samedi 15 janvier 2011

Tunisia Leader Flees and Prime Minister Claims Power

By David Kirckpatik

TUNIS —The fall of Mr. Ben Ali marked the first time that widespread street demonstrations had overthrown an Arab leader. And even before the last clouds of tear gas had drifted away from the capital’s cafe-lined Bourguiba Boulevard, people throughout the Arab world had begun debating WHETHER TUNISIA’S UPRISING COULD PROVE TO BE A MODEL, THREATENING OTHER AUTOCRATIC RULERS IN THE REGION.

“WHAT HAPPENED HERE IS GOING TO AFFECT THE WHOLE ARAB WORLD,” said Zied Mhirsi, a 33-year-old doctor protesting outside the Interior Ministry on Friday. He carried a sign highlighting how HE BELIEVED TUNISIA ’S PROTESTS COULD EMBOLDEN THE SWELLING NUMBERS OF YOUNG PEOPLE AROUND THE ARAB WORLD TO EMULATE THE SO-CALLED JASMINE REVOLUTION.

Because the protests came together largely through informal online networks, their success has also raised questions about whether a new opposition movement has formed that could challenge whatever new government takes shape.

Yet by late Friday night, Tunisian Facebook pages previously emblazoned with the revolt’s slogan, “Ben Ali, Out,” had made way for the name of the interim president. “Ghannouchi Out,” they declared.

News of the president’s departure followed, by just hours, the biggest battle yet between the protesters and security forces. Emboldened by a last-minute pledge from Mr. Ben Ali to stop shooting demonstrators, as many as 10,000 people poured into the streets. But when they paraded the body of a person said to have been shot elsewhere in the city, the waiting rows of police officers stormed the crowd, filling the streets with a thick cloud of tear gas and hammering fleeing demonstrators with clubs.

Mr. Ben Ali, a former prime minister who took power in a bloodless coup, was only the second president of the country, which won independence from France in 1956.

Dozens have died in clashes with the police over the last week, and continued gunshots were reported well after curfew on Friday night from several neighborhoods around the capital as sporadic riots continued.

The United States had counted Tunisia under Mr. Ben Ali as an important ally in battling terrorism. But on Friday, President Obama said in a statement that he applauded “the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people.”

“The United States stands with the entire international community in bearing witness to this brave and determined struggle for the universal rights,” he said, adding, “We will long remember the images of the Tunisian people seeking to make their voices heard.”

The antigovernment protests began a month ago when a college-educated street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi in the small town of Sidi Bouzid burned himself to death in despair at the frustration and joblessness confronting many educated young people here. But the protests he inspired quickly evolved from bread-and-butter issues to demands for an assault on the perceived corruption and self-enrichment of the ruling family.

The protesters, led at first by unemployed college graduates like Mr. Bouazizi and later joined by workers and young professionals, found grist for the complaints in leaked cables from the United States Embassy in Tunisia , released by WikiLeaks, that detailed the self-dealing and excess of the president’s family. And the protesters relied heavily on social media Web sites like Facebook and Twitter to circulate videos of each demonstration and issue calls for the next one.

“Thank you, Al Jazeera,” read one sign, commending the Arab news channel for its nightly coverage of the unrest in the past month — long before the Western news media took serious notice. Many here credit Al Jazeera’s broadcasts with forging the sense of solidarity and empowerment that moved Tunisians across the country to take to the streets simultaneously.

The other side of that sign read “#sidibouzid,” a reference to a Twitter feed, named for the town where the self-immolation took place, that demonstrators used as a forum for their anger and their plans. After news of the president’s departure on Friday, other Twitter posts echoed the theme. “EVERY ARAB LEADER IS WATCHING TUNISIA IN FEAR. EVERY ARAB CITIZEN IS WATCHING TUNISIA IN HOPE & SOLIDARITY,” A WRITER FROM CAIRO WROTE TO THE #SIDIBOUZID FEED.

Others in the crowd, however, were eager to emphasize the education and relative affluence that they said distinguished them from other people in the region. “Please don’t say we are the same as Algeria ,” said one woman, in fluent English.

“WE ARE THE BOURGUIBA GENERATION,” she said, referring to Habib Bourguiba , Tunisia ’s first president and the father of its broad middle class. HE POURED RESOURCES INTO TUNISIA ’S EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM AND MADE HIGHER EDUCATION EFFECTIVELY FREE. He also pushed A SOCIAL AGENDA OF SECULARIZATION, WOMEN’S RIGHTS, BIRTH CONTROL AND FAMILY PLANNING that, in contrast to most countries in the region, slowed population growth, keeping the job of public education and social welfare manageable.

And when it became clear that the police were standing idle on sidelines, several thousands more joined them, A LARGELY AFFLUENT CROWD INCLUDING DOCTORS, LAWYERS, YOUNG PROFESSIONALS AND OTHERS WHO SAID THEY HAD NEVER PROTESTED BEFORE.

For the first time in the month of protests, large numbers of YOUNG WOMEN JOINED THE CROWD, ALMOST NONE WEARING ANY FORM OF ISLAMIC VEIL.

“We are too many now, we are too big, it is more difficult to silence us,” one woman said, grinning. “But for us it is new to talk. We are still a little bit scared,” she added, declining to give her name.

As throughout the uprising, they aimed much of their ire at the president’s second wife, the former Leila Trabelsi, a hairdresser from a humble family whose relatives have amassed conspicuous fortunes since her 1992 marriage. “POLICEMAN, OPEN YOUR EYES, THE HAIRDRESSER IS RULING YOU,” they chanted, addressing Mr. Ben Ali.

“We are suffering from what the Trabelsis stole,” said one protester, a young executive who declined to give his name for fear of reprisals. “Every major sector in Tunisia has been taken. They own part of telecommunications, they own part of the car business, they own part of the supermarkets, everything.”

Elizabeth Heron contributed reporting from New York, Steven Erlanger from Paris, and Mona El-Naggar from Cairo .

COMMENTAIRE DE DIVERCITY
REVOLUTION DE JAMIN INITIÉE SUR TWITTER ET FACEBOOK
La question qui est sur toutes les lèvres, c’est de savoir si cette révolution de jasmin déclenchée sur les sites de Twitter et Facebook va induire une vague de fond dans l’ensemble du Maghreb voire du bassin méditerranéen.

La Tunisie est le premier domino à choir dans le chaos. Quid de l’Algérie menacée par le FIS islamique, de l’Egypte et qui sait de la Grèce , de la France , de Bruxelles ?

“Every Arab leader is watching Tunisia in fear. Every Arab citizen is watching Tunisia in hope & solidarity,”

Dans le cas présent, la génération Bourguiba était dans la rue. Bourguiba, premier président et fondateur de la Tunisie post coloniale avait dopé le système éducatif tout en accordant une grande liberté d’expression à l’enseignement supérieur. Cet excellent calcul avait généré une classe moyenne à la fois très instruite et très efficace. De plus Bourguiba, pur produit de l’enseignement à la française, avait misé, au grand dam des islamistes, sur une sécularisation à la Mustapha Kemal et promu l’égalité des sexes ainsi que le contrôle des naissances, et donc de la démographie.

La génération Bourguiba grisonnante est venue gonfler la foule des jeunes protestataires dans laquelle on distinguait très peu de femmes voilées. Ensemble, ils ont voulu se révolter et renverser la dictature corrompue et sans vision de Ben Ali, premier successeur de Bourguiba et de son épouse dépensière une Marie Antoinette appelée par la foule en colère « la coiffeuse ».

Mais qu’on ne s’y trompe pas, le vecteur qui a rendu possible cette révolution n’est autre qu’internet.
MG

MENSENRECHTEN
Yves Desmet

Tegen het advies van zijn eigen administratie in gaf minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Steven Vanackere de instructie dat België ja moest stemmen over de kandidatuur van Libië om lid te worden van de VN-Mensenrechtenraad. Dat is een beetje alsof je Marc Dutroux zou voordragen voor de raad van bestuur van 'Kind en Gezin'.


In Tunis breekt mogelijk een straaltje hoop op democratische verandering aan, maar aan buitenlandse diplomatieke druk zal dat alvast niet gelegen hebben. De Tunesiërs hebben het zelf moeten waarmaken. De enige officiële communicatie van Vanackere over de gebeurtenissen in Tunis is tot nu toe immers alleen het uitvaardigen van een negatief reisadvies voor Belgische toeristen.

De afweging dat een 'softe' of 'harde' diplomatieke lijn het meest succes zal boeken, is een politieke keuze die het prerogatief blijft van de minister. MAAR HET IS TOCH WEL OPVALLEND HOE MEN DAAR OP BUITENLANDSE ZAKEN ZO ZACHT EN VRIENDELIJK OMSPRINGT MET DE MEEST PERVERSE DICTATUREN VAN DE PLANEET, TERWIJL MEN IN HET BINNENLAND DOOR ZIJN STRAKKE PRINCIPIËLE HOUDING TEGENOVER DE FRANSTALIGEN VAN DIT DEMOCRATISCHE LAND IEDERE VOORUITGANG IN DE REGERINGSVORMING AFBLOKT.

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