Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous Post | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next Post »

TUNISIA: Protesters continue to take to the streets

January 8, 2011 |  3:03 pm


Protests continued Saturday in the capital of Tunisia with hundreds of peaceful demonstrators calling for the release of jailed protesters and an end to a heavy-handed crackdown by security forces, according to news outlets. 

And the country's main labor union, which has often been criticized for being too cozy with the government, turned against the regime, calling for a release of prisoners and an end to a security crackdown, according to a report by Agence France-Presse. 

The protests in Tunisia and neighboring Algeria have garnered little attention in the Western media but have captivated the Arab world. 

"Repression is no longer effective in controlling citizens," said an editorial Friday in the pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi. "Or so we believe, given what is now happening in Tunisia and Algeria. The security solutions that used to work in dealing with popular uprisings in the past have begun to lose their effectiveness, and are yielding the exact opposite results."



The protests in Tunisia began last month following the attempted self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, a fruit and vegetable street vendor in the town of Sidi Bouzid, 160 miles from Tunis. They quickly spread to other towns amid simmering dissatisfaction with the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, whose allegedly corrupt and despotic rule was described by the U.S. Embassy in a classified cable released last month

Tunisia-protests6Protesters' concerns appear to be rooted in a lack of economic opportunities, but many analysts note rising unhappiness with the dictatorial pretensions of the Ben Ali regime, which has ruled Tunisia with an iron fist for 23 years. 

On Friday, the State Department weighed on the unrest, calling on the Tunisian government to stop violating the people's rights of expression and assembly.

"We are concerned about demonstrations that have occurred over the past few weeks in Tunisia, which we understand to be the result of social and economic unrest," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was quoted as saying in a statement. "We encourage all parties to show restraint as citizens exercise their right of public assembly. We have also conveyed our views directly to the Tunisian government."

The statement continued, "We are concerned about recent reports that Tunisian ISP providers, at the direction of the government, hacked into the accounts of Tunisian users of American companies including Facebook, and providers of e-mail such as Yahoo and Google, and stealing passwords. This kind of interference threatens the ability of civil society to realize the benefits of new technologies."

-- Los Angeles Times

Photos: Tunisian demonstrators hold placards and flash victory signs during a solidarity rally with the victims of Sidi Bouzid clashes on Saturday. The banner reads "Freedom for Wassim and Sidi Bouzid." Credit: Fethi Belaid / AFP/Getty Images