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Protestors win in Tunisia, president flees - Jan 15

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Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali forced to flee Tunisia as protesters claim victory

Angelique Chrisafis in Tunis and Ian Black, Middle East editor, Guardian (UK)
Tunisia's president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has fled his country after weeks of mass protests culminated in a victory for people power over one of the Arab world's most repressive regimes.

Ben Ali had taken refuge in Saudi Arabia, at the end of an extraordinary day which had seen the declaration of a state of emergency, the evacuation of tourists of British and other nationalities, and an earthquake for the authoritarian politics of the Middle East and north Africa.

... In Tunisia, prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced that he had taken over as interim president, vowing to respect the constitution and restore stability for Tunisia's 10.5 million citizens. ....

But there was confusion among protesters about what will happen next, and concern that Ben Ali might be able to return before elections could be held.

... Ben Ali, 74, had been in power since 1987. On Thursday he announced he would not stand for another presidential term in 2014, but the move came after Tunisia had been radicalised by weeks of street clashes and the killings of scores of demonstrators. Today in the capital police fired teargas to disperse crowds unmoved by the president's concession and demanding his immediate resignation. A state of emergency and a 12-hour curfew did little to restore calm. Analysts said that the army would be crucial.
(15 January 2011)



This Is The Wikileak That Sparked The Tunisian Crisis

Gregory White, Business Insider
Tunisia's government has collapsed, partially due to food price inflation and unemployment, but also because of WikiLeaks.

One of the U.S. government cables released by WikiLeaks (via @spbaines) exposed the corruption of Tunisia's President's family, its reach into business in the country, and ability to transcend the rule of law. President Ben Ali's family was called "The Family" throughout the leak. The government attempted to block access to WikiLeaks earlier this month.

Here are some highlights from the June 2008 leak
(14 January 2011)



What's Happening In Tunisia, Explained

Nick Baumann, Mother Jones
The Tunisian dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (Ben Ali), has fled the country and the Army has taken power.
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Reports just emerged around 12:30 p.m. Eastern time that the Tunisian dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (Ben Ali), has fled the country and the Army has taken power.

... What's happening?

Violent riots and protests have spread across the country over the past four weeks. Now Ben Ali's totalitarian government seems to be collapsing. (Elliott Abrams, a former Bush administration official who unfortunately is rarely right about anything, thinks that if democracy can take hold in Tunisia, is could spread elsewhere in the Arab world, too.)

Why are Tunisians unhappy?

Well, they don't have much freedom. But there also just aren't enough jobs. Official unemployment is 13 percent, but it's probably actually much higher. The combination of a repressive regime and a faltering economy is often bad news for the regime. Plus, the regime has diverted a lot of the country's wealth to Ben Ali's family and friends, so people are really upset about official corruption.

How did it all start?

On December 19, authorities in the small, central city of Sidi Bouzid seized the produce cart that 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi was using to make a living. So Bouazizi set himself on fire. Young people in the small, central city of Sidi Bouzid rioted, and police moved to seal the city. In early January, Bouazizi died, becoming an early martyr for the cause.
(14 January 2011)

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