ben Ali is deemed to have given up the presidency permanently rather than temporarily.

It also means that presidential elections must be held within 60 days. This is much better news.

Jan 15 2011 11:29

Tunisia revolt: will it spread?

CAIRO, Egypt — Less than an hour after the news broke that President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali had fled Tunisia, the political reverberations of his departure were already being felt over 1,000 miles away in Egypt’s capital.

Outside the Tunisian embassy in Cairo on Friday night, a thick line of baton-wielding riot police and plainclothes security watched anxiously as dozens of Egyptian opposition members chanted slogans critical of the government led by President Hosni Mubarak since 1981.

“Oh Ben Ali, tell Mr. Mubarak we have the airplane waiting for him to leave too!” Egyptian protesters screamed from behind the security cordon.


“The Tunisian movement is another sign that change is possible here in Egypt. The economic conditions are worse here in Egypt,” said Abdel Hamid Kandil, leader of the opposition movement Kefaya. “After seeing Ben Ali leave Tunisia, we will be encouraging a similar type of civil disobedience and a social explosion on the streets.” ...

Jan 15 2011 11:36

Snap on the Whitaker article re constitutional issues.

Relevant news item from the BBC stream this morning looks like it might answer some of those questions:

1045 Tunisian state TV announces that the Speaker of parliament, Fouad Mebazaa, as the interim president. Mr Ben Ali has left power for good, says the constitutional council. Presidential elections must take place within 60 days.
Jan 15 2011 11:53

Ben Ali's possible successors (Al Jazeera)

As protesters demand new interim president stand down, Tunisians face uncertainty about what's next for the nation. News reports selected the following names as the possible candidates:

Mohammed Ghannouchi, who was prime minister under Ben Ali since 1999

Kamel Morjane was foreign minister until the government was dismissed on Friday

Najib Chebbi, is an outspoken critic of the Tunisian authorities who stayed in the country while many of his opposition peers decided it was safer to go and live abroad … He is being courted to join a coalition government and said he had been invited for a meeting with Ghannouchi...

Jan 15 2011 12:25
ocelot wrote:
Relevant news item from the BBC stream this morning looks like it might answer some of those questions
1053 In a report for BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen considers whether events in Tunisia could have the same ripple effect as the strike by the Solidarity union in Poland in 1980. That set off a chain of events which culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism in Europe in 1989. Could Tunis be the Arab world's Gdansk?

BBC radio: Protesters 'now expecting widespread political reform' and 'Riots on the beach'

Jan 15 2011 12:31

Also from the BBC stream

1221 Retired Tunisian ambassador Ahmed Ounaies tells BBC News: "The losers are strong people, are big people. They have networks. They have means to damage the present situation. And those losers - either among the ruling party or among some sections of the police - are sending some militia for destroying some properties, for looting, for aggressing (sic) people after curfew."

1204 Reports are now coming in of a second prison break-out. Reuters now says dozens of prisoners have been killed in a prison break in the town of Mahdia. Meanwhile, a coroner has told AP that at least 42 people died in the prison fire in Monastir.

1140 Reports are coming in of a prison fire in the resort town of Monastir. "I can see tens of dead and tens of prisoners who have escaped. The whole prison is on fire, the furniture, mattresses, everything," local resident Shokri Chouchan told Reuters. Reuters says it received similar accounts from two other eyewitnesses.

1127 There are reports of renewed looting around the capital. Soldiers intervened to try to stop looters from sacking a supermarket in Ariana, 30km (20 miles) north of Tunis, the AP news agency says. A helicopter circled low over the capital, and gunfire was heard. An AP photographer also sent images of a supermarket in Bizerte, 50km (30 miles) northwest of Tunis.

1118 The BBC's Wyre Davies, in central Tunis, says the atmosphere is "incredibly tense". Hundreds of police and soldiers are on the streets, he says, and tanks are protecting all the main ministries. "It's very difficult to see who's in control. It's difficult to see when and if the political reforms the protesters have been calling for will ever happen. The military is very much part of the political history of this country and will have a big say in what happens next."

Jan 15 2011 13:02

Tunisia's Ghannouchi is dead in the water (The Arabist)

As predicted, Ghannouchi is no longer president, Speaker of Parliament Fouad Mebazaâ is now interim president under Article 57 of the constitution, has mandate to hold elections in 45-60 days. But he may not be entirely acceptable either, although at least this answers the critique that the constitution had not been followed. Also, Ben Ali is now officially no longer president.

I really get the sense, watching Tunisian opposition politicians speak on television, that the interim presidency of Mohammed Ghannouchi is stillborn. Many reject the man as well as some of the people around him (especially , and abhor above all the notion that existing political elites may survive. Yet, inevitably, some of this political class will survive, but they will have to negotiate their survival. In the meantime, the mechanism to move beyond the Ghannouchi interim government is not clear yet, the opposition will have to unite around a concrete proposal if they want to find a way out. In the absence of a clear opposition leader, it may be left to the military to act as the caretaker government, which comprises its own risks.

But Tunisia was too much of a police state not to have compromised many people. As well as politicians, there are the police officers, informants, bureaucrats, businessmen and countless others who worked with the system. Some of these are major criminals who should pursued in courts, others are minor criminals who might benefit from an amnesty. The question is now one of how much justice to sacrifice to stability and return to the rule of law. 

The picture below was circulating last night; it shows a police van parked near a supermarket while the van's drivers (presumably policemen) robbed the store. This is the legacy left behind by Ben Ali's police-mafia state: a police system that is totally compromised and unable to function normally, a castrated and humiliated judiciary, a state bureaucracy with credibility problems and a population that, understandably, wants revenge. 

Issandr El Amrani, Saturday 15 January 2011

Jan 15 2011 13:13

Long live the free people of Tunisia (Egyptian Chronicles)

According to sources in the Tunisian army the Police set the prisoners from main prisons free and ordered them to attack the civilians and starting looting shops and homes. In fact some policemen have started to loot and terrorize the citizens across the country to give an impression that there is no order in the country after Ben Ali. Still the army is standing to the side of the people , there are special numbers announced through out the media the people should call if they are in need to the army help. The citizens themselves are protecting their properties ,they started to form security teams themselves ... The army arrested state security members attacking hospital !! ...
Jan 15 2011 16:21

Tunisia's 'Jasmine Revolution' jolts Arab world (AFP)

Will Tunisia be a turning point for Arab democracy?

A pilot who refused to fly Ben Ali's family out of Tunisia, interviewed on live television, explained that they were "war criminals." As the region's other autocratic rulers retire to bed, this forthright message will be a chilling reminder that their people's quiescence is not guaranteed, nor is it the same thing as legitimacy. If nothing else, the protests have demonstrated that an Arab head-of-state can be toppled from below and, for leaders as well as activists, have expanded popular notions of the possible...

Jordan fears another Tunisia (ahramonline)

Calls for PM Samir Rifai to step down have mounted amidst waves of demonstrations and riots which swept the streets Saturday in protest against increasing prices as well as unemployment, as authorities fear another Tunisia

Jordan’s king established a task force in the palace overseen by Ayman Al-Safady and includes intelligence and military officers to prevent the eruption of Jordanian streets in the same way Tunisia’s has.

The kingdom’s major cities were surrounded by tanks and their check points and barriers were situated at the entrances to resist Jordan’s so called “day of rage” which went off Friday.

Protests spread out across major Jordanian cities as if inspired by the Tunisian example, in an unprecedented event led by the city of Al-Karak. The uprising was a clear statement against corruption, unemployment, and nepotism.

Baathists, especially those from Karak and Irbid, and military retirees led the campaign which the Muslim Brotherhood refused to take part in it.

Amman’s march initiated in front of Imam Al-Husseini’s mosque in the centre of the capital where the demonstrators, exhausted by inflation, called for the dissolution of government. About 5 thousand protested shouting anti-government statements.

Sudanese youths call for peaceful government overthrow

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Young people in Sudan, the last Arab state to experience a successful popular uprising, are using social networking sites to rally support for their plan to topple the government through peaceful protests.

Encouraged by weeks of Tunisian demonstrations which ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on Friday, Sudanese are harking back to the popular uprising in 1985 which overthrew President Jaafar Nimeiri after 16 years of harsh rule.

Fresh from this week's demonstrations against rising prices, young Sudanese are circulating calls on Facebook, Sudanese websites and by text message calling on families to stand outside their houses and light a candle for 30 minutes at 7 p.m. (11 a.m. EST) every day -- starting on Saturday.

"People will stand for one day, two, three, seven - soon it will reach the media ... then it will hit the streets and topple this tyrant," Wail Jabir wrote on Facebook, where more than 400 people have already signed up for the protest.

"This is just a beginning," another comment said.

Students demonstrating against rising food and petrol prices clashed with police on Wednesday and Thursday in three towns in the mostly Arab north, including Khartoum.


Sudan's 1985 uprising began with popular protests by students and spread into a general strike, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets.

Eventually the military leadership turned against Nimeiri and joined the protesters, recalls lawyer Omer Abdelaati, who gave the speech calling for the general strike in 1985.

"It was just like this," he said, pointing to footage of Tunisia on the news. "The schools, universities, banks, everything closed, Khartoum was paralyzed -- everyone was on the streets in Khartoum and in the regions," he said...

Jan 15 2011 14:21

Tunisian prison fire 'kills dozens' (Guardian)

A fire at a prison in the Tunisian resort town of Monastir has reportedly killed dozens as the country faces more uncertainty after President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled the nation.

Coroner Tarek Mghirbi said at least 42 people had died in the fire, AP reported.

One witness told Reuters: "The whole prison is on fire, the furniture, mattresses, everything." ...

Early today rioters burned the main train station in Tunis to the ground. Soldiers intervened to stop looters at a huge supermarket in Ariana, 20 miles north of the capital, as a helicopter hovered. Gunfire could be heard...

And on the BBC stream

1357 The AFP news agency says its reporters in Tunis saw soldiers and plainclothes security personnel dragging dozens of suspected looters out of their cars at gunpoint and taking them away in trucks.
Jan 15 2011 14:29

Tunisia liveblog

1336 GMT: An aide says that Sakher Materi, the son-in-law of deposed President Ben Ali, is now in Dubai.

Tunisia's private Nesma television station had reported on Friday that Materi had been arrested along with several relatives (see yesterday's updates).

1334 GMT: French officials say they have blocked "suspicious movements" of Tunisian assets.

1330 GMT: A second prison incident: a doctor at a hospital in Monastir confirms that 42 bodies from a prison fire in the city have been received.

1305 GMT: Witnesses have told Reuters that dozens of prisoners were killed in the mass escape from a prison in the town of Mahdia, 140 kilometres (85 miles) south of Tunis.

A witness said the prison had 1200 inmates. Many "tried to flee, police opened fire on them. Now there are dozens of dead provided by everyone".

1210 GMT: AFP claims relatives of deposed President Ben Ali have taken up residence in "VIP accommodation" at Disneyland Paris.

1035 GMT: Tunisia state television reports that, following his meeting with opposition leaders, Mohammad Ghannouchi has handed over Presidential authority to Speaker of Parliament Fuad Mbazza.

One report claims that Hamma Hammami, the head of the Workers Communist Party, refused to participate in a Ghannouchi government.

1030 GMT: Journalists in Tunis report that police are not allowing them to film.

The main road in Tunis, Avenue Bourguiba, and other thoroughfares have been blocked off by troops, and AFP reports there are few people on the streets.

1025 GMT: The Associated Press reports that a crowd has razed the main train station in Tunis, as well as looting shops.

An AP photographer saw soldiers intervening early Saturday to stop looters from sacking a huge supermarket in the Ariana area, 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of the capital.

1015 GMT: Acting President Mohammed Ghannouchi has met the head of the Ettajdid Party, Ahmed Ibrahim, the head of the Labour Party, Mustafa Ben Jaafar,and lawyer Najib Chebbi.

1010 GMT: Demonstrators in the southern city of Qabis entered a government building and found documentation of the state's repression. At least one memorandum has made it onto the Internet

1000 GMT: The Committee to Protect Journalists has welcomed the freeing of detained bloggers Azyz Amamy and Slim Amamou and journalist Nizar Ben Hasan, a correspondent for Radio Kalima.

The CPJ calling for the release of another journalist, Fahem Boukadous, a correspondent for the satellite television station Al-Hiwar al-Tunisi.

Boukadous was arrested in July 2010 and sentenced to four years in prison on charges of "belonging to a criminal association" and spreading materials "likely to harm public order".

Jan 15 2011 15:10
Jan 15 2011 17:29

From the BBC

1710 Paris says Mr Ben Ali's family members who took refuge in France are not welcome in the country and will be leaving. Two of the ousted president's daughters, Cyrine and Nesrine, are said to be in France. French media reports say they are staying in a hotel just outside Disneyland Paris.

1707 A small number of Egyptians have held a demonstration in Cairo in support of the Tunisian uprising, closely watched by the security forces. The signs in Arabic read: "Revolution in Tunis, tomorrow in Egypt".

1643 Eyewitness reports from the centre of Tunis say there have been sporadic bursts of gunfire. AP says its reporters saw "two bodies lying on the ground", but it is not clear who they were, nor whether they were dead or injured.

1632 Houeida Ammar in the Tunisian city of Gammarth says people in her neighbourhood are organising to protect themselves from the militia. "We can hear helicopters overhead. The militia are driving around in cars with the licence plates removed but we recognise them because they are in the white Toyotas that belong to the security forces, as well as rental cars and trucks. This morning I saw the Army with a tank down at La Marsa beach. They were stopping anyone who they recognised as police or militia. They were pulling over any jeeps or vans that looked liked them."

1614 Australian student Elle Murrell, who is in Tunis, tells the BBC in an email: "Many petrol stations are empty/closed, the lines for others are huge, a similar problem with food supplies is begging to present itself (many supermarkets are now burnt or have been emptied by looters, adding to this problem)... People line the roads with bags on their back, hoping to hitchhike out of the city, fearing for the worst in the next few days."

1436 Around 100 people joined a rally outside the Tunisian embassy in the Jordanian capital, Amman. Engineer Sarri Zuwaytar said: "We think that what is happening in Tunis is a lesson for all oppressive regimes and all corrupt regimes in the Arab world, and we want them to learn a lesson from what is going on."

Jan 15 2011 18:50

On twitter (claims may be unconfirmed)

Some shooting on streets of Tunis and Reuters reports impromptu militias of residents guarding suburbs against looters

For example last night people made their own local committees to protect civilians. It takes organisation & leadership

this is a barricade placed by the youth of our neighborhood right in front of my home in Bizerte

Collabrative mapping using google earth to track death squads and other threats #sidibouzid #googlempas

There seems to be a full-blown clash between the army and RCD/Benali/Trabelsi militias, according to many reports

According to @Issrar_Khanum, Benali militias have shot at army barracks in Bizerte

The snipers who killed the protesters were from the president security(Professionals)!

The responsibles for the shooting in Lamta were apprehended in Sayada. they were driving a van full of weapons.

Arrested Terrorists (corrupted cops) with weapons using a rented car #SidiBouzid

Al Jazeera: head of pesidential security arrested today; Rachid Ghannouchi, head of banned islamist party Ennahda to return soon

AFP: URGENT: Tunisian political dissident Rachid #Ghannouchi, preparing to return to #Tunisia.

Aljazeera is making Rashid Ghannoushi sound like an important player/voice in Tunisia. We did NOT kick out ZABA for Islamists!

Arrestation de Slim Chiboub #Sidibouzid Ben Ali's son in law arrested while trying to escape to Libya

People of Bin Guirdane are helping catch ZABA's cronies fleeing to Libya.

Sami El Fehri (owner of CactusProduction, media empire of Liela BenAli) next to be captured

#Egypt withdraws the Egyptian Ambassador from #Tunisia, and bans all Tunisians from entry. #Mubarak pissing his pants.

"Democratize or we'll Tunisify"RT @JoelleJackson Al Jaz interviewing Yemenis,1lady tells Saleh that we threaten you with

"French ministers offered Ben Ali’s regime police support to deal with the recent protests"

Not A Joke: Palestinian puppet Mahmoud Abbas sent his sincere 'condolences' to overthrown dictator #BenAli yesterday.

Going to the rally in support of #Tunisia & #Tunisians at ParlimentHill #Ottawa @ 2:00 today

Thousands of tunisians march through Paris streets to celebrate ousting of Ben Ali #tunisie #sidibouzid

Follow @ClaireInParis flickr for photos of #Tunisia demos in Paris #SidiBouzid

Jan 15 2011 21:07

Article by the International Marxist Tendency published yesterday - and so now entirely out of date - but still interesting. Again, by posting up or linking to articles I'm not endorsing the politics of this group, or anyone else who's writing about events in Tunisia.

From the uprising of Sidi Bizoud to the revolution!

More importantly the workers have started to move via their union, the UGTT, whose docile leadership has been forced to enter into opposition to the regime. Local and regional branches of the UGTT have taken the initiative to call strikes. The mass rallies have been like virtual occupations of cities.

Some sections of the union, like the teachers, the health workers and postal workers had already played an important role in pushing the UGTT into action. Journalists’ unions and the lawyers’ associations have also been in the forefront of the struggle. But now the wider layers of the workers’ movement have moved into action.

Demonstrations like the ones in the rebellious workers’ city of Sfax or in Kassarine mark the active entry of the workers onto the scene. The images of those demonstrations reveal an attitude of open defiance towards the regime, a mood of confidence and a feeling that victory is within reach.

Already last Sunday, January 9, the UGTT local affiliate in Sfax issued a call for a regional general strike. With only a few exceptions (hospitals and many bakeries that stayed open to help the people in struggle), the strike saw a 100% turnout. In Sfax 30,000 workers and youths demonstrated on the streets. In Jenduba on January 12, there were 12,000 people demonstrating in a city of 30,000 inhabitants.

The local branches of the UGTT have become the centre of gravity of the resistance against the dictatorship. Mass meetings are held there, and the offices are used to organise many activities. This is no accident. It can only be explained by the specific weight this union has in the collective political memory of the Tunisian workers. The union played a decisive role in the anti-colonial struggle against the French occupation. Now it has become despite the role of its leaders the cornerstone of the resistance built up in the last few weeks.

In the last days this movement reached the suburbs of the capital, prompting the regime to impose a curfew. Military vehicles and soldiers were posted at strategic points around Tunis. Even tourist destinations such as Hammamet could not escape the sweep of the movement. Under terrible pressure from its ranks the UGTT leaders called for a 2-hour general strike in the country for today, Friday 14th January.


Scenes of fraternisation between the army and the demonstrators have been shown on French television and broadcast around the world. The police who were out on the streets this morning did not dare to intervene. Later on in the day fresh police forces were sent in who tried to disperse the demonstrators with tear gas and baton charges, but to no avail.

Other demonstrators decided to go the Presidential Palace in Carthage to stage a sit-in. Prominent figures within the regime are abandoning the boat, like rats jumping from a sinking ship. The regime is losing its grip on whole sections of its state apparatus. Some reports indicate that sections of the army have come out in defence of the demonstrators. Journalists of the Tunisian state television are reported to have revolted today, as they took over the TV studios and decided to start reporting the truth of what has been going on in the country...

Jan 15 2011 18:25

Mid-East bloggers hail change in Tunisia (BBC)

In neighbouring countries, especially Egypt, web users hailed the ''Tunisian uprising'' and said they hoped that "the same happens at home".

The popular Facebook page ''We Are All Khalid Sa'id'' (named after an Egyptian allegedly beaten to death by police) created an online, Tunisia-related event, attended by 7,000 people by early on Saturday.

The event's description read: "Enough of being silent... we are not less than Tunisia... Tens of thousands took to the streets in Tunisia and succeeded in their quest to achieve liberty... We want our rights... We do not want repression in Egypt... we want to be free".


Several Egyptian bloggers expressed solidarity with Tunisians people and hoped that Egypt "might come next". Blogger Bint Masriyah on 14 January posted a picture of the Tunisian flag and commented: "Tunisia: we are proud of your people; may the same happen to us."

A Moroccan online paper, anamaghrebweb, posted a video on YouTube showing what was said to be a solidarity protest in Morocco.


Many international and Tunisian Facebook users have changed their profile images to that of the red Tunisian flag, in solidarity with the protesters.

Large numbers of Tunisian Facebook users welcomed the departure of President Ben Ali, with some proclaiming victory in what is being called on Twitter and Facebook the "Jasmine Revolution".

Jan 15 2011 18:51

Tunisia liveblog

1830 GMT: Privately-owned Nesma TV is reporting that Imad Trabelsi --- the nephew of Leila Trabelsi, the wife of deposed President Ben Ali --- is dead.

There are no details, but earlier in the day rumours had circulated on Twitter that Trabelsi had died as the family's homes in the Tunis suburbs were being ransacked yesterday.

Trabelsi, the nephew was named in a 2008 US diplomatic cable as a "particularly important economic actor" in the corruption of the Trabelsi family. In 2006, he had caused a scandal by reportedly stealing the yacht of a well-connected French businessman, Bruno Roger, Chairman of Lazard Paris.

1800 GMT: Channel 7, considered a propaganda outlet for the deposed President, has renamed itself National TV.

1745 GMT: A resident of Gammarth, near Tunis tells the BBC that people in her neighbourhood are organising to protect themselves from militia:

We can hear helicopters overhead. The militia are driving around in cars with the licence plates removed but we recognise them because they are in the white Toyotas that belong to the security forces, as well as rental cars and trucks. This morning I saw the Army with a tank down at La Marsa beach. They were stopping anyone who they recognised as police or militia. They were pulling over any jeeps or vans that looked liked them.

1625 GMT: A first-hand report from Tunis to the BBC....

Many petrol stations are empty/closed, the lines for others are huge, a similar problem with food supplies is begging to present itself (many supermarkets are now burnt or have been emptied by looters, adding to this problem)....People line the roads with bags on their back, hoping to hitchhike out of the city, fearing for the worst in the next few days.

1605 GMT: Reports are circulating that Slim Chiboub, the son-in-law of President Ben Ali, has been arrested while trying to escape to Libya. Footage is in our video section.

1555 GMT: Acting President Fuad Mbazza, having taken authority this morning from Mohammed Ghannouchi, has named Ghannouchi as Prime Minister.

Ghannouchi, who was Prime Minister under deposed President Ben Ali, was commanded to form a "national unity government in the country's best interests" in which all political parties will be consulted "without exception nor exclusion".

1515 GMT: CNN's Ben Wedeman reports from Tunis: "Municipal workers now removing huge posters of Bin Ali in Place de l'Independence. No fanfare. No cheering. No civilians."

Jan 16 2011 00:00

Are jackboots already trampling the "Jasmine Revolution"? (CNN)

The army and security forces are trying to impose order in Tunis. Tanks and armored personnel carriers have been deployed on one of the capital's main thoroughfares, Avenue 7 Novembre (named after the date when Ben Ali assumed presidential powers in 1987). At midday Saturday I watched as two truckloads of soldiers pulled up on the avenue and began stringing out barbed wire.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew is being ruthlessly enforced. Just how ruthlessly I saw from my hotel window. At midnight I watched as plain-clothed policemen beat with batons and kicked a young man to the ground. All the while be screamed, "Have mercy on me!"

This afternoon the front desk called to tell me to close my window on orders of the police.

In the Place de l'Independence, I watched municipal workers taking down a large poster of Ben Ali. There was no cheering, no celebration. The few people in the square appeared more concerned with getting home before the curfew began.

The feel is very much that of a military takeover. It's hard to catch a whiff of what is being called the Jasmine Revolution.

Mounting fear of chaos is diluting the unbridled joy inspired by Ben Ali's departure. Fires have broken out in prisons in Muntasir and Al-Mahdia. There are reports of gangs on looting sprees.

Tunisian television has discontinued regular programming, replaced with a call-in program. The prime concern of callers from around the country is that law and order are breaking down.


Middle Eastern rulers are masters at outsmarting their opponents and quashing protest. They're far less skilled when it comes to addressing the problems that plague their people.

Those autocrats are almost certainly rooting for the Tunisian army and intelligence services to re-establish calm and control. In much of the Middle East, the rulers depend upon the support of the army and intelligence services. When the secretive, low-profile generals and spooks decide the leader is more a liability than an asset, they send him packing.

Revolution, real revolution resulting in an overthrow of the existing order along the lines of 1979 Iran, is far less probable.

The Jasmine Revolution, which inspired so many angry and frustrated people across the Arab world, is already in danger of being trampled by jackboots.

Edited to add this comment on twitter

CNN reporter seems to not understand the fact that the police are death squads being arrested
Jan 15 2011 21:04

Récit de la manif de soutien au tunisiens à lyon

Jan 15, 2011

Par Ben Hadj Amine,

Aujourd’hui j’ai tenté de prendre l’avion pour Tunis, en vain. Alors je me suis dirigé vers le centre Lyon où une manifestation de tunisiens a été organisée à 19h.

J’ai constaté des choses que je veux reporter à tout le monde.

J’arrive par le métro, je remonte à la place bellecour. Une petite foule, était là fredonnant l’hymne national, mon cœur s’est déchiré, ils ne connaissent même pas les paroles, pas toutes les paroles en tout cas; une foule impossible à maitriser ou même à guider. Je remarque n’empêche, que 2 jeunes essayent de faire un cercle, pourquoi?? Ils se préparent pour être filmé par france3. Il parait que quelqu’un a appelé france3 : Les deux jeunes. Ils ont dit que c’était eux les organisateurs de la manifestation. Ah bon!

Je pensais que la manif était spontanée, et de plus j’ai contribué à l’appel! Ils ne sont pas nets ces deux là. Je me tais, j’observe. un moment je crie “tounes horra, horra, we etajamoâ ala barra”, les deux n’ont pas chanté. Ils savent parler ces deux là, ils appellent à la vengeance. Je prends la parole. je ne suis pas habitué à faire ça, mais bon, tant pis je me lance. j’appelle les gens à penser à la reconstruction, à rentrer pour aider au maintien de l’ordre, à rentrer pour aider avec les pelles, à réparer ce que les milices ont brulé et cassé. puis je me tais. Ces deux là alors! ils ne lachent rien. ils nous appellent de nouveau à s’organiser pour laisser france 3 filmer. J’en ai marre de cette mascarade. Les gens ici, ne sont pas ceux qui ont participé à la dissidence. Ils suivent comme des moutons ces deux bergers.

Je reprends la parole, pour dire qu’on n’est pas venu ici pour être filmer, mais pour poursuivre le combat et demander le démantèlement du réseau du RCD et transformer chaque choâba en une bibliothèque ou un mémorial de la révolution. Là quelques uns ont compris la combine. Les gens ont alors chanté spontanément: “tounes horra horra welqaweda ala barra”. Un des deux a déjà disparu, au même temps que le cercle; le drapeau qui était en bas pour préparer la photo s’est levé dans le ciel. vive la Tunisie.

Le deuxième était toujours là, un voisin filmait, j’ai lancé un nouveau slogan, “etajamoâ ya jaban, chaaâb tounes lè youhen” j’ai demandé au deuxième alors de chanter, en précisant qu’il est filmé. Il a souris, il a évité de chanter, en répondant que c’est lui l’organisateur, et que c’est lui qui a ramené tout ces drapeaux. En effet, j’étais surpris du nombre de drapeau en papier, de ceux qu’on voit dans le meeting du RCD; je le lui fais remarquer, à haute voix, la foule l’a entouré, en dénonçant le RCD, je l’ai cherché; mais il a disparu.

La foule l’a dévoré. Il n’y a plus aucun leader dans les manifestations. Elle est redevenue pure, et spontanée. Elle a marché jusqu’au consulat. Sur le chemin des barbus nous ont rejoint, des algériens aussi. Des nouveaux slogans sont nés, scandant le nom de dieu, scandant l’unité arabe, l’unité musulmane. Pire encore un Imam priait, disait des incantations qui m’ont mis en rogne. Je voulais prendre vacances. Mais les laïques m’ont retenu, disant que si on leur laisse la place, ils vont tout récupérer. Et oui le peuple a gagné sa liberté le 14 janvier, le 15 janvier les islamistes et les RCD se déchiraient le pouvoir. L’histoire retiendra ça. Retenez bien; le 15 janvier les islamistes essayent de récupérer la victoire du peuple tunisien. Et les RCDistes retournent leurs vestes, mais continuent à se foutre de la gueule des plus faibles de nous.

On a quitté le consulat, on retournait à bellecour, les gens jouaient maintenant la darbouka, chantaient.

Pauvre de vous. Le décalage entre ces tunisiens là et ceux qui ont combattu est énorme. Je décide de rentrer.

La morale de cette journée: il faut démanteler le RCD en effet, l’empêcher d’user les moyens que l’ancien régime lui a offert.

Aussi, il faut politiser e peuple, l’intellectualiser, pour lui rendre le pouvoir. Il faut que les tunisiens arrêtent d’applaudir.

Ben Ali est parti, mais pas le RCD.

Les islamistes veulent le pouvoir, l’histoire retiendra leur lâcheté, et leur opportunisme.

Je suis fier d’être Tunisien, et je regarde l’avenir avec espoir et envie.

Vive la Tunisie, Vive les Tunisiens.

Jan 15 2011 21:33

Myth and reality in the Jasmine Revolution (Egyptian Chronicles)

Twitter, Wikileaks and Tunisia (The Arabist)

There's been a lot of speculation, notably in the US, over the role social media played in the Tunisian revolution (it sure feels nice to say those two words.)

Wikileaks may have played a minor atmospheric rule in baring to the whole world what was whispered about the Ben Ali regime's corruption, showing that US diplomats were aghast at the mafia nature of his regime.

Social media, from Twitter and Facebook to video upload sites, were crucial in spreading the word about what happened in a country where the press was tightly muzzled. It generated tremendous amounts of solidarity in the Arab world in beyond. But it's just a means of communication, not a driver in itself.

At the end of the day, Tunisians took the streets because they had enough. They risked getting shot and beaten with no guarantee of success. And it's likely that if they hadn't heard about events around their country through Twitter and Facebook, they would have heard it by telephone. The difference is one of velocity: the technology available today allows for faster and more efficient distribution of information, notably including video.

Issandr El Amrani, Saturday 15 January 2011

Jan 15 2011 21:40
Jan 15 2011 21:40
Jan 15 2011 21:51

Thanks again to Mark for the updates. smile

klas batalo
Jan 15 2011 22:20

yeah seriously thanks!

Jan 15 2011 23:05

Some thoughts for the day from As'ad at

There is no religious factor in the Tunisian uprising

It is most noteworthy and most significant (given the Western media obsession with the Islam factor in all what Arabs and Muslims do politically), that the Islamic factor is thus far absent in what is going on in Tunisia.  In fact, secular trends and movements seem to be at the helm. The revolutionary Tunisian Communist Workers Party is one of the leaders of this movement.  I am not saying that Islamic trends will not later emerge in the Tunisian political spectrum especially that Bin `Ali was repressive in what was allowed politically, but it is high time that Arab political culture not be reduced to the Islam factor.  Today, Islamist Tunisian thinker, Rashid Ghannushi, announced that he would return to Tunisia.  But he has no role in what is happening and no one is chanting his name--his wishes to the contrary notwithstanding.

Aljazeera needs to STOP pushing the Islamist Rashid Ghannushi

Now, Aljazeera hosted the lousy tele-Islamist, Yusuf Al-Qardawi, who sent salutations to the people of Tunisia as if they care about his salutations.  Secondly, and most importantly, Aljazeera has to stop promoting Rashid Ghannushi and stop announcing his travel to Tunisia as if his impending arrival is analogous to that of Khumayni's return to Iran.  No one cares about Ghannushi, from what I have seen, although I won't rule out the likelihood of the emergence of an Islamist current later on.  Ghannushi (and I have kept up with his writings) has reinvented himself many times and lately he has been posing as a scholar.  He has nothing original to say and invokes empty slogans of democracy like George W. Bush.

The Islamist factor in Tunisia

Khelil, a well-informed Tunisian, sent me this (I cite with his permission):  
So that Islamic fundamentalist Rashid Ghannoushi (and I remembered your piece on the incoherence of Islamic fundamentalists about how he wants contemporary fundamentalists to replace philosophers in the curriculum) has announced he will return to the country to contest the presidential election, of course in what will inshallah be free elections he should have the right to be fielded as a candidate. And I prefer Islamists to be politically marginalized through the ballot box and I do not fear his appeal, which is so limited. Tunisians have taken to Facebook to make it clear they have no interest in him. I have attached a photo my cousin uploaded and Tunisians are posting the message on Facebook: NON AUX ISLAMISTES ! NON AUX TERRORISTES ! NON A RACHED EL GHANOUCHI ! CET ASSASSIN QUI RÉSIDE A LONDON, ON VEUT UN ETAT LAÏQUE POUR TOUTES LES TUNISIENNES ET TOUS LES TUNISIENS "JUIFS & MUSULMANS & CHRÉTIENS & ATHÉE "  Also the looting is being done by the regime thugs. And the two secret police leaders have been arrested along with numerous other individuals involved in the attacks against shops and even homes. The Tunisians army has arrested them. ...

As'ad, I would also add that Tunisians know full well that the Ben Ali goons are behind the attacks and it is because they want to impress upon the public the fear that without Ben Ali there is no security. The loot is just part of the fun for them. Fortunately, Tunisians are coordinating neighborhood watches and are aiding the army's capture of these people through four phone numbers which the army has provided. Facebook and Blackberry Messenger are being used by youths to keep watch on their towns. It really is inspiring, the whole nation is determined to not allow these thugs to get away.

I've been looking for more on Rashid Ghannoushi and haven't found much that's critical, so here's an article that's uncritical. For an Islamist he sounds relatively liberal and influenced by leftist ideas but this passage suggests he is in favour of implementing Sharia.

For Ghannoushi, the problems within lie in both public and private sectors. In the public arena are Bourguiba and the oppression of Islamic practices and values. Ghannoushi believes that oppression is rooted in previous colonization. The West has left a legacy and influenced Islamic politics. However, in the private sector, the Tunisian people are partly to blame. They allow the continuation of Western influence in Islam. The falling of Tunisian society is blamed on a lack of morals and a need to return to Islamic values. The implementation of Sharia would compensate for the loss of morals and revive Islam. By doing this, the people regain their Muslim identities and values.