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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Salim Shayboub confirme que la DST/DCRI a preparé 800 voitures piegées avec la police secrete tunisienne en prevision de la chute de Ben Ali. Le chef de la police secrete tunisienne a affirmé que les services francais lui ont demandé de dire publiquement que c'etait AQMI qui etait derriere la revoltes des jeunes, pour leur donner une couverture et debuter une vague d'attentats du meme type que celle employee en Iraq et Pakistan.


Tunisia’s startling revolution

By Marwan Asmar,

Many are calling it the “Jasmine Revolution” after the nation’s national flower; others a “popular revolution” and “Velvet Revolution” in relation to what happened in Eastern Europe, when the people there overthrew their former regimes. Others still are comparing it to the 1978 Iranian Revolution when Iranians deposed the Shah through street politics.

What’s happening in Tunisia is a combination of all three. Their month-old popular uprising unexpectedly resulted in the deposing of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali who ruled their country for 23 years through the iron-fist.

It resembled a “velvet revolution” when he swiftly left the country on 14 December through his own accord, calling it quits, and no doubt taking his clue from previous dictators who either left their countries in extreme situations or others who decided to stay and fight another day, like the former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

Ben Ali, as he said, read the mood of the street, which has been clamoring for his overthrow since 17 December 2010, when Mohammad Bu Azizi set himself on fire because the authorities took away his vegetable cart and denied him making a meager living.

This was the spark that lead to what became a mass revolution, creating the domino effect on people rising up in town and cities throughout the country to tourist-laden coastal areas, eventually smacking unto the streets of the capital, Tunis.

Despite references to the police state which had been built up throughout the reign of Ben Ali, security officers were not able to turn the tide of the demonstrators in what observers called a social revolution that had never been witnessed in the modern political history of Tunisia or since the country’s independence from the French in 1956.

The latest Tunisian uprising is not being given a specific label. It is not being led by communists or Islamists, with Ben Ali cracking down on the latter group. In fact, observers argue this is why he was tolerated by the West since he came to power in 1987.

If anything, it was the educated masses that eventually grew frustrated with the economic policies put forward by men like Mohammad Al Ghanoushi, who today continues to rule as prime minister in a caretaker government waiting to hold elections within 60 days as specified by the Constitution.

While official statistics put the employment rate at 14 percent, unofficially many say the rate is as much as 25 percent and annually increasing as school dropouts and university graduates were being churned out every 12 months onto the unemployment heap in a country of about 9.5 million facing higher commodity prices.

Bu Azizi, 26, was forced to work as a vegetable seller to take care of his family, having been unemployed long after his university graduation. Many such graduates stand unemployed today in Tunisia. Just before Ben Ali left the country, he promised he would create 300,000 jobs in the next few years but he didn’t say how.
The regime had already lost its credibility among the masses, it was deemed to be “uncaring” to the masses, continuously echoing its own voice and distinct brand of ideology through its Constitutional Democratic Rally Party, presided over by Habib Abu Bourguiba, the country’s first president who eventually gave way to Ben Ali in a bloodless coup in 1987.

Initially Ben Ali was seen as a man of reform who wanted political change, however, he soon power consolidated his position through the different security apparatuses of state using and abusing his power and changing the Constitution to stand again as president.

At the first multi-candidate presidential election in 1999, he won with a farcical 99.44 percent of the vote. This earned him the nickname Mr 99 Percent, although he was also known as Ben A Vie (president-for-life). Just before he left the country, he told the street he wouldn’t be standing for the next 2014 elections and no longer supported the president-for-life concept put forward by Abu Bourguiba.

But people were already fed up; it was clearly a mood made too little too late, especially when he told them patronizingly in Arabic “I now know what you want.”

His quick exit was a bit of a surprise especially since dictators take more than one month to be persuaded to leave the country, as was the case with the Shah when it took him months to get out, being only forced by day-in-day-out popular demonstrations, also in the face of a large security regime and after the loss of his American allies.

But once the decision was taken, Ben Ali felt he had to rapidly move forward realizing his foreign allies would no longer support him, and even were glad to see the back of him with them playing to the tunes of democracy and the will of the people.

First hovering over the skies of Malta, contacted Sardinia and then Paris where he was fobbed off by non-other than French President Nicolas Sarkozy, his four-plane entourage was finally allowed to land in Jeddah.

By being marooned the skies, the ex-president was getting a taste of his own medicine and the initial taste of exile. Just like the many Tunisians who were forced into exile under his rule, he was adjusting to his own exile, which started when he hurriedly left the country that made him billions. His fortune tucked away in overseas banks is estimated to be anywhere from $3 billion dollars to $15 billion.

Accompanied by his wife, Laila Al Tarabulsi, and others, he was welcomed by the Saudi Arabian authorities as a private guest. His wife, 20 years his junior and initially a hairdresser from a modest family background, had climbed the greasy pole by skillfully manipulating the politics of the palace.

She played a very skillful behind-the-scene role, appointing ones she approved of and dismissing others. These were ministers, ambassadors and in the public sector. A chic First Lady, she was the second wife of Ben Ali and a former divorcee, and had a mesmerizing grip on the president that one almost thinks she was his shadow.

Her siblings, Belhussayn and Imad Al Tarabulsi, were given high profile jobs to willy-nilly make good on whatever they could take at the expense of the state. Belhussayn headed an airline company. She was also the force behind Mohammad Sakher Al Maatri, her son-in-law and husband of her eldest daughter.

Observers say the billionaire businessmen, was a media mogul in Tunis who owned the Islamic Al Zaytouna broadcast, bought Al Sabah newspaper, one of Tunisia top dailies, in 2009 as well as an Islamic bank. He was reportedly being groomed by Ben Ali (74) to lead the party.

Such as was the blatant political and economic corruption, abusing the system for personal power and family aggrandizement. It was made open by the ruler who had no compunction about the population he was leading through authoritarian and police tactics.

Weaned on Western friendship, while courting Europe and the European Union, and standing as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism, Ben Ali sought to build a yet another era of modern Tunisia based on alliances, foreign investments and opening the country to mass tourism from Europe.

However, he was well-known for stifling free speech, censorship and control of the media with the internet closely monitored. Many argued this upset his educated population who were exposed to European ideas and thought.

Today, it appears that he also built a very effective 1000-man presidential guard as evidenced by the fact it is fighting the army on the streets of the capital as looting and mayhem continue in an area where law and order is to be restored.

It is yet to be seen whether the popular street, the one which must be congratulated for the removal of Ben Ali, will succumb to the promises of the current political establishment who are still, after all, a continuation of the old guard, or will they wait to see if their demands can be met through political means.

Negotiations for a unity government are still being discussed but it is still to be seen whether Tunisia’s mass revolution can be turned into a velvet one. Many ordinary watchers in the Arab world fear that Tunisia could turn into another Iraq!

Dr. Marwan Asmar is an Amman-based journalist specializing in Middle Eastern affairs.
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