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

Mark.
Jan 12 2011 00:41

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Mark.
Jan 6 2011 12:16

Anticipating a Moroccan SidiBouzid?

Quote:
After the events around the Sidi Bouzid protests in Tunisia, a similar event happened yesterday in Oran, Algeria. In a strange coincidence Moroccan authorities also arrested (yesterday/ on Wednesday) Professor Mohamed Abou Nasr, the President of the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH) for the region of Casablanca...
Khawaga
Jan 6 2011 15:01

Thanks Mark. I'm glad to hear that Kifaya (most likely them, if I go by the name) were planning solidarity protests with Tunisians. While I was living there the only thing that riled people up enough was the wars Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, and of course domestic issues. So it's good that they've broadened the net to include more *working class* struggles in other countries.

Mark.
Jan 6 2011 18:41

Tunisia: map of social protests

Timeline: Tunisia's civil unrest

Tunisian lawyers on strike --- video

Riots erupt across Algeria over prices, jobs --- photos

Vague d’arrestations de blogueurs et de militants

Tunisie: "Un silence embarrassé prévaut en Europe"

Quote:
Pourquoi ce silence de l'Elysée et des capitales européennes sur ce qui se passe en Tunisie?

La Tunisie est depuis longtemps un partenaire privilégié de l'Europe sur le plan économique, de la lutte contre l'immigration ou de la lutte contre le terrorisme. Elle dispose de solides alliés, comme l'Italie et la France, d'où, certainement, le silence embarrassé qui prévaut aujourd'hui.

[...]

Le mouvement est très important mais c'est un mouvement populaire et il n'y a pas de leaders politiques, non?

Le mouvement apparaît spontané, et s'il est soutenu par de nombreux syndicalistes militants, il n'est dominé par aucune figure politique.

Mark.
Jan 6 2011 22:04

Some background information in French and Spanish on the Tunisian opposition and unions. I'm not sure how useful this is but I haven't found much of any depth in English.

To summarise, the sole union federation the UGTT is a bureaucratic organisation that has become part of the apparatus of power. Member unions can only call strikes with permission from the executive committee. Some regional sections are still refusing to support the protest movement.

La Tunisie gronde toujours, mais qui pour remplacer Ben Ali?

Quote:
L'étau s'est progressivement resserré autour des organisations susceptibles de tenir tête au pouvoir en place. Le principal syndicat, l'Union générale du travail de Tunisie (l'UGTT), a ainsi été infiltré par le gouvernement. Selon Yanis, quelques sections régionales refusent encore de rallier le mouvement de protestation:

«Certains responsables de l'UGTT occupent des fonctions dans le parti unique, ils ne veulent pas se mouiller.»

CGT materiales internacionales - sindicalismo en el norte de Africa

Quote:
Observatorio tunecino para los derechos y libertades sindicales
ABDEL WHAB AMRI, profesor de instituto y sindicalista, nos explica los planteamientos de la OTDLS:

El Observatorio tunecino por los derechos y las libertades sindicales se creó en el 2008 con el objetivo de defender los derechos de los trabajadores que sufren abusos y promover su sensibilización para organizase, defender sus derechos no solamente en el trabajo sino también dentro del sindicato. Esa es nuestra realidad, tenemos que defendernos también de nuestro propio sindicato.

En el 2007, se creó la Confederación General del Trabajo de Túnez (CGTT) como un intento de crear un sindicalismo independiente del poder. No ha sido legalizado y el proyecto está, por el momento, paralizado.

En Túnez, por lo tanto, tenemos una sola central sindical, la Unión General del Trabajo de Túnez (UGTT), que domina todo el sector público (en los sectores privados, el sindicalismo es muy débil). La UGTT fue el primer sindicato creado en el Norte de África, tuvo un papel heroico en la lucha contra el colonialismo y en las huelgas de los años 70 y 80, sufriendo una dura represión. Es un sindicato con una historia de lucha y dignidad, pero hoy es un aparato de poder, que gestiona múltiples negocios (hoteles, seguros, supermercados...) donde cualquier disidencia es inmediatamente aplastada. Su dirección está sometida al poder, incluso apoya la reelección del presidente en las elecciones de octubre. Es una organización burocrática, que ha traicionado a sus propios militantes en la lucha de la cuenca minera de Gafsa, que llega al extremo de acordar que ningún sindicato de la UGTT pueda declarar una huelga sin el permiso de su comité ejecutivo.

Nuestra organización es muy joven, todavía no estamos legalizados ni tenemos local, tenemos un comité de dirección de 7 personas y tenemos 6 puntos de observación: Túnez capital, Gabes, Gafsa, Al Kasrrine, Touzer y Jandoba. Nuestra actividad se centra actualmente en enviar comunicados de apoyo, presentar denuncias de abusos contra los trabajadores y en visitas de apoyo a reivindicaciones de los trabajadores. Mantenemos una campaña de solidaridad con los 30 compañeros /as presos/as desde la revuelta de la cuenca minera de Gafsa, a pesar de que el poder trata de ocultar la realidad y de aislar a los presos, silenciando cualquier apoyo..

Mark.
Jan 6 2011 23:50

Machine translation of El País article: Tunis Protests spread to a dozen cities in Algeria

Quote:
Abdelatif Bensalem, a Spanish-speaking intellectual in exile in Paris, laments, however, that the regime of his country still has the support of France, Italy and Spain and the U.S., countries that have managed to convince that is a bulwark against radical Islam. No European government has condemned the actions of the Tunisian police whose shots killed two protesters on Christmas Eve in Mezel Bouzayane.

The Spanish Secretary of State for the EU, Diego Lopez Garrido, made great efforts during the Spanish Presidency to give Tunisia the so-called "advanced status" enjoyed by Morocco since 2008 and which makes it a privileged partner in Europe, but failed to finish negotiation.

IFEX, a Canadian NGO that supports the Tunisian opposition, tried to hold in November in Madrid, a meeting of dissidents inside and outside the country, but could not because the Consulate of Spain in Tunisia did not grant visas to two prominent opponents of Ben Ali, according to organizers.

More on the IFEX meeting: Colaboración española con la dictadura tunecina

From the IFEX site:

Internet censors move into top gear in response to widespread unrest

Journalist in intensive care following attack by police

Online activity censored, critics silenced

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Some more videos

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Rassemblements à Paris et Genève en soutien à la révolte sociale en Tunisie

Mark.
Jan 7 2011 11:43

Al Jazeera - Price protests erupt across Algeria

Quote:
Fresh unrest has taken place in Algeria as protests over rising costs and unemployment spread after a night of rioting in Algiers, the capital, in which youths attacked a police station and torched shops.

Authorities rushed police reinforcements to several towns on Thursday, where hundreds of youths took to the streets.

Youths blocked major regional roads around Boumerdes, about 60km east of Algiers, and Bejaia, 200km further east, the online edition of the El-Watan newspaper reported.

Authorities sent in "a large number of convoys of anti-riot police," it said.

Protests have been reported at the Martyrs' Square, Balkor, Bash Jarrah, Babal Wadi and Astawali, while both Jalfa in southern Algeria and Wahran in the west also witnessed violent rallies in protest over the deteriorating living conditions and rising prices...

Mark.
Jan 7 2011 11:46

Tunisia and the Arab house of cards

Quote:
It is three weeks today since Mohamed Bouazizi lit the flame in Tunisia. How are we to regard the events since then? How should we characterise them?

Writing for the Guardian last week, I used the word "uprising", though I can't say I gave it a lot of thought at the time. Based on what I knew then, "uprising" seemed the obvious choice – and it still does if you need to boil it all down to a single word.

Yesterday, writing for Le Temps, French journalist Christophe Ayad gave a slightly longer description: "Pas encore une révolution, mais plus qu’une révolte" (Not yet a revolution but more than a revolt.) That, too, seems a fair summary.

But note the "not yet" bit. What we are seeing now may not be a revolution in itself, but its precursor. Personally, I do think a revolution of sorts is coming and will be surprised if the Ben Ali regime is still in place two or three years hence – for the simple reason that it's incapable of adapting. The protesters' grievances cannot be addressed in any meaningful way while it remains in power, and the clear message from the Tunisian people is that they have had enough.

This may seem a difficult point for the world outside to grasp – especially the Americans. How do the events in Tunisia mesh with the "forward strategy of freedom" (militarised and heavily overlaid with international politics) that George Bush used to talk about? They don't – and that's their beauty.

Also, Tunisia isn't a case of Tsvangirai versus Mugabe, Yushchenko versus Yanukovych or Ouattara versus Gbagbo. Organised political parties are irrelevant here, as they are these days in most of the Arab world. Nor is there a charismatic figure that the media can easily latch on to, like Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma or Lech Walesa in the Polish shipyards. In that respect, Tunisia 2011 looks more like Paris 1968, with a random assortment of students and trade unionists in the vanguard plus – to bring it up right to date – a collection of Twitterers, Facebook users and tech-savvy cyber warriors.

Will it be suppressed like Paris 1968? Somehow, I doubt it. For one thing, the protests are more widespread and the grievances more deeply felt. Others are less sanguine about that. On the Arabist blog, Issandr El Amrani suggests Ben Ali is unlikely to be dislodged without a strong diplomatic push from the EU, and he quotes several articles that are considerably more sceptical than I am.

But let's turn now to another description. Writing in Foreign Policy, Marc Lynch talks of "Obama's Arab Spring" (with a carefully-placed question mark after it) and links the developments in Tunisia to others in Jordan, Kuwait and Egypt. (We might also include Algeria where there are reports of Tunisian-style disturbances too.)

Why Obama has to be brought into it, I haven't the faintest idea. The Tunisian protesters aren't doing it for Obama's sake and as far as I'm concerned the longer he keeps his nose out, the better. American support at this stage is more likely to hinder than help, though I wouldn't object to a final nudge from the White House when Ben Ali is on the brink of toppling.

But, setting Obama aside, consider the idea of an Arab Spring. The sentiments and long pent-up frustrations expressed by Tunisians during the last three weeks are shared, to a very large extent, by Arabs throughout the Middle East. They complain endlessly amongst themselves – and yet they feel there is little, if anything, they can do about it.

The Tunisian uprising is beginning to change that. It is giving Arabs a glimpse of possibilities that were unimaginable just a month ago. It is profoundly empowering and its psychological effects are not to be underestimated. It is the opposite of the gloom that settled over the Arab world from 1967 onwards and may prove to be no less important.

Could this mean that we are about to see the crumbling of Arab regimes, one after another, as happened in Eastern Europe? In the short term, probably not. But suppose – and this is by no means an implausible scenario – that as resistance in Tunisia continues the regime's support gradually ebbs away, until eventually Ben Ali's position becomes untenable. Elections follow and the country emerges as a sort of East European style democracy (or better, Latin American style): far from ideal, but something that can be built upon.

That would be significant for the whole region: regime change of the home-grown variety, not imposed from outside in the way that Iraq was, or from above to give an existing regime the appearance of legitimacy. It would be something unique in the Arab Middle East: democracy by popular demand.

But could it be replicated in other Arab countries? That is a more difficult question. To a greater or lesser degree, all the Arab regimes present similar problems: a lack of legitimacy, a lack of accountability and transparency, corruption, authoritarianism and elderly leaders (for the most part) governing a frustrated, youthful population.

Some of the regimes, though, are more resilient than others. While it's tempting to suggest that Egypt could be next – the Mubarak era is plainly coming to an end – the regime itself, unpopular though it is, does have an extensive patronage base that may be enough to keep it in power for some years yet. And the same could be said of several other countries.

The Tunisian regime, on the other hand, looks especially vulnerable because it has relied so heavily on fear and repression as mechanisms for control. Other Arab regimes do that too, but they also have more subtle and diverse weapons in their armoury. Once the fear barrier is broken in Tunisia though (as seems to be happening), there is little left to protect Ben Ali.

So, I don't expect Tunisia alone to bring down the entire Arab house of cards. What it will do is intensify the pressure for change that exists already in other countries and encourage people to look to themselves, rather than outside, for solutions. It will also help dispel the idea that the long-surviving regimes we see in place today are permanent fixtures. They are not, and one day they will be history.

Brian Whitaker, 7 Jan 2011

Mark.
Jan 7 2011 13:11

Wave of arrests of bloggers and activists

Radio report including an interview with blogger Slim Ammamou who was arrested yesterday. Listen to the full interview here.

Pirate Party members facing political repression in Tunisia

Quote:

Parti Pirate Tunisie - Pirate Party Tunisia
Press Release 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUNIS, TUNISIA 2011.01.06 
 
The Pirate Party of Tunisia involved in breaking the Tunisian media blackout on the social unrest happening in many Tunisian cities from December 18th 2010 is facing harsh political and police repression from the undemocratic and corrupt government of Tunisia.
 
In the course of our last operations our members relayed videos and information on police killing young civilians, on suicide cases related to repression and poverty while riots are happening in the cities of Sidi Bouzid, Siliana and Thala. The Party is also distributing in tunisian universities and schools USB Keys and CD ROMS with installation of the TOR Software needed to circumvent the major wave of cyber censorship happening on the Tuninsian Internet and to protect tunisian Internet users from the hacking the tunisian cyber police is relying on to monitor Internet Users and prevent truth from being relayed online.
 
On Thursday 2011.01.06, 
 
Slah Eddin Kchouk aka Le Loup
Azyz Ammami aka Azyoz GM
Slim Ammamou aka Slim404
 
three members of the party, were kidnapped by the tunisian political police. No warrant was used. Nobody including their families is aware of where they are being detained as of now. Their computers have also been confiscated by the police. The three young tunisians hold university degrees and wouldn't be involved in illegal activities.
 
Tunisia is a country known for its undemocratic and corrupt political regime under the presidence of Zine ElAbidine Ben Ali these past 23 years. 
 
Tunisia is a country where torture while in detention or in prison is very common as reported and documented by Red Cross, Amnesty, HRW and other NGO's.
 
Pirate Party Tunisia severely condemns the dictatorship of Ben Ali and will engage every possible action to 
 
1. Free its members
2. Seek international legal course in case of torture and inhumane treatment on its members. 
 
In addition to our members, several other young tunisians were arrested on the same grounds the same day two of them are Hammadi Kaloucha a blogger and cyber activist and Hamada Ben Aoun a 22 year old singer and activist.
 
We're asking the international community for help to put pressure on the Tunisian Government to release our members.

Mark.
Jan 7 2011 14:00

One question that's left unanswered in the reports I've seen this week is whether there have actually been strikes in workplaces.

There were reports of calls for general strikes on Monday and Thursday but I'm not sure what these amounted to and I get the impression, possibly wrongly, that the callouts came from students and lawyers respectively rather than workers themselves. There are various mentions of 'trade unionists in the vanguard', as Brian Whitaker puts it, but I'm not at all clear what this means in practice.

It's also possible that workers are less likely to be on the internet or using languages other than Arabic and that information about what's happening isn't getting through.

.

Video: Students demonstrating in Klibia (~50 mi east of Tunis)

There are various videos of student protests being put online and this looks fairly typical. I think that what is happening is that they are being kept on the premises by lines of police. Just now on twitter there's a report that 'students have broken through the police barricades in Sfax'.

Steven.
Jan 7 2011 14:47

Just to say thanks for all these updates, I have been reading them with interest as I'm sure others have been, unfortunately I don't really have any information of my own to add.

Just to echo that yes the involvement of workers will be key, but it does not seem clear what the level of involvement is at the moment. The photograph of the strike you posted above from Facebook is an old photo not from Tunisia, associated with one of the big international anti-globalisation demonstrations, though I cannot remember which. Maybe Prague…

Mark.
Jan 7 2011 15:09

I had doubts about that photo after I'd posted it. It doesn't really look like north Africa.

Mark.
Jan 7 2011 15:48

Syrians support Tunisian protests

Quote:

Dozens of Syrians declared their support for the recent protests in Tunisia, by creating a group on Facebook, Syrians Support the Tunisian Intifada, which has to date acquired about 100 supporters.

The page contains the latest news about the protests, related videos and comments which back and encourage Tunisian people to go on with their protests.

One of the supporters wrote, “What happened in Tunisia is a matter of pride. The democratic street raises clear demands and communicates peacefully.”

Another wrote, “People in green Tunisia, go on in your revolution, we and the world are with you, and let the Intifada spread to all the capitals in the world who violate their peoples` rights.”

A third supporter said, “Those who call for rights, freedom and justice in the whole world, are partners. ”

Some other comments compared the Tunisian regime with that of Syria. “Bashar al-Asad and Zain al-Abidin Bi Ali are two ugly sides of the same coin,” said one.

Many others expressed their optimism about what is going on in Tunisia.”Thanks for Tunisian youth for giving us this hope of changing,” another commented...

.

Does anyone know if 'Intifada' has any specific Palestinian connotations or whether it's just a general word for an uprising?

Caiman del Barrio
Jan 7 2011 16:06

Football cancelled in Algeria:

Quote:
Football stadiums are one of the only places where people in Algeria publicly voice their political frustrations, and matches are seen a potential catalyst for protests.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12134307

Mark.
Jan 7 2011 16:24

Recently on twitter - with emphasis that nothing is confirmed and rumours may be flying around...

'Army has been called into Seliana, Om l'ariass, Jbniana, Sidi Bouzid, Sousse, and Kasserine'

'from trusted source: head of army Rachid Ammar ordered officers not to participate in police repression of #sidibouzid'

'Gen. Rachid Ammar who is hypothetically siding with protesters was about to be sacked and replaced'

'Rachid Ammar was about 2 b replaced as Army chief of staff by Ahmed Chebir. May explain y he may b siding w/ protesters'

'police's leaving Tela bcoz they can't control the situation'

'riots between locals and security forces. from the journalist Ziad El Heni, shots with bullets'

Mark.
Jan 7 2011 18:16

Les manifestations ont repris en Algérie après une matinée calme

La France dans l'embarras face aux troubles en Tunisie et Algérie

Tunisie-Sidi Bouzid: déclaration de l'UGTT en 10 points
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Recently on twitter

'demain une très grande manif à tunis l'appel était lancé par lunion régionale du travail, soyez nombreux au rdv svp'

'Sat 11 o'clock flashmob for release of Tunesian Pirates in front of Tunesian embassy, Lindenallee 16, Berlin'

'DAY 22 of Tunisian Uprising: internet and news sources say protests have spread to all Tunisian cities today'

'Until this moment the given order to the army is : “get ready to Intervene”'

'Breaking News: On Al Arabiya "US State Department summons Tunisian ambassador to Washington over #SidiBouzid protests" Finally they woke up'

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More on riots, protests in North Africa - long article with detailed analysis of Algeria

Tunisie, Algérie: la colère gronde - video report in French

mons
Jan 7 2011 19:23

I've just seen this thread, and it looks incredibly interesting. Is there any article which sums it up best, because I don't really want to trawl through all the links?

Mark.
Jan 7 2011 23:07

mons - you could start by looking back at the articles I've posted in full at comments #8 and #37, the second one looking at the possible implications of what's happening. Things are moving too fast for one article to sum it up though.

Al Jazeera's timeline might be helpful too. I haven't seen anything in English yet that's written from an explicitly libertarian perspective.

Edit: I've already posted this link but it's a reasonable overview of the protests with an emphasis on the censorship/internet angle: What's happening in Tunisia?

joselito
Jan 7 2011 21:29
Quote:
Does anyone know if 'Intifada' has any specific Palestinian connotations or whether it's just a general word for an uprising?

It means uprising or rebellion, from a verb that means to shake. It is used now throughout the arab world from what I've observed.

Cheers for the updates

Mark.
Jan 7 2011 22:22

UGTT statement

Statement of the National Administrative Commission of the Tunisian General Union of Labor

The members of the National Administrative Commission met on Tuesday, 4th January 2011 under the chairmanship of comrade Abdessalem Jerad, the General Secretary of the Tunisian General Labor Union. The meeting took place following the analysis of the painful events witnessed by Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine and other regions. These events were characterized by spontaneous movements initially demanding the right to work. Believing in the national and social role of the Tunisian General Labor Union and in order to contribute in the development of better prospects the members of the National administrative Commission:

1. Confirm the contents of the trade unionist statements as well as the statement issued by the Executive Bureau of the Union, which include concepts and principles about the pillars of sustainable development stated in the regulations of the concerned authorities centrally, regionally and sectorally, which evolved through studies and seminars on employment and labor relationships. They also call for a development pattern that takes into account the basic needs, which is based on justice and balance between the regions, and in which the State and the public sector perform the task of investing. This is mainly due to the fact that the private sector has not reached the required level of investment in the areas of priority, despite the fiscal, financial and social privileges that it enjoys.

2. Express their solidarity with the people of Sidi Bouzid and other internal regions in their legitimate aspirations towards a better reality and towards a pattern of development that ensures justice and equality, and guarantees the right to decent work and to job opportunities that provide a minimum income enabling people to meet the increase of prices. They also call for an urgent intervention in order to repair the clear damages that touched the inhabitants of Sidi Bouzid.

3. Emphasize the need to give the representatives of the Tunisian General Labor Union a permanent membership in the regional boards of employment and in the local employment committees. They also renew the demand of creating an unemployment fund to protect the dismissed workers and provide them with an income that enables them to meet their basic needs when they lose their jobs due to the economic changes, especially the policy of privatizing the public institutions.

4. Register with dismay the action of surrounding the regional and local trade unions in an attempt to block the last peaceful trade unionist movements. This led to practices of violence targeting a number of trade unionists, both locally and regionally.

5. Call for the release of the remaining detainees, ending their prosecution and removing all forms of security blockade in Sidi Bouzid and in the other regions. The members of the administrative commission also call for the adoption of dialogue as an essential mechanism to address all the kinds of reactions.

6. Express their solidarity with the families of the innocent victims and ask for a follow-up of those found guilty in hurting innocent victims.

7. Express their support for the lawyers and all the institutions of civil society in their support for our people in Sidi Bouzid during the spontaneous movements aiming to improve the reality of living in the region, to ensure social projects and to guarantee them a dignified life.

8. Express their resentment for the absence of the national media in the recent events and for the deliberate lack of coverage of the developments in response to the aspiration of the Tunisian citizen to know what is happening in his country. This led to a media vacuum which strikingly calls for a comprehensive review of the reality of the media. They also stress the importance of promoting the media and improving the ways of dealing with events in order to develop its performance and make it capable of dealing with the substantive economic, social and political issues and of adopting courage, transparency and clarity in the disclosure of some aspects of misconduct and the practices that are inconsistent with the values of justice, freedom and equality and which may affect the substance of the laws of civil and human rights as well as the institutions of civil society.

9. Call for political reforms in order to deepen democracy and promote freedom, and to activate the role of the Tunisian League for Human Rights as an important national gain because of its role in the actual consecration of the State of law and institutions. They also affirm the need to enable the Tunisian League for Human Rights to hold its congress respecting the independence of its decision.

10. Consider that negotiation is a legitimate international and domestic right and that going on strike is the essence of the right of freedom of association. They call the authorities to negotiate seriously with the labor union of education and the unions of the other sectors and to respond to their demands which were issued by their administrative commissions in order to contribute to the establishment of a social climate characterized by stability and which emphasizes the importance of dialogue in reducing the possible social problems. The members of the national administrative commission also renew their demand of reintegrating the dismissed workers of the mining basin in their previous jobs in order to put an end to a situation representing one of the factors contributing to a tense social climate.

Long live the Tunisian General Labor Union, free, democratic and independent fighter.

Tunis, January 04, 2011
The General Secretary Abdessalem Jerad

Mark.
Jan 8 2011 20:01

Reading that it all sounds very reformist, which doesn't necessarily mean there's a reformist solution, at least without the end of the dictatorship.

According to twitter they've called for a mass demonstration in Tunis tomorrow.

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Abdel Whab Amri of the OTDLS wrote:

The UGTT was the first union created in North Africa. It played a heroic part in the struggle against colonialism and the strikes in the 70s and 80s. It is a union with a history of struggle and dignity, but today it is a part of the apparatus of power that manages multiple businesses (hotels, insurance, supermarkets…) where any dissidence is immediately crushed. Its leadership submits to power, even supporting the reelection of the president in the elections in October [2008?]. It is a bureaucratic organisation which has betrayed its own militants in the struggle of the mining basin at Gafsa, going to the extreme of agreeing that no union of the UGTT can call a strike without the permission of the executive committee.

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Edited to correct the attribution of the above quote which is a translation of part of an article in Spanish posted above. It was published by the CGT but written by a member of the OTDLS (Tunisian observatory for trade union rights and freedoms).

Mark.
Jan 7 2011 23:53

Al Jazeera: Tunisia arrests bloggers and rapper

Guardian: Algerian riots resume over food prices

Al Jazeera: Algeria police on guard after riots

Quote:
Salima Ghezali, a leading Algerian journalist and human rights activist, told Al Jazeera in a phone interview that the outbreak of protests is "both very local and very global".

Algerians have followed protests over economic dissatisfaction not only in neighbouring Tunisia, but also in Europe.

At the same time, she said the rioting is a consequence of years of economic and political mismanagement. 

Although hardly a week goes by without geographically-specific protests over particular incidents, she said that the nationwide movement that has sprung up this week is very different.

[…]

Jeremy Keenan, a social anthropologist said that the social revolt is an uprising, rather than a protest movement.

"The word that I'm hearing on the streets of Algiers isn't protest, it's Intifada," he told Al Jazeera.

There has been a "massive show of repression" by the state, he said, citing the police reinforcements.

He noted that the authorities appeared to be taking care to avoid killing any protesters, "probably because they're scared".

Reuters: Algeria beefs up security amid fresh protest

Quote:
The El Khabar newspaper, citing local sources, said in its online edition that one young man had been killed in clashes on Friday in the city of Msila, about 250 km (155 miles) southeast of the capital. If confirmed, it would be the first fatality.

There was no official comment on the report, and no details on how the man was killed.

The official APS news agency said protesters ransacked government buildings, bank branches and post offices in "several eastern cities" overnight, including Constantine, Jijel, Setif and Bouira.

Mark.
Jan 8 2011 00:08

Recently on twitter

'Heavy clashes in the city of Kasserine, police use tear gas and cut power to curb protests, but are unable to do so'

'Protests intensifying and spreading in Kasserine, police use tear gas and rubber bullets but are losing the battle'

'Five demonstrators were injured by bullets in clashes with police near Sidi Bu Zayd'

'Rassemblement contre la répression en Tunisie . 8 janvier·14:00-16:00.7, esplanade Henri de France, 75015 Paris'

Mark.
Jan 8 2011 12:34

Recently on twitter

TV7 national tunisian tv website hacked! Free Slim amamou page instead!

For the 6th day in a row. strikes and marches continue in Jebeniana in #Tunisia. esp around Jan. 18th college. Police surrounding area

A violent clash between protests and police forces in Ksar Hellal(Monastir Gov) and the protests attacked the police station

Tajerouine - Police raids neighborhood and suceeds in arresting civilians while others ran into the mountains to hide

L utlisation de l armee contre son propre peuple .. le regime mafieu joue ses derniers cartes

Greve géneral pour lundi10,mardi 11Janvier de toutes les facultés et lycées à travers la Tunisie ,journée noir pr ammar. RT SVP

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Video: Military convoy heading into Thala

Army on the streets in Kasserine: photo 1 --- photo 2

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Tunisia: the US speaks (Brian Whitaker's blog)

Mark.
Jan 8 2011 13:12
Mark.
Jan 8 2011 14:19

Euronews videos

Anger in Algeria sparks fresh riots

Appeals via internet over Tunisian detainees

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Tampa radio WMNF interview with Tunisian blogger

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Recently on twitter

Sousse Faculty of Arts under a hail of tear gas

A woman attempts to suicide in #Kassrine this morning. Demonstrations in the state. Demonstrators attack gov offices.

An old man – more then 60 y- died today after been beaten by the police forces in El Kef

@BBCKimGhattas Uprising in #Tunisia is escalating. Army deployed in south, other cities joined riots. Any plans to cover?

Heavy rioting in southern Tunisia causes fires: http://goo.gl/Tb54G | http://goo.gl/h7pJC | http://goo.gl/FhprJ #OpTunisia #SidiBouzid

More pro-#SidiBouzid defacements seem to be coming from #Tunisian #hackers and not original #Anonymous deface teams. #AnonOps #Anon

#Tunisian insurance assoc website defaced with pro-#SidiBouzid msg http://goo.gl/kxz72 http://i.imgur.com/QXPzq.png #Deface

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TuniLeaks

Mark.
Jan 8 2011 15:30

Movilizaciones en distintos países en solidaridad con el pueblo tunecino

Quote:

El día 6 de enero se ha realizado la jornada de solidaridad internacional con el pueblo tunecino, celebrándose manifestaciones y concentraciones en diferentes países.

Tanto en Marruecos, como en Argelia y Mauritania se han emitido distintos comunicados de solidaridad. En Argel, el SNAPAP ha celebrado un encuentro sindical de solidaridad y una delegación ha entregado un escrito de protesta en la embajada de Túnez en Argel. En Bruselas (Bélgica), Ginebra (Suiza), Montreal y Québec (Canadá), Berlín (Alemania), Londres (Gran Bretaña)Beirut (Líbano) y Nápoles (Italia) se han celebrado concentraciones, generalmente frente a los consulados tunecinos.

En Francia, donde se concentra la mayoría de la emigración tunecina en Europa se han celebrado concentraciones en numerosas ciudades (Lille, Lyon, Marsella, Nantes, París, Montpellier, Estrasburgo, Toulouse…).

Demo at the Tunisian consulate in Montreal

Mark.
Jan 8 2011 23:48

UGTT demo in Tunis

Quote:

Tunisia's main union on Saturday condemned authorities for their heavy-handed response to a wave of social unrest, during a gathering in the capital which took place under tight security.

Surrounded by riot police, several hundred members of the Tunisian General Union of Labour, which rights groups accuse of being too close to the government, observed a minute's silence for at least five people who have died since protests began last month.

Protests sparked by high youth unemployment have spread from the central town of Sidi Bouzid to other parts chiefly in the north African country's interior, which lags behind the prosperous coastal areas.

"We support the demands of the people in Sidi Bouzid and interior regions. The UGTT cannot but be with this region, behind those in need and demanding jobs," said the union's deputy general secretary, Abid Brigui.

"It is against nature to condemn this movement, it is not normal to respond with bullets," Brigui said, urging the government to hold a dialogue with disaffected young people.

The union released a declaration demanding the release of all those in detention and the lifting of security measures that have seen some of the worst-hit towns blockaded.

"The UGTT is making a great about-turn today by joining the aspirations of the people and supporting their socio-economic and political demands," opposition economist Mahmoud Ben Romdhane told AFP...

Sihem Bensedrine on the development of the protests

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After Sidi Bouzid, the unrest spread to all the neighbouring municipalities – Menzel Bouzaiane, Mezzouna, Miknassi – with demonstrators shouting the same slogans against corruption and the tyranny of power.

The authorities reacted by going on the offensive and implementing a security clampdown. Ben Ali promised "to apply the full force of the law", and gave the order to fire on the angry crowds. Three young people were killed and hundreds more injured. Many of them could not be evacuated to the hospitals because the police had formed a cordon around the cities and were not allowing any traffic to pass. Hundreds of young people were arrested, and a curfew was imposed.

Over the next two weeks, solidarity movements were formed in every city in the country (Jendouba, Le Kef, Feriana, Kairouan, Kasserine, Gafsa, Djerba, Sfax, Monastir, Sousse, Tunis). There were repeated confrontations with the security forces, who suppressed peaceful demonstrations with violence.

Journalists were prevented from covering the events. Those who attempted to do their job were violently attacked or arrested.

The worst to date, however, was the assault on the lawyers. On 31 December, all Tunisia's lawyers had been called upon by the independent national bar association to wear a red armband as a sign of solidarity. However, starting at dawn, the police besieged all the courts in the country and prevented the lawyers from entering their place of work. Many lawyers were attacked and injured in the process, or had their robes torn, notably in the courts of Gafsa, Jendouba, Mahdia, Djerba, Monastir, Sousse and Sfax. A very large number were injured in Tunis in particular.

The national bar association called for a strike on 6 January in response to this police aggression, which in some cases took place within the confines of the courts themselves. The trade union federation in Sidi Bouzid has also announced a general strike on 12 January.

Fearing a reaction from students and high school pupils, the police also used "preventative" violence against schoolchildren, who went back to school on 3 January. This provoked confrontations in many towns including Ben Guerdan, Kasserine, Gabes, Gafsa, Chebba, and Thala, where they set fire to the governing party building...

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From the above it looks as if the Tunis demo ('several hundred members of the Tunisian General Union of Labour, which rights groups accuse of being too close to the government') was actually quite small considering the scale of the unrest.

The second article says that 'the trade union federation in Sidi Bouzid has announced a general strike on 12 January', and I'm wondering if this is the first strike call to actually come from the unions.

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Edited to add video of UGTT demo and flashmob video

Mark.
Jan 8 2011 19:38

Al Jazeera - Algeria unrest turns deadly

Quote:
Three people have been killed and hundreds injured in continuing protests in Algeria, as the government meets to discuss ways of halting the rising food costs and unemployment that have sparked the unrest.

At least 300 of the 400 people injured in the riots were police officers, Dahou Oul Kablia, Algeria's interior minister, said on national radio on Saturday.

One of the three people killed was named as 18-year-old Azzedine Lebza. He was shot dead in Ain Lahdjel in the M'Sila region, 300km from Algiers, the capital.



"He died in an attempt to break into a police station," Kablia said.

A second demonstrator was killed on Friday in Bou Smail, a small town 50km west of Algiers, he said.

"He was picked up in the street, wounded. A pathologist said he had died from wounds to the head, but the cause of death has not yet been established."

A medical official said earlier that the man, identified in media reports as 32-year-old Akriche Abdelfattah, had been hit in the face by a tear gas canister.

The third body was found in a hotel burned down by rioters, the interior minister said.

[…]

Algiers, which has seen protests in recent days, was calmer on Saturday, but witnesses reported fresh protests in the Kabylie region.

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Mohamed Zitout, a former Algerian diplomat, told Al Jazeera: "It is a revolt, and probably a revolution, of an oppressed people who have, for 50 years, been waiting for housing, employment, and a proper and decent life in a very rich country.

"But unfortunately it is ruled by a very rich elite that does not care about what is happening in the country - because they did not give people what they want, even though the government has the means to do so, the people are now revolting."

Young people clashed with police in Algiers and several other towns across the country on Friday despite appeals for calm from imams.

In Annaba, 600km west of the capital, rioting broke out after Friday prayers in a poor neighbourhood of the city and continued late into the night. A local government office was ransacked, according to witnesses.

Protesters also cut down electricity poles during the night, cutting off power to the working class suburb of Auzas.

In Tizi Ouzou, the capital of the eastern Kabylie region, residents said rioting had spread from the city centre to the outskirts, and demonstrators burning tyres blocked the main road to Algiers.

Mark.
Jan 8 2011 19:44