Tunisian President Zine El-Abedine Ben Ali has been overthrown by a people's power uprising that has built momentum over the last 4 weeks, culminating in a large rally and protest on January 14 that was attacked by riot police. Ben Ali attempted major concessions, but they were too little and too late. After 23 years in power, Ben Ali and family fled the country to Saudi Arabia, joining former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin who was also given refuge in this middle eastern state.
Tunisia's constitutional council has now declared elections should be held within 60 days under section 57 of the Tunisian constitution, with the chairman of parliament as acting President. The Tunisian Revolution can inspire the world as people power toppled the dictator but the ruling RCD party remains in power for the moment.
Like in the Iran elections, Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube have played a prominent role in mobilising protests. (The revolution was televised, you were just watching the wrong channel.)
The revolution in Tunisia may havealso been influenced by Wikileaks through the publication of US diplomatic cables which added to the public perception of the corrupt nature of the Ben Ali regime. You can read What the US state cables on Tunisia said which also provides an indictment of USA, France and other nations that bolstered the corruption and human rights abuses of the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia.
One of the sparks to this revolution was the death on January 4 of a young Tunisian protester, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set fire to himself on December 17 after police stopped him selling fruit and vegetables without a licence and confiscated his produce. His self-immolation and subsequent death triggered a wave of demonstrations across the country. (Antwerpen IMC: A young man's desperation challenges Tunisia's repression | story from Athens IMC.
Egyptian born journalist and columnist Mona Eltahawy, who writes on islamic and arab affairs for several major newspapers, said in an opinion piece, More Tunisias, Please: "Not once in my 43 years have I thought that I’d see an Arab leader toppled by his people. It is nothing short of poetic justice that it was neither Islamists nor invasion-in-the-name-of-democracy that sent the waters rushing onto Ben Ali’s ship but, rather, the youth of his country."
The Tunisian regime has been at the forefront of Censorship of the internet and public free speech by it's citizens. Government websites have been subject to cyber attack by people associated with online cyber activist and internet freedom group Anonymous. (see image on hacked website: Open Letter to the Government of Tunisia from Anonymous) In December and early January Tunisian police arrested and detained bloggers and social justice activists.
Reporters Without Borders on January 7 urged the authorities to release them as soon as possible. “These arrests, intended to intimidate Tunisian Internet-users and their international backers, are likely to prove counter-productive, by stoking up tension. Arresting several bloggers is not the way to get images of demonstrations deleted from the web or for cyber-attacks to be halted”, Reporters Without Borders said. “Stepping up the repression is absolutely not a solution to the crisis engulfing Tunisia today”.
Popular Tunisian music rapper El Général – real name Hamada Ben Aoun – was also reportedly arrested in Sfax, about 270kms southeast of Tunis. In his song, “President, your people are dead”, he challenged President Ben Ali over corruption and unemployment. His video is hugely popular among young Tunisians and widely circulated online. (Vidster: El Général » President, your people are dead - English subtitles)
By January 10 there were up to 24 dead in Tunisian uprising, followed by huge numbers of people out on the streets all over the North African country. Tweets report protesters being shot - with real bullets - in a growing number of towns as dissent turns into potential revolution. Some reports state up to 60 people have been killed so far.
One comment via twitter said: "Remember that nobody is mobilising the masses in Tunisia. This is a spontaneous movement by people who are so FED UP with it all."
The uprising in Tunisia is already giving hope to dissidents and popular movements across the arab world of overthrowing their own corrupt regimes. The Tunisian revolution has inspired many Egyptians especially political opposition leaders and activists to take to the streets in celebration of a free Tunisia while hoping and determined to bring a revolution to their own country, Egypt. (youtube video: a protest in Cairo by political opposition activists and citizens at the Press Syndicate in down town, Cairo.). The Egyptian regime of Hosni Mubarak fears mass protests.
There are reports from Libya that YouTube has been blocked, largely because the videos of protests are being uploaded there. One twitter comment has said "Citizens of Bani Walid in #Libya said they will continue to take the streets until their demands are met". (Videos: Three clips of protest in Libya in Beida, the third-largest city in Libya. Reports of unrest in Zuwara, Zawiya, Tajoorah, Bayda, and Benghazi.
According to Dyab Abou Jahjah, founder and former president of the Arab European League said in an article on January 13: "The effect of this is even being felt on the streets of Algeria where thousands of youth, who were copying the demands of "the Tunisian Intifada" as people are calling it now, clashed with police. Across the Arab world, peoples are experiencing hope, and the regimes are afraid: all the Arab people and all the Arab regimes."
January 14 Uprising in Tunisia:
- jasminrevolt Video Feed from Tunisia
- Videos and photos - Athens IMC
- Photos - A day of revolution in Tunis
- AjJazeera Timeline: Tunisia's civil unrest
- Jura Libertaire Blog(Fr)
- Maniftunis blog
- Linksunten IMC: Tunisian Revolt
- NYC IMC: Tunisia: The Strength of Disobedience
- Videos: Freedom for Tunisia / Liberté pour la Tunisie / الحرية لتون
- Angry Arab News Service Blog
For frequent just-in news on twitter use these searches:
#Libya #SidiBouzid #Tunisia #jasminrevolt #optunisia