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

Jan 12 2011 00:41


Attached files


Jan 22 2011 13:28
Samotnaf wrote:
I'm surprised there isn't more discussion on here about events in Tunisia.

I'd guess that one of the reasons is that most people don't know all that much about Tunisia and also it's difficult to know what's happening.

I'm sure you're right about this...

One of my objections, though, to comparing with previous revolutionary movements is that it blocks people from seeing what is new by imposing a safely clear model from the past onto a situation which is often quite different. Sure, there might be useful comparisons - but generally they're more the comparisons with the limitations of previous movements to try to make sure they don't get repeated than with the strengths (strengths which failed to develop because of these limitations).

I think this is fair enough as well.

One of the limits of Portugal was the influence of the Catholic church amongst a large peasantry which generally played a conservative role there.

Was the Catholic influence on peasants in Portugal a big factor? There were plenty of farm occupations in the Alentejo (south of Lisbon) and this reflected patterns of land ownership with historical roots going back to the reconquest. Small owner occupiers of land in the north were probably more conservative. This is similar to Spain in the '30s. Anyway this is a discussion for another thread.

How much does Islam effect people in Tunisia? How powerul is the peasantry there?

Tunisia seems to be the most secular country in the Arab world, though it's a secularism that has been backed by a police state for decades. I've seen no suggestion from within Tunisia that Islamism is a major force and the main Islamist grouping doesn't sound at all hardline. Obviously Islamism isn't the same thing as Islam and the religious background must have a wider influence.

I don't think I've seen any mention of the peasantry in the reports I've seen so far, which doesn't mean that they aren't important. I'm guessing really but i'd imagine that there's a similar process going on to counties like Portugal, Spain and Greece, with the young moving to the cities leaving the villages full of old people. Guessing again I'd expect that process to be a couple of decades behind southern Europe.


Has anyone seen this about Albania? Mention this here, not to derail the thread at all, but because social movements throughout the world have an infuence on each other.

Yes, I started a new thread here as this one is getting unwieldy and the connection with Tunisia looks a bit tenuous. I agree that social movements around the world have an influence on each other though, even more so with the internet and TV coverage from the likes of Al Jazeera. I haven't looked back at coverage of European student unrest on Al Jazeera, but I'd hazard a guess that Millbank and the Italian protests were covered quite well, and without too much of the ideological filtering we get here. Tunisians and others would obviously have been watching.

I feel the next couple of years could see a far deeper social contestation globally but it would be terrible if what came out of these movements was a repeat of a hundred years ago - a turn towards state capitalism under the guise of socialism: as far as i can see, leftist parties, whether in Tunisia or Albania, are the ones making the most headway out of the crisis, or at least the ones trying to.

I think you may be right. It's interesting that the mainstream media are still determined to look for an Islamist threat in Tunisia and the existence of the leftist parties is hardly acknowledged.

Jan 22 2011 14:31

One of the problems with trying to understand what is happening in Tunisia is that everyone (with the exception of neighbouring dictators and some hardline remnants of the old regime) now seems to support the revolution, but their own version of the revolution. So liberals and foreign journalists are seeing it as the Arab world's transition to democracy, Marxists are identifying the basis for the formation of workers councils and soviets and Islamists are celebrating the end of a secular dictatorship. No doubt there's some truth in all of this but it's easy for people to see what they want to see and harder to get an accurate overall picture.

Re Islamist interpretations I found this on

Iran is insisting that Tunisian revolt are about Islam

B. sent me this: "Ahmadinejad said the same today at some meeting. It was shown and translated to English by PressTV, but I can't find a link to it on their website. If I remember correctly, he said that the Tunisian people overturned Bin 'Ali, because they want to establish Islamic law in their country. The station also presented a Tunisian woman, who said they had been fighting for the right to "be free", so they can wear what they want (and what they want is a hijab). Not a word about political freedoms. The coverage was rather grotesque on the background of the real events."

Which led me to this link from PressTV

'Tunisia revolution inspired by Iran'

The Imam of Washington DC Islamic Center says the Islamic movement in Iran has become the model for changes in Tunisia, which saw the first revolution in the Arab world.

“There are a lot of parallels that we can draw from what is happening in Tunisia today and what happened in Iran 32 to 33 years ago,” Muhammad al-Asi said in an interview with Press TV.

“The bottom line is that the religious or ideological components of Islam are the deepest and most authentic feelings of all the peoples of North Africa and all the peoples in Muslim countries,” he added.

He pointed out that Tunisian revolution is the first of its kind in the Arab world.

He argued that the word revolution has always been mistakenly used instead of coup d'état for referring to regime changes in Arab states.

Al-Asi compared Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979 with the Tunisian revolution.

“Shah of Iran had his Westernization programs running way ahead of the democratization programs and it resulted eventually in the overthrow of the ancient regime in Tehran,” he said.

“You can see similarities right now with what is happening in Tunisia. Westernization has run away ahead of the democratization in that country.” ...

This isn't worth taking too seriously, at least as far as Tunisia goes, but if the uprising really does spread to other countries then the rise of Islamist movements may be a serious issue. In Iran the revolution initially involved Communists and nationalists and it wasn't obvious at first that the Islamists would end up in control. I'm old enough to remember reading an upbeat account of the Iranian revolution as it happened in Socialist Worker, before the Islamist reaction took hold.

Jan 24 2011 23:35

An important report in Spanish on the revolution in Tunis.

Octavo día del pueblo tunecino ¿Cae o no cae?

According to this the leftist and nationalist parties are expected to announce the formation of the '14 January Front' today while Moncef Marzouki's Congress of the Republic is expected to form some kind of alliance with Rachid Ghanouchi's Islamist party Al Nahda.

Hamami Jilani , 'a trade unionist in the telecommunications sector and leading member of the Workers Communist Party of Tunisia' is quoted as saying:

The pressure implies two simultaneous elements: the demonstrations in the streets and the organisation of daily life. The so-called 'popular commissions' and 'councils for the defence of the revolution' have been formed in all corners of Tunis. Their initial mission to protect the neighbourhoods from the pro-Ben Ali militias needs to be extended to the management of municipal services in order to construct a new model of popular democratic management. Also in the workplace. Many bosses of companies, state-controlled as much as private, have been expelled in recent days by the workers.

Edited to add machine translation

Jan 22 2011 15:43

Hundreds of political prisoners in Tunisia yet to be released (Guardian)

The new Tunisian government is still holding between 500 and 1,000 prisoners accused of often vaguely worded terrorism offences, despite a promise to release all political detainees.

While hundreds of prisoners of conscience have already been released since the fall of the government of the dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali last week, concern is mounting over the uncertain fate of a second group convicted under draconian anti-terror laws.

According to those familiar with their cases many were tried under deeply flawed legal procedures or had confessions tortured out of them, often after being targeted for their religious beliefs.

"There is a question that needs to be answered about who is a political prisoner," said Denis Robiliard, who was with an Amnesty International team in Tunisia when Ben Ali was deposed.

"Most of the prisoners of conscience – people who had been imprisoned for their views – have been released. But there is a second group of people: those who were convicted under the anti-terrorism legislation. How many there are is a matter of dispute but people talk about between 500 and 1,000.


Samir Ben Amor, a Tunis lawyer who has defended some of those charged under the anti-terror legislation, agrees hundreds are still being held. "Yes there are people who tried to commit [terrorist] acts against the regime," he said, "but there are dozens, not the thousands who were prosecuted.

"People say that all political prisoners have been freed but there are still people in prison who are being held under the anti-terror laws who have had confessions tortured out of them. Part of the problem is that the government did not recognise the term political prisoner."


Despite the new government's repeated insistence that it has given a blanket amnesty to all political groups, including the banned Islamist opposition, protesters have complained that only a few hundred of those imprisoned for political reasons during Ben Ali's 23-year rule have been released.


In a sign of growing normality in Tunisia, which is still seeing daily demonstrations but without the violence that shook the country, the new government said schools and universities would reopen on Monday and sporting events, also on hold since last week, would resume soon.

Jan 22 2011 16:12

Extracts from the liveblog (note that in Tunisia the RCD is the old ruling party while the Algerian RCD is an opposition party)

1430 GMT: During today's protests in Tunis, hundreds of demonstrators, carrying banners such as "No Place for Men of Tyranny in a National Unity Government", broke through a half-hearted police cordon at the office of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi.

One demonstrator said, "We want to tell Mr Ghannouchi the definition of 'revolution' --- it means a radical change, not keeping on the same prime minister."

1413 GMT: The regional leader of RCD in Bejaia, 260 kilometres (160 miles) east of Algiers, Reda Boudraa, suffered a head wound and was taken away by ambulance. The parliamentary leader of the RCD, Atmane Mazuz, was also injured (see 1030 GMT).

1405 GMT: 14h40: The official Algerian press agency APS reports seven policemen were injured in clashes today.

1400 GMT: The website of Algeria's opposition RCD party is back on-line after reportedly being off-line for 14 hours.

1255 GMT: The headquarters of the opposition RCD party is still surrounded by riot police. A party member claimed 40 people have been injured, treated at a nearby clinic or taken to hospital.

An attempt to march to the Plaza of 1 May was immediately suppressed by the police.

1145 GMT: Photojournalist Bilel Zihan was arrested by police after he took pictures of a protester being injured. He has been released after questioning for two hours; sources say the memory card on his camera was erased.

1030 GMT: Back to our opening story about today's march in Algeria....

There is a large police presence, with several helicopters, which began about 5 a.m. (0400 GMT) to prevent the march of the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy.

About 300 demonstrators have defied the ban. Dozens of police in riot gear have blockaded RCD headquarters, and several people have reportedly been injured by police batons outside the building Some were taken to hospital; others were treated at a special clinic set up nearby.

The parliamentary leader of the RCD, Atmane Mazuz, was arrested Saturday morning, released, and then wounded in the face in scuffles with police. He has been taken to hospital.

Earlier, thousands of demonstrators from Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia were turned back by police at checkpoints.

1020 GMT: About 400 police officers have joined hundreds of demonstrators in today's of march in Tunis.

The officers are seeking better working conditions and a change in their "unfair" portrayal in the media.

On Friday, police marched in several other cities in Tunisia.

0740 GMT: Meanwhile, in Tunisia, thousands of people marched on Friday in Tunis, persisting in the call for the complete dissolution of the former ruling party Constitutional Democracy Rally (RCD).

The rally was the biggest since the fall of the Ben Ali regime, bringing together a cross-section of workers, students, and activists, "Long Live the Revolution" and "Death to the Dictatorship". Police ensured that the march, along Habib Bourguiba Avenue, did not reach the Ministry of Interior but otherwise stood by and did not interfere

Tunisia's trade union confederation, UGTT, has called for a general strike today.

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, in what appeared to be another attempt to stem the calls for the Cabinet's dissolution before elections in March, said last night that he would not stand for office and would retire from politics after the ballot.

0720 GMT: The focus could shift to Algeria today, where the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy party has insisted it will proceed with a march despite the refusal of Algiers authorities to grant a permit. "We claim the right to march peacefully in our capital," the RCD asserted yesterday afternoon.

The march is scheduled for 10 a.m. (0900 GMT) from the Place de la Concorde to the Parliament in central Algiers. Rallies are banned under a State of Emergency in force since 1992.

There were more developments on Friday. As we noted in updates, 30 academics, journalists, and academics praised the events in Tunisia and called for "the convergence of all...citizen initiatives, associations, unions, and political parties going in the direction of lifting the yoke of public life and for advent of democratic change in Algeria".

And then possibly bigger news: the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH), four Algerian autonomous unions, and other political formations including the RCD and the Socialist Formations Front "created a coalition that will meet continuously". The new group will call for the lifting of the 1992 state of emergency and the "opening" of media and political activity.

In a sign that the big event may be deferred, the coalition did not reach a consensus on today's march. Instead, they declared plans for a rally on 9 February, the anniversary of the state of emergency.

Still, Mostefa Bouchachi, chairman of the LADDH, told Agence France Press that while the parties at the meetings had not officially endorsed today's rally, "Most people will participate, I think."

Jan 22 2011 16:05

Protests in Jordan (

The "Tunisia effect" continues. Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Jordan yesterday, for the second Friday in succession. More than 5,000 marched in the centre of Amman, with smaller demonstrations in several other cities, according to agency reports. The protesters are said to have ranged across the spectrum, from leftists and trade unionists to Islamists.

As in the earlier stages of the Tunisian uprising, the mobilising factor is economic hardship, though there are also calls for the prime minister and government to resign...

Jan 22 2011 17:01

Video: Tunisians embrace new freedoms (BBC)

Raining on the Tunisian revolution

No sooner had longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled his country after a 29-day popular uprising than the race of the naysayers began.

On one side was the expected group: a host of Arab dictators. From kings and emirs whose monarchies ensured continuity to longtime dictators of republics on the verge of becoming dynasties, as sons inherit countries from fathers with the ease of a family estate changing hands, the men who rule the Arab world watched in horror as one of their own was kicked out of a country he robbed blind with one hand and suffocated into submission with the other.

Who among them could not imagine a similar ignominious end? If Ben Ali's perfect police state could crumble then, clearly, dictatorships just aren't what they used to be. If Tunisians had somehow imagined the unimaginable, who knew what your average Egyptian, Saudi, Yemeni or Libyan was thinking.

So it's perfectly natural for Arab dictators and those who do their bidding to insist their countries aren't Tunisia, that despite the uncanny resemblances in frustration, repression and autocracy, the Tunisian revolution was a one-off. And for those Egyptians, Saudis, Yemenis, Libyans et al who were getting ideas, they reminded us of the chaos that would surely ensue if we dared imagine a future without them.

The most uninhibited of our leaders, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi — who with 41 years in power is the world's longest-serving dictator — reminded us: “Tunisia now lives in fear . . . Families could be raided and slaughtered in their bedrooms.”

But let me tell you what really distresses me: a host of Western “analysts” and “experts” determined to outdo our despots in coming up with reasons why the Tunisian revolution will fail and why it's impossible to replicate.


“What pisses me off most about naysayers is that they conclude that Arabs are incapable of democracy, yet they demand that Arab societies democratize,” said Mauritanian activist Nasser Weddady. “There's an inherent double standard. Whereas Arabs are seen as inferior because of the state of their societies' lack of democracy — when historical opportunities to democratize come by, naysayers seem to be willing to trade Arab societies' freedom for their own (false) sense of security because of their fear of Islamists.”

So here, in the case of Tunisia — without an Islamist in sight — we watched people fed up with dictatorship tell the dictator to go to hell; a leaderless revolution driven to succeed by an unstoppable belief that Tunisians deserved better; thousands of people poured into the streets fuelled by dignity and self-worth. Millions of Arabs are watching in ecstasy and with restored hope...

Mona Eltahawy

Jan 22 2011 18:51
Jan 24 2011 23:36

La Red Sindical Euromediterránea valora la victoria histórica del pueblo tunecino

Comunicado emitido por el 5º Encuentro de la RED SINDICAL EURO-MEDITERRÁNEA celebrado el 16 de enero en Orán (Argelia).
Nosotros, miembros de la Red Sindical Euro-Mediterránea, valoramos positivamente la victoria histórica del pueblo tunecino : esta victoria es de la juventud y de los defensores de los derechos humanos como abogados y sindicalistas. Les ofrecemos todo nuestro apoyo en el proceso de construcción de la democracia tan deseada por todos. Estos disturbios reflejaron el grado de crispación de la población ante el gobierno autoritario tunecino.

Los miembros de esta Red Sindical hemos participado en nuestros respectivos países en las concentraciones y manifestaciones de apoyo a las reivindicaciones legítimas de la población en Túnez y Argelia.

Desde que comenzaron las manifestaciones y reivindicaciones en la cuenca minera de Gafsa, esta Red no ha dejado de denunciar las acciones represivas de la dictadura del non grato Ben Ali.

En Argelia, los últimos acontecimientos han mostrado la cólera de la juventud privada de todo, especialmente de las libertades más elementales.

Mostramos nuestro total apoyo a todas las fuerzas que luchan en el país por hacer que se respeten los derechos que en nombre del “estado de urgencia” el poder burla constantemente. Mostramos nuestra solidaridad con la lucha de los sindicatos autónomos y la decisión de realizar este 5º encuentro en Orán es una muestra de ello.

Los disturbios producidos no son mas que una de las consecuencias de la especulación sobre las materias primas y la incomprensible subida exagerada de los precios, prueba de que también aquí se quiere hacer pagar la crisis a los más pobres, una crisis provocada por los mercados financieros con la complicidad de los gobiernos dictadores que les abren las puertas y les dejan repartirse suculentos botines.

Constatamos que otra de las libertades esenciales degradadas son las condiciones de trabajo, cada día peores y más precarias.

En Marruecos, los despidos se multiplican como en las multinacionales Mornatex y Cloman. En este país se están preparando importantes reformas que supondrán graves regresiones sociales en la función pública y que además van a hacer perder el empleo a un número importante de trabajadores donde los jóvenes son las principales victimas como lo denuncia la ANDCM (Asociación Nacional de Diplomados en Paro de Marruecos) con los sindicatos combativos.

Esta situación es semejante a la que se vive actualmente en Europa en la que los poderes políticos multiplican los planes de austeridad y la privatización y degradación de los servicios públicos que empobrecen cada vez más a la población.

En Francia se ha visto en la lucha de la población contra la Reforma de la Ley de Pensiones y el aumento de la edad de jubilación.

En España las movilizaciones fueron masivas el pasado mes de Septiembre contra la Reforma Laboral y ahora contra la Reforma de las Pensiones y el aumento del paro y la precariedad. Estas reformas empobrecen cada vez más a la población.

En cada país estas respuestas reflejan el desacuerdo de la sociedad con las políticas adoptadas por los diferentes gobiernos, contra la privatización de los servicios públicos, todas ellas comandadas por la OMC (Organización Mundial del Comercio) y el FMI (Fondo Monetario Internacional) que entienden que es la clase trabajadora y los más pobres quienes deben pagar su crisis.

La necesidad de una reacción coordinada entre todas las fuerzas combativas de ambos lados del Mediterráneo es ahora más necesaria que nunca. Nosotros hoy, en Orán, nos comprometemos a unir nuestras fuerzas y a trabajar por una buena organización.

De inmediato :

Exigimos la liberación sin condiciones de todos los detenidos en Argelia y Túnez.

La Red se marca como primer objetivo enviar una delegación a Túnez y continuar su trabajo de movilización en los países de la Red Euro-Mediterránea.

Exigimos el respeto de los derechos constitucionales y de libertades en Argelia y denunciamos las maniobras de acoso y represión a las que están siendo sometidos los sindicatos autónomos.

Exigimos el fin de los despidos masivos por toda Europa y en el Maghreb y denunciamos la dictadura de la OMC y el FMI.

Denunciamos la violenta represión hacia los movimientos sociales : detenciones, acusaciones, despidos de militantes,..

ODT (Organización Democrática del Trabajo). MARRUECOS




Edited to add machine translation

Jan 23 2011 05:10

Abut that Youtube clip of the cops joining demos: on French news last night the cops were asking the people to forgive them. There seemed to be an element of sincerity in saying this, but I wonder if it's just to save them from the future rage of the demonstrators. Still - demanding that their chiefs be prosecuted for ordering them to fire on the crowds indicates things are rapidly developing. If cops in the UK asked to be forgiven, say for the death of Ian Tomlinson, you'd know it was just part of their sick 2-faced mentality. But in Tunisia...? Any thoughts?

Btw, a friend pointed out that in Tunisia the vast majority of the army is made up of conscripts - hence the fraternisation with the demonstrators - it's their friends and relatives, in the same shit as them, that they're embracing.

Jan 23 2011 11:09
Samotnaf wrote:
If cops in the UK asked to be forgiven, say for the death of Ian Tomlinson, you'd know it was just part of their sick 2-faced mentality. But in Tunisia...? Any thoughts?

This is only speculation but I can think of a number of possible reasons. Fear of losing their jobs, trying to preempt being victims of a kind of denazification process if the RCD is banned or disbanded, fear of being held to account for the repression of the previous regime. It's also quite possible that many of them genuinely didn't like the regime and were uneasy about the orders they were being given but were doing the job anyway.

Samotnaf wrote:
Btw, a friend pointed out that in Tunisia the vast majority of the army is made up of conscripts - hence the fraternisation with the demonstrators - it's their friends and relatives, in the same shit as them, that they're embracing.

One of the IMT articles (#357) says something similar:

These are early days regarding the Army. The top generals know full well that they cannot use the conscript soldiers, infected by the virus of revolution during the last few weeks, against the people, and it would be foolish to try to do so.

I also read something, I can't remember where, about conscripts being treated quite badly by their officers and by the professional side of the military generally.

Jan 23 2011 11:39
Jan 23 2011 11:54

interview with a member of the Association des travailleurs maghrébins en France:

Jan 23 2011 12:12

'Liberation caravan' heads to Tunis (Al Jazeera)

Hundreds of Tunisians have defied a nighttime curfew and travelled hundreds of kilometres in what they call a "Liberation Caravan" to join protesters in the country's capital, where anger at the interim government continues to grow.

The protesters began marching on Saturday night from Menzel Bouzaiane, a small town in the same province as Sidi Bouzid - the site of the self-immolation suicide attempt that set off a month of protests and ultimately ousted former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The crowd walked on foot for about 50km before boarding buses to Tunis, where they arrived on Sunday and began assembling in front of the interior ministry - the site of many anti-government demonstrations.

As more people continue to file into the capital from Sidi Bouzid, they are expected to begin demonstrating in front of the prime minister's office...

Videos of the overnight march from Sidi Bouzid


1005 GMT: The overnight march (see videos) from Menzel Bouzaiane in Sidi Bouzid, where Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation started current protests, has reached Tunis.

About 1000 demonstrators on the "Caravan of Liberation" are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, who also held the post under ousted President Ben Ali.

Jan 24 2011 23:37

Noveno día del pueblo tunecino: Se estira se estira y no se rompe

Debemos recordar que en estos momentos, mientras la vida reprimida estalla por todas las costuras, hay muchas sectores organizados haciendo cálculos en la oscuridad: de Gadafi a los EEUU, de las milicias negras a los dirigentes del RCD, de la Unión Europea a los islamistas. ¿Qué está haciendo la izquierda?

Sumergido en el torbellino, uno apenas si puede hacer otra cosa que imaginar. Y yo imagino las cosas así: el gobierno gana tiempo; la UGTT lo pierde en discusiones sin salida; la pequeña burguesía empieza a a añorar un poco de orden y estabilidad; los artistas e intelectuales componen odas a los mártires y festejan la libertad de expresión en teatros y centros liberados; los islamistas, minoría debilitada, comienzan a asomarse a la calle; y el ejército, que algunos consideran la baza de los EEUU, se deja querer por el pueblo y se mantiene a la expectativa. Resta saber qué ocurre en el resto del país, sobre todo en el centro-oeste, donde empezaron las protestas y donde probablemente se está decidiendo la situación a espaldas de la capital.


De algún modo el perfil social de los manifestantes ha cambiado. Son más bien familias completas, ellas -madres e hijas- con velo; ellos con barba y estigma de oración en la frente. Está claro que los islamistas, muy minoritarios y estos días casi completamente ausentes (el propio Rachid Ghanoushi, líder del Nahda, ha confesado su nulo protagonismo en la revolución) se atreven a hacerse ver y sustituyen en parte a los estudiantes, intelectuales, profesores, que ayer gritaban en la Qasba y que ahora festejan su libertad nueva en la Avenida Bourguiba, a doscientos metros de la policía rebelde, entre el Teatro Municipal y el café Univers.

Allí voy de nuevo y le manifiesto mi preocupación a Inés y Mohamed:

- Vosotros estáis aquí tocando la guitarra mientras los islamistas presionan al gobierno. Desde fuera da la impresión de que en estos días es cuando se decide todo, y cuando también se puede perder todo.

Sabi, un hombre mayor, de aspecto muy inteligente, periodista tunecino ya retirado que ha vuelto del exilio en Francia para participar en el movimiento de transformación, interviene para decirme que hay que darse tiempo, que hace sólo ocho días que se expulsó al dictador y cita la Revolución de los Claveles en Portugal.

- Pero precisamente: esa revolución se perdió.

Dice, en todo caso, algo muy serio. No se puede medir la consistencia y dirección del proceso a partir de la capital. Una de las características singulares de la revolución tunecina es que no se ha impuesto desde la ciudad de Túnez al conjunto del país sino que, al contrario, ha comenzado fuera, en el centro-oeste, en las zonas más deprimidas y abandonadas, para alcanzar sólo al final el núcleo económico y administrativo de la capital. Es allí -en Sidi Bou Sid, en Thala, en Menzel Bouzaine, en Reguev, en Qasserine- donde la gente se está organizando, apoyada por el sindicato, pero a partir de un impulso enteramente propio. Un comunicado firmado el 20 de enero en Qasserine por el Consejo Local de Defensa y Desarrollo de la Revolución así parece demostrarlo. En él, tras reclamar la disolución del gobierno, el enjuiciamiento de los represores y asesinos y el establecimiento de una asamblea constitucional, se habla de los enemigos internos y externos que quieren invalidar el sacrificio de los “mártires” en favor del “imperialismo, el sionismo y los regímenes árabes reaccionarios” y reclama “justicia social” y “reparto equitativo de la riqueza” entre los sectores más desfavorecidos.

Casi al mismo tiempo Inés me entrega otro comunicado. Por fin se ha constituido el Frente 14 de Enero, anunciado ayer. Lo forman la Corriente Baazista, la Liga de la Izquierda Laborista, los Patriotas Democráticos, el Movimiento de Patriotas Demócratas, el Partido Comunista de los Trabajadores de Túnez, el Movimiento Naserista, el Partido del Trabajo Patriótico y Democrático y la Izquierda Independiente. Su programa, que coincide en lo básico con las reivindicaciones mayoritarias, incluye algunos puntos concernientes a la política social e internacional: “la construcción de una economía nacional al servicio del pueblo que ponga los sectores vitales y estratégicos bajo el control del Estado, con la nacionalización de todas las empresas e instituciones privatizadas” y “el rechazo de toda naturalización de relaciones con la entidad sionista, así como el apoyo a todos los movimientos de liberación nacional del mundo árabe”...


So the '14 January Front' has been formed, calling amongst other things for "the construction of a national economy at the service of the people which puts the vital and strategic sectors under the control of the state, with the nationalisation of all the privatised companies and institutions" and "the rejection of all normalisation (?) of relations with the Zionist entity, in that way the support for all the national liberation movements of the Arab world"...

Edited to add machine translation

Jan 23 2011 15:38

Two texts from the ICC, written by the French section:

The first "Bloody repression in Tunisia and Algeria: the bourgeoisie is a class of assassins!" tracks how the uprising came about, what has been happening in the country and the responses of the 'democratic' countries to the dangers in the situation.

The second "Campaigns about the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia: how the media serves the ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie" has a rather self-explanatory title!

Jan 23 2011 20:16
Jan 23 2011 21:30
Jan 23 2011 23:48

Just wanted to say thanks to Mark., ocelot, and others. This thread has been my main resource on what is happening there. Keep it up.

Jan 24 2011 00:29

Al Jazeera videos:

Tunisian media free of fear

One of the outcomes of Tunisia's revolution has been a clear increase in media freedoms. The La Presse newspaper in Tunis has a new editor and a new outlook. The paper that tended to carry the president's picture on the front of each edition is now focused on reporting that is free of fear. Books once banned are now on display publicly, and radio stations host call-in shows where people are free to air their views.

Exiled Tunisians gather to receive passports that will allow them to return home after years

Exiled Tunisians in France are proud of the revolution back home, and excited about the prospect of a new democracy. They are lining up before the country's consulate in Paris to reclaim their passports. Prevented from going home for political reasons, many have not visited Tunisia in decades. But it has taken time for them to build up a life in France, so some remain cautious about returning to Tunisia for good.

Tunisia's ex-president's homes looted

After Tunisia's former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his family members fled the country, looters ransacked many of the villas they owned in Tunis, the capital. Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri reports on the anger of the Tunisian people towards their former rulers.

Birthplace of Tunisia's revolution

Sidi Bouzid is the Tunisian town that sparked the nationwide protests that eventually toppled the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

 Just a month ago, protesters brought the area outside the city hall to a standstill, following the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire in despair with a government that constantly failed to meet the needs of its population.

Suicide that sparked a revolution

Tunisia's political upheaval began last month after a young vendor set himself on fire after police confiscated the fruits and vegetables he sold. The act of self-immolation sparked a series of protests and riots that ultimately led to the end of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year rule. Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin traveled to the man's hometown of Sidi Bouzid for this exclusive report.
Jan 24 2011 00:45

Rural Tunisian protesters demand removal of old guard (Guardian)

Protesters from Tunisia's impoverished rural south and centre demonstrated outside the president's office today to demand the removal from government positions of former allies of the deposed President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

The demonstrators swelled a crowd of several thousand who soldiers allowed into the courtyard outside the office of the interim prime minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi.

Many had travelled to the capital by car, truck and motorcycle in a "freedom caravan" from Sidi Bouzid, the central city where a young market trader's self-immolation sparked the nationwide revolt.


"We left Sidi Bouzid at five o'clock this morning," said Mafouwalhi Chaouti, lying on a blanket with several other exhausted young men. "Where we come from there is no industry. No agriculture. We want the same chances as others."

Mahfouzi Chouki, from near Sidi Bouzid, said: "We are marginalised. Our land is owned by the government. We have nothing."

Nizar Faleh said "We're here to chase out the RCD-ists [in the government].They have to go completely."

The daily demonstrations have created an increasingly tense stalemate between former Ben Ali loyalists in the government – who control key ministries – protesters, and an army whose role in the revolution remains uncertain.

Indeed today it was soldiers guarding the presidency and finance ministry who lifted barriers and coils of barbed wire to allow people to enter the presidential compound.

"I'm afraid," said artist Amel Ben Salah Zaiem. "The government is not backing down and the people are not either. The government does not want to relinquish power. I am worried that the army might intervene."

Amin Kahli, also from the Sidi Bouzid region, said he was honouring the memory not only of Bouazizi but dozens of others who died when demonstrators took on Ben Ali's armed police.

"My brother was leaving home for work when a sniper shot him in the chest," he told Reuters. "He was only 21. I want justice for him and I want this government to fall." ...

Jan 24 2011 16:42

From the Moor Next Door blog

Second thoughts on the overthrow of Ben Ali

A journalist emailed this blogger with question: What are your thoughts on the Tunisian revolution, where is it headed and what kind of democratic developments do you think are possible? The answer is: Too soon to tell (regardless of how much is written here or elsewhere) ...

Kaplan on Tunisia, or defending autocratic stability

Jan 24 2011 10:41

From the Arabist blog

Tunisia diary: Arrival (1)

Where to start? I haven't had time to post much in the last few days — I was transiting through Rome (...) — and then made the enormous sacrifice of not spending a weekend in one of my favorite cities stuffing myself and headed straight to Tunis. I'll be reporting from here for various publications, but most of it won't be news — it will be long pieces to try and dig deeper into the Tunisian revolution and where it's headed, also providing some historical perspective.


I've only spent two days or so here so far, so obviously the range of people I've met has been limited. What I can say with certainty is the following: Tunisians are incredibly proud of their revolution, as they should be, and that pride is infectious. In conversations one of the themes that comes up again and again is that people feel they can stand tall again after years of submission, their fear has evaporated. Well, perhaps not entirely: they have new concerns now, but these are fears they intend to confront straight on: the country's economic situation, the risk that elements of the former regime will make a return (whether at the level of the cabinet with the RCD ministers, or more problematically, with the party structure across the country), the risk that what so far has been a revolution remarkable for its orderliness may become more chaotic, and the risk of foreign interference (whether Arab or Western).

Tunisians are not happy with their political class. They are conscious that these people did not topple Ben Ali and that many of them were latecomers to the uprising. Ordinary people I speak to keep on repeating that this was a revolution of the young, and yes they do stress the importance of Facebook. In fact there seems to be a kind of division of labor: older people tell me that they are working overtime to allow younger people, who led this movement, be full-time activists. They feel too old to take part in the demonstrations, but want to support the movement by enabling their sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, to keep pressure on the government.

There is a a tremendous awareness that the pressure must be kept on the government. Former regime figures of all levels are laying low, "hiding in their houses" as people tell me, and they want to keep the transitional government honest. An interesting development this morning is that the primary and secondary public schools have reopened, and the national union of teachers is striking for the removal of the RCDist ministers (private schools are reopening normally). Teachers have showed up to school to explain to parents their decision — obviously for many working parents this could be very inconvenient. This could be a big debate and I think the government will dispatch ministers from the legal opposition to negotiate with the teachers — although, remarkably, they don't seem to have demands relating to their job (higher pay and benefits, etc.) and their strike is strictly political. 

The UGTT, a federation of trade unions, is seemingly playing a key role here. Many are puzzled that the UGTT first joined the government and then left it — why did it join it in the first place if it didn't like the presence of the RCDists? The explanation appears to be splits within the UGTT, and with the refusenik faction eventually convincing or dominating the faction in favor of participation. It could also be a gambit from greater representation on the transitional government. It does reflect a certain lack of strategy, a political immaturity that is telling of the political vacuum that existed under Ben Ali: people simply don't have that much experience in these situations or at political brinksmanship. Some feel the UGTT is trying to claim credit for the uprising (where it did play, later on, a significant role). But I think there will be tremendous resistance to that, and a key question today in Tunisia is who wields moral and political authority. It's certainly not the transitional government, and there is no politician who can claim that. It will all be decided in the next few weeks. 

In the meantime, the political factions are trying to rebuild themselves and expand their bases. Yesterday morning I went to a political rally by Ettajdid, a political party composed of former Marxists and social-democrats. The conference hall at a neighborhood cultural center had a capacity of about 600, there must have been closer to 1000 people in the room, though. A feeling that you got there, like elsewhere, was that there is a great level of excitement about what's happened and a repoliticization of people. In fact I imagine that Tunisians today must be the most politicized people in the world — as a sales lady in mobile phone store told me, "we're a country of 10 million politicians now." There's a lesson to learn for the very depoliticized people of Western democracies too here...

Jan 24 2011 16:42

Anti-government clashes erupt in Tunis (Al Jazeera)

Police have fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, after hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the prime minister's office to pressure the interim 'national unity' government to step down.

Protesters had begun gathering at government buildings since last night, in contravention of a curfew. When they surged through a police picket, tensions spiked and the police fired tear gas to clear the crowd.

The Reuters news agency also reported that several windows of the finance ministry building had been broken.

Before the skirmish, protesters said the situation outside the buildings was "very, very tense as they spent the night outside... They were told by security forces to leave the area, and tension mounted for some time", Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra reported from the site of the protest on Monday morning.

The protesters said they would "continue [their] sit-in for as long as it takes, until [they] topple the government", Ahelbarra said.

More tension is expected in the capital, as members of the national unity government cabinet, which includes members from both the RCD (ousted President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali's party) and the opposition, are expected to hold a meeting at the government buildings being surrounded by the protesters.

"Thousands, we've been told, will gather ... in this area to prevent the government of national unity, particularly the ministers... [from] starting their business," our correspondent said.

Security forces have sealed off the entrances into the area immediately surrounding the prime minister's and interim president's offices, on concerns over the build-up of protesters.

Monday also marks the end of a period of national mourning that was called by the unity government to remember those who have died in the protests so far.

The country is not likely to return to business as the  General Union of Tunisian Workers (generally known by its French acronym, UGTT) has called an indefinite strike. The UGTT has refused to recognise the current government, and has demanded the ouster of all former ruling party officials from the governance structure.

"We support the demands of the people. The UGTT will never abandon the people in their struggle to demolish the old regime," Nabil Haouachi, a representative of the teachers' union within the UGTT, told the AFP news agency.

The teachers are demanding that RCD head-teachers and senior management leave their posts.

Earlier, Tunisian protesters travelled hundreds of kilometres in what they call a "Liberation caravan" to join demonstrators in the country's capital.


The crowd walked on foot for about 50km before boarding buses to Tunis, where they arrived on Sunday and began assembling in front of the interior ministry - the site of many previous anti-government demonstrations.

Al Jazeera's Ahelbarra, reporting from Tunis, said that the security services outside Ghannouchi's office were "completely overwhelmed".

"They're chanting the same slogan that has echoed across the country - 'Down with the regime, down with the former party, down with the interim president and with the prime minister,'" our correspondent said.

"They're saying that the fight will continue for as long as it takes, until they see a radical change in Tunisia."


Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin said that the fact that protesters - who in previous days have been joined by police officers and members of the national guard - have now defied a curfew and poured into the capital from the countryside is quite significant.

"It shows you that it's not an isolated, handful of people that are leading these protests," he said, reporting from Tunis.

"It's people from all different walks of life, from all different parts of the country."

Ahelbarra said that the protests were "spontaneous" and "unorganised", adding that those who were demonstrating on Monday morning were "saying they were the backbone of the revolution and that they do not belong to any political party"...

Jan 24 2011 23:38

Décimo día del pueblo tunecino: Las vastas afueras toman la ciudad

Una revolución, ¿se puede convertir sencillamente en una costumbre? ¿Es compatible esa costumbre con las tareas normales de gobierno, la reproducción de la vida cotidiana, el desfallecimiento natural de las fuerzas? El gobierno espera lo que los manifestantes temen: el cansancio. Pero en este domingo de transición hacia “el primer día de normalidad”, en el que habrá que poner a prueba la capacidad del pueblo para quebrarla de nuevo, la avenida Bourguiba sigue efervescente bajo una luz tan pura, tan radical, que los edificios y los árboles parecen desnudos y hasta sin piel. Lo que sorprende estos días en Túnez es que las cosas se repitan; la costumbre de seguir movilizados, gritando, coreando consignas, protestando. Ahí están los corros asamblearios, los cafés convertidos en comisiones parlamentarias, los grupos de manifestantes que, como en un carillón, dan vueltas una y otra vez al bulevar. Ahí siguen los policías, vestidos o no con sus chalecos blancos, acompañados de sus mujeres, enarbolando sus pancartas y proclamando a gritos su inocencia de los crímenes del benalismo; y ahí están las familias ociosas que, en lugar de ir al Lac o al Belvedere, van con sus hijos a fotografiarse delante de los tanques. “Manifestarse se ha convertido en un loisir ”, dice uno de los nuevos periódicos viejos de Túnez. A falta de turistas, los tunecinos hacen turismo a los símbolos de su revolución aún incierta.

Pero en algún sentido la realidad ha llegado a la capital y la convoca a su alrededor. Los cientos de trabajadores, desempleados, campesinos, que salieron ayer de distintos pueblos y ciudades del centro-oeste (el Kef, Jendouba, Sidi Bou Sid, Regueb, Siliana) han llegado muy temprano a Túnez y, tras reunirse en la avenida Bourguiba, se han desplazado a la Qasba para seguir protestando delante de la sede del primer ministro. Hoy otra vez todo ha cambiado allí. La multitud es un caleidoscopio cuya composición social se modifica de hora en hora, de día en día. Predominan ahora los rostros tostados por el sol, las mujeres fuertes, los anchos burnus de lana ruda. Algunos jóvenes vencidos por las fatigas de la noche duermen amontonados contra el muro del ministerio de Finanzas, buscando el solecito dominical, con barras de pan y botellas de agua entre las piernas. Las consignas son las mismas, también los gritos, los cánticos, las banderas: “I´tizam i'tizam hata iusqut el-nitham” (“movilización movilización hasta derribar el régimen”). Y los discursos son tan variados que es difícil encontrar ahí un aglutinante común, fuera de este impulso democrático inmediato y radical...

Edited to add machine translation

Jan 24 2011 16:13

Apologies for the long post in Spanish. I've put up a link to a machine translation for what it's worth (the title should be 'the Tunisian people continues its revolution', not 'the Tunisian town continues its revolution'...). At the end of the original version of the article on the CGT site there are links to downloads in French and Arabic, of which the statement in French by Aziz Kirchen looks interesting.

El pueblo tunecino continúa su revolución (CGT North Africa)

machine translation

El pueblo tunecino continúa su revolución.

Manifestantes desde distintos puntos del país marchan hacia la capital exigiendo la dimisión del actual gobierno.

La Federación de enseñanza de la UGTT convoca huelga general a partir del lunes.

Grupos de manifestantes, procedentes de distintos puntos del país, se están concentrado en la capital para expresar su decisión de no aceptar el actual gobierno de unión nacional, presidido por Mohamed Ghanouchi, que fue brazo derecho del dictador Ben Ali, con participación de algunos partidos de la oposición legal a Ben Ali, pidiendo la disolución del RCD y la dimisión del actual gobierno.

Desde los partidarios del gobierno actual de unión nacional, se amenaza con la posibilidad de que finalmente sea el ejército quien se haga con el poder y organice el proceso de preparación de las elecciones

Huelga a partir del lunes de la Federación de Enseñanza de la UGTT. El papel de la UGTT y de los movimientos sociales

La decisión, el viernes 21, del máximo órgano de decisión de la UGTT, la comisión administrativa, de pedir la disolución del gobierno y la creación de un gobierno de coalición y de salvación nacional, dejando abierta la puerta a luchar por este objetivo mediante huelgas y manifestaciones, ha permitido que los sectores más radicales del sindicato, como la federación de enseñanza, se comprometan directamente con la lucha popular en la calle por continuar el proceso revolucionario, hasta barrer al gobierno actual igual que se barrió a Ben Ali.

La UGTT, sindicato único en Túnez, que nació en el contexto de la lucha contra el colonialismo francés y que en varias ocasiones se enfrentó al poder, como en la revuelta del pan de 1984, tiene una sinuosa historia de lucha y de colaboración con el poder, que es expresión continua del enfrentamiento entre el sector del sindicato más próximo y colaborador del poder, y el sector revolucionario del sindicato, que busca una auténtica transformación social. Esta contradicción era evidente cuando la dirección de la UGTT acordaba apoyar en las elecciones presidenciales de 2009 a Ben Alí, pidiendo el voto para él, mientras, al mismo tiempo, Hassen Ben Abdallah, secretario general de la UGTT de Gafsa estaba en prisión con una condena de 4 años por ponerse al frente de las luchas populares de Gafsa en el 2008.

Lo importante en la actual situación es que el sector de la UGTT opuesto a cualquier compromiso con el régimen de Ben Alí ha conseguido la mayoría, a partir de la reunión del 4 de enero, dando libertad de convocatoria de huelgas generales regionales en la reunión del 11, haciendo imparable, a partir de ese momento, el movimiento popular contra Ben Alí, que culminará con la masiva manifestación del 14 de enero que obliga a la huida del dictador.

Pero, al igual que exige el movimiento popular, el sector revolucionario de la UGTT ha conseguido imponer la salida del gobierno de unidad nacional de los 3 ministros de la UGTT (que inicialmente había aceptado, con reparos, y antes de la reunión de la comisión administrativa). La comisión administrativa de la UGTT decidió el martes 18 la retirada de sus 3 representantes en el gobierno, pidiendo la depuración de los símbolos de la dictadura, especialmente de los ministros de defensa, interior y asuntos exteriores, ocupados por el RCD, así como de todos los componentes del gobierno vinculados a Ben Ali, la dimisión de los 5 diputados y de 1 senador de la UGTT en el Parlamento, y la exigencia de disolución del partido de Ben Ali ( RCD) y la restitución de todos sus bienes al pueblo.

Aunque en los acuerdos de la UGTT se nota la presencia de los elementos reformistas que hacen referencias a la vuelta a la normalidad, la decisión de la UGTT de ponerse al lado de la calle y de la revolución popular y de enfrentarse al actual gobierno de unidad nacional, continuista del poder anterior, le hacen conectar con otros movimientos sociales (jóvenes, abogados, militantes de los derechos humanos, feministas, cybermilitantes…) que están impulsando las movilizaciones populares contra el actual gobierno.

Reproducimos, al final del artículo, los acuerdos de la comisión administrativa de la UGTT del 21 de enero

¿Cuáles son las alternativas?

Hay objetivos que, hasta desde el mismo poder se asumen, aunque sea formalmente  : liberar a todas las víctimas de la represión política y social y reinstalarlos en su empleo (de hecho ya están en libertad Hassen Ben Abdallah, maestro sindicalista, y Fahem Boukadouss, periodista, los últimos presos de la revuelta de Gafsa en el 2008) , abrir una comisión que investigue la responsabilidad de la brutal represión desatada desde el poder en este ultimo mes, legalización de todos los partidos y celebración de elecciones libres.

Esta es la barrera en la que se detienen determinados partidos de oposición que aceptan el compromiso con los antiguos partidarios de Ben Ali y que, según ellos, puede evitar la intervención del ejército.

Pero, para muchos, y especialmente para los movimientos sociales y el sector radical del movimiento sindical no puede haber una auténtica la libertad sin detener y juzgar a los responsables de la tortura y de la corrupción, sin disolver todos los componentes constitutivos del estado policial de Ben Ali, empezando por su partido, que era un organismo auxiliar del aparato represivo, la devolución al pueblo de todos los bienes acaparados por la mafia del régimen y por su partido, una asamblea constituyente que elabore una nueva constitución y el compromiso de cambios económicos que saquen a Túnez del desempleo masivo y de su dependencia del exterior, especialmente de la UE.

Se trata de ser fiel a una revolución que surgió con reivindicaciones sociales contra el paro y la precariedad y que acabó en una exigencia de libertad y de dignidad para todo el pueblo.

La debilidad de los partidos de oposición (la mayoría ilegales hasta ahora) abre la posibilidad de que cualquier gobierno alternativo al actual, deba basarse más que en partidos, en dirigentes de movimientos sindicales y sociales, como militantes de derechos humanos, sindicalistas, abogados, etc.

La creación de un Frente, llamado 14 de enero, con distintos partidos de izquierda (entre ellos el PCOT, los nasseristas…) va en la misma dirección de exigir la caída del gobierno de Ghanouchi.

Pero hoy por hoy, no hay una alternativa partidista que pueda estar al margen de las movilizaciones populares que siguen siendo, hoy por hoy, quienes llevan la iniciativa. Todas las sensibilidades políticas existentes en Túnez ( (liberales, demócratas, socialistas, comunistas, nacionalistas árabes, islamistas, libertarios…), tienen que expresarse, si quieren verdaderamente acabar con el actual poder corrupto, a través de los movimientos populares que se están expresando en la calle.

La creación de comités de barrios para salvaguardar los bienes públicos y organizar la vida colectiva, la toma de la gestión de varias ciudades, como Siliana, por parte de comités unitarios de todas las organizaciones existentes, al margen del partido del poder (sobre todo en ciudades donde los responsables institucionales han huido) son experiencias de organización colectiva de la sociedad que pueden ser la base de un verdadero cambio en Túnez.

Desde el poder, se va a hacer todo lo posible por atraer a los partidos ansiosos de parcelas de poder, tendrá la tentación de”islamizar” el proceso, como hizo en Argelia a finales de los 80 y principios de los 90, con los riesgos que eso supone o utilizarán al ejército para frenar el avance de la revolución popular.

Pero pase lo que pase, esta revolución del pueblo tunecino abre un nuevo proceso histórico en toda la zona. Y es un ejemplo no solamente para los países del norte de África, sino también para países como el Estado español, donde el número de parados/as es similar al existente en Túnez.

Reproducimos el comunicado de la UGTT en castellano (lo adjuntamos en francés y árabe) y adjuntamos dos escritos en francés: un llamamiento del opositor tunecino en Francia, Aziz Kirchen en la línea del papel clave del movimiento sindical y social, así como el comunicado del Partido Comunista de los Obreros de Túnez (PCOT)


Equipo de trabajo para África del Norte de la S. de RR. II. de la CGT


1) La CA reafirma que la UGTT es una organización nacional concernida por el hecho político, como prueba su historia de lucha durante la época colonial o durante el período de construcción del Estado moderno y en consideración de los vínculos dialécticos entre la economía, lo social, la política, lo cultural que existen en un proceso de desarrollo y sobre todo durante estos días

2) Recuerdan que la retirada de los Ministros de UGTT del Gobierno se debe al hecho de que no se ha respondido a las condiciones impuestas por el comité ejecutivo de la UGTT en su declaración del 15 de enero, posición que se ha manifestado justa y que corresponde a las demandas de los manifestantes y de los componentes de la sociedad política y civil.

3) Vistas las grandes manifestaciones en el país que reclaman la disolución del Gobierno y el rechazo de la participación de representantes del RCD, vistas las numerosas dimisiones a causa de este rechazo de una serie de partidos y corrientes políticas, y vista la necesidad de tranquilizar a todo el mundo para consagrarse efectivamente a las reformas anunciadas; los miembros del CA piden la disolución del Gobierno y la creación de un Gobierno de coalición y de “salvación” nacional que responda a las demandas de los manifestantes, de los partidos políticos, de las asociaciones, de las ONG y del conjunto del pueblo.

4) Se decide para la participación efectiva en una comisión de reformas políticas; la creación de Comités sindicales compuestos de expertos y especialistas para la preparación de los proyectos de la UGTT en materia de reformas políticas, económicas, sociales que procede establecer para la edificación de la democracia; así como elecciones transparentes que permitan la libertad de elección y la creación de un gobierno parlamentario y una información honesta. Por otro lado la UGTT pide participar en la comisión de investigación sobre los asesinatos con armas de fuego con el fin de juzgar los responsables y también su participación en la comisión contra la corrupción

5) Llamamos a todos los trabajadores a levantarse contra las tentativas de obstaculizar el funcionamiento normal de las instituciones y su vuelta a la normalidad, y también a permanecer en guardia para la defensa de nuestras conquistas y evitar al país todo vacío

6) Reafirmamos nuestro derecho a luchar legítimamente o por la huelga o por las manifestaciones pacífica hasta la composición del Gobierno según las condiciones planteadas por la UGTT y que corresponden a las demandas de todos los componentes políticos y a las del pueblo

7) Pedimos la proclamación del 14 de enero como fiesta nacional

8) Pedimos urgentemente a los trabajadores que mantengan la unidad de su organización para permitir la continuidad de la lucha y la satisfacción de las reivindicaciones y seguir siendo vigilantes contra las tentativas de división

Túnez, a 21 de enero de 2011

Traducción: Equipo de trabajo para África del Norte de la S. de RR. II. de la CGT

Jan 25 2011 01:25

The divisions are starting to show...

Tunisia cabinet to be reshuffled (Al Jazeera)

Tunisian politicians are reportedly negotiating the creation of a committee of "wise men" to replace the interim government and "protect the revolution".

Sources have told the Reuters news agency on Monday that the committee could include respected opposition politician Ahmed Mestiri.

The comments echo that of the country's army chief, Rachid Ammar, who also vowed to "defend the revolution" that ousted former president Zine El Abedine Ben Ali, but warned of a "power vacuum" that may result if a solution to the subsequent political crisis is not found.

He made the comments on Monday after clashes broke out in Tunis between stone throwing protesters and the police outside the prime minister's office, aimed at pressuring the interim 'national unity' government to step down.

"Our revolution, your revolution, the revolution of the young, risks being lost ... There are forces that are calling for a void, a power vacuum. The void brings terror, which brings dictatorship," Ammar said.

He also appealed to protesters to clear the ministerial quarter where they were  assembled "to let this government work, this government or another one."

Ammar is hugely popular in Tunisia as the opposition says he was sacked by Ben Ali in the final days of the government for refusing to shoot on protesters.

He was then apparently reinstated by the new transitional government.

During the demonstrations, protesters threw stones and smashed a police vehicle during the clash. The Reuters news agency also reported that several windows of the finance ministry building had been broken.

Before the skirmish, protesters said the situation outside the buildings was "very, very tense as they spent the night outside... They were told by security forces to leave the area, and tension mounted for some time", Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra reported from the site of the protest on Monday morning...

Video: What will the West do?

The Western reaction to the Tunisian uprising has been described as hesitant and unwilling, making people in the Arab world wonder whether democracy in Tunisia will be allowed to run its full course.

Would Western powers try to influence the outcome of the Tunisian uprising if it does not serve their interests or indeed threatens them?

Inside Story with Ghida Fakhry discusses with guests: Renuad Girard, a foreign correspondent for the leading centre-right French daily newspaper, Le Figaro, and Hall Gardner, a professor of international politics at the American University of Paris.

Edited to add: I've just watched this last video and it's not that inspiring. The discussion still seems to centre around the West's perception of the threat of Islamism, which I suspect may be missing the point in Tunisia.

Jan 24 2011 23:23

From the Arabist blog

Tunisia diary: Ammar's move? (2)

Things are still very much up in the air at the moment for the transitional government, especially if two Reuters reports from earlier today are to believed. It's pretty evident public opinion is split between those who want a smooth transition and restoration of order and those who want a clean break with the former regime, most notably the six ministers from the RCD, some of whom were in positions to be either in the loop or directly involved in the corruption the Ben Alis and Trabelsis (and others), such as the minister of finance. But even with those who prioritize a smooth transition and return to normalcy (and I would say, judging from the sheer number of people back on the streets doing their work today — remember a lot of people have been unable to earn for the last two weeks — that is the majority) are not happy with the RCD still not being disbanded. What seems to be happening now is some sort of compromise / negotiation.

Two developments today sent the signal that things may be fast moving. 

First, the idea that the government could be replaced by a "committee of wise men" that would essentially act as a constitutional assembly of sorts, creating the legal environment in which a government might be formed and fair elections might be held: 


Second, the fact that Rachid Ammar made a speech to the hundreds of protestors who had come from the center of the country to protest against the interim government. 

Jan 24 (Reuters) - The Tunisian army general who refused to back president Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali's crackdown on protesters warned on Monday that a political vacuum could bring back dictatorship and vowed to protect the revolution.

"Our revolution is your revolution. The revolution of the youth could be lost and could be exploited by those who call for a vacuum," General Rashid Ammar told crowds outside the prime minister's office, where protesters have demanded the fall of the interim government. "The army will protect the revolution."

Ammar's decision to withdraw support from Ben Ali is widely regarded as a turning point that eventually forced him to leave the country on Jan. 14 after weeks of popular protests.

It's a short hop from that to the idea that he should be the head of the transitional government, although at least for appearances' sake it might be better to remain in the background. But it remains a real possibility, considering that today he appears as the only person with the credibility to block criticism — there simply is no other politician that would have the same instant authority, since he is seen as the man who deposed Ben Ali.

Things might move very fast from here. There's a good chance Ghannouchi will no longer be PM tomorrow (with perhaps no immediate clarity on who else will remain), particularly since he's been clumsy with his communication, notably his mention last week that he had spoken to Ben Ali on the phone, which really freaked out a lot of people.

There are other questions raised today. I mentioned earlier the teachers' strike, which is a way for the UGTT (trade union) to flex its muscles. You've also had strikes elsewhere — in big retail notably — that are making industrialists nervous. You are seeing the beginning of demands for wage increases (which traditionally have been negotiated every three years in a government-brokered process). For now, with the absence of Islamists from the scene and much of the RCD in hiding, trade unionists are emerging as the most organized political force, with a national network to rely on with ties to various leftist parties (notably the banned PCOT, or communists). The national leadership of the UGTT is said to have been for decades in bed with the RCD, and fairly quietist. But the regional leadership and rank-and-file is a different mix of people, and they are putting pressure on the leadership — which is the rational explanation for why UGTT leaders joined the interim government and the next day left it. The UGTT has jumped into the political vacuum and weakness of the legal opposition, but it's not really structured to be a political party and was for a long time a para-statal network. This ambiguity makes some uncomfortable.

One possibility is that Ammar is going ahead of UGTT / popular expectations by taking up the role of defender of the revolution — thus responding to one of the main fears of the opposition and at least part of the UGTT, which is that the RCD will crawl back in place. I'm not sure what the link is right now, but I am putting today's speech and the revolutionary rhetoric alongside last night's arrest of Hannibal TV director Larbi Nasra (who has apparently now been released) and the bizarre charges against him — that he was conspiring against the revolution and committed "high treason." Remember that no one, not even Ben Ali or his relatives currently under house arrests, have been charged with treason or anything else. Of course that could simply be a big gaffe by Najib Chebbi, the minister who mentioned the high treason charges. The current government, again, really seems to have a PR problem — the wisest one so far, indeed, appears to be Slim Amamou whose Twitter feed satisfies a natural curiosity but has been gaffe-free (most probably he's not in the loop.)

The other significant news today is a visit by Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman to Tunis. I'll write more about this later, but I think the US has played a major role in the events of the last two weeks — and US involvement at this senior level now suggests Washington is helping broker this transition, and will be a key player in it for some time to come.


I have no privileged information, but it the US right now have a clear priority: that stability is maintained, and that to ensure this at this moment, the transition has to combine the right mix of legitimacy and order to satisfy the Tunisian people's demands. Of course other factors play against this, notably concerns about longer term economic policy. Those questions may play out later, and for now there's a need to outflank the main political agitator on the scene right now, which appears to be the far left and the trade unionists…