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Monday, August 01, 2011

Online Reports Detail Chaos, Deaths In Tunisia; Add Yours

A woman uses her mobile phone to take a picture of a rally in Paris in support of protesters in Tunisia.
EnlargeKais Miled/Flickr
A woman uses her mobile phone to take a picture of a rally in Paris in support of protesters in Tunisia.
Protests have spread across the North African nation of Tunisia, challenging the 22-year-old regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The crisis began three weeks ago, when a 26-year-old man set himself on fire to protest the confiscation of his fruit car by police in the town of Sidi Bou Zid. Townspeople soon took to the streets to protest the lack of economic opportunity.
In the ensuing days, more protests erupted across the country, many of them morphing from economic protests into challenges directly against President Ben Ali. Quoting human rights groups, the New York Times puts the death toll at 30; Reuters reports the number of civilians killed is 23. Some of us have called the situation in Tunisia a "jasmine revolt," as jasmine flowers are a national symbol in Tunisia.
Public dissent is almost unheard of in Tunisia, where free speech and free assembly are routinely quashed by authorities. Many of these protests have been met with force by Tunisian police, and because of the dearth of Western jounalists on the ground, a great deal of the reporting is coming directly from protesters on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
In the last 24 hours, protests reached the capital, Tunis, which was placed under mandatory curfew last night.
I've been documenting the events of the last three weeks using a curation tool called Storify. I've pulled together videos, texts, tweets and other content produced by citizen journalists and others on the ground in Tunisia.
As is almost always the case in the time of a revolt, the situation is very fluid and accurate information can be hard to come by. In the same way that social media captured the chaos of the protests in Iran, tech-savvy Tunisians are capturing moments of dissent and violence, though sometimes without a lot of  context for those of us not in Tunisia. So please see this Storify collection as a work-in-progress that needs your assistance, rather than a definitive report on what's happened in Tunisia.
I would really appreciate it if you would join this experiment. If you have online materials related to this "jasmine revolt" that aren't in our Storify collection already, please let us know in the comments, and feel free to link to them. One way to find the latest information is to monitor the Twitter hashtag#sidibouzid. And if you're an Arabic or French speaker, you can also go through the materials we've already collected and help us translate them. If you do this, please be sure to note exactly which piece of content you're translating. We also encourage you to review other people's translations to see if they're accurate.
One last note: consider yourself warned that some of the videos are extremely graphic, so you should decide for yourself whether you want to watch them. I've tried to label each video individually to give you a head's up if that's the case.
(Andy Carvin is senior strategist for NPR's social media desk.)

Sidi Bou Zid: A Jasmine Revolution In Tunisia

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  • Background information on Tunisia, President Ben Ali, and the rioting that began in Sidi Bou Zid in mid-December, spread to protests and violence around the country:
  • Tunisia is the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range. The south of the country is composed of theSahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and 1,300 km of coastline. Both played a prominent role in ancient times, first with the famousPhoenician city of Carthage, then as the Africa Province which was known as the "bread basket" of the Roman Empire. Later, Tunisia was occupied by Vandals during the 5th century AD, Byzantines in the 6th century, and Arabs in the 8th century. Under theOttoman Empire, Tunisia was known as "Regency of Tunis". It passed underFrench protectorate in 1881. After obtaining independence in 1956, the country took the official name of the "Kingdom of Tunisia" at the end of the reign ofLamine Bey and the Husainid Dynasty. With the proclamation of the Tunisian republic on July 25, 1957, the nationalist leader Habib Bourguiba became its first president and led the modernization of the country.
  • The regime he leads is deemed authoritarian and undemocratic by independent international human rights groups as well as conservative western newspapers such asThe Economist. Independent human rights groups, such asAmnesty InternationalFreedom House, and Protection International, have criticized Tunisian officials for not observing international standards of political rights,[3][4][5]and interfering with the work of local human rights organizations.[6] In the The Economist's 2010 Democracy Index Tunisia is classified as an authoritarian regime ranking 144th out of 167 countries studied. In 2008, in terms of freedom of the press, Tunisia was ranked 143 out of 173.[7][8].
  • Riots on 18 December in Sidi Bouzid went largely unnoticed though social media sites like Facebook and Youtube featured images of police dispersing youths who attacked shop windows and damaged cars. One protester, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself alight in protest against the confiscation of his fruit and vegetable cart. He was subsequently transferred to a hospital in Tunis where he died on 4 January.[5]
  • In late November through early December 2010, Wikileaks released nine US State Department cables from their embassy in Tunis. Some of these cables described widespread corruption in Tunisia, with President Ben Ali's family as the "nexus" of it. They also described how Ben Ali's ability to spin Tunisia as a modern, open country hides a grimmer reality, where he represses free speech and free assembly,  where "The rule of law is more fiction than reality." Much of this has been common knowledge in Tunisia for years; nonetheless, it gives as sense of the depth and breadth of corruption during the Ben Ali regime.
  • Excerpt: Wikileaks reference ID 09TUNIS372
    Classified By: Ambassador Robert F. Godec for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
    XXXXXXXXXXXX shared a rare first-hand account of
    corruption from several years ago in which Ben Ali himself
    was described as asking for a 50 percent stake in
    XXXXXXXXXXXX private university. XXXXXXXXXXXX

    --------------------------------------------- ---------
    --------------------------------------------- ---------
    2. (C) On the margins of a networking event for aspiring and
    successful social entrepreneurs XXXXXXXXXXXX The
    book is extremely critical of the Ben Ali regime for, among
    other things, the "duality" between official discourse and
    the reality on the ground. Specifically XXXXXXXXXXXX points
    to the "stifling" of political liberties and "omnipotent"
    controls on the media. He also charges that freedom of
    association is "illusory" and assesses that "the rule of law
    is more fiction than reality." XXXXXXXXXXXX
  • Excerpt: Wikileaks Reference ID 08TUNIS679
    Classified By: Ambassador Robert F. Godec for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
    1. (S) According to Transparency International's annual
    survey and Embassy contacts' observations, corruption in
    Tunisia is getting worse. Whether it's cash, services, land,
    property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali's family
    is rumored to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants.
    Beyond the stories of the First Family's shady dealings,
    Tunisians report encountering low-level corruption as well in
    interactions with the police, customs, and a variety of
    government ministries. The economic impact is clear, with
    Tunisian investors -- fearing the long-arm of "the Family" --
    forgoing new investments, keeping domestic investment rates
    low and unemployment high (Refs G, H). These persistent
    rumors of corruption, coupled with rising inflation and
    continued unemployment, have helped to fuel frustration with
    the GOT and have contributed to recent protests in
    southwestern Tunisia (Ref A). With those at the top believed
    to be the worst offenders, and likely to remain in power,
    there are no checks in the system. End Summary.
    3. (S) President Ben Ali's extended family is often cited as
    the nexus of Tunisian corruption. Often referred to as a
    quasi-mafia, an oblique mention of "the Family" is enough to
    indicate which family you mean. Seemingly half of the
    Tunisian business community can claim a Ben Ali connection
    through marriage, and many of these relations are reported to
    have made the most of their lineage. Ben Ali's wife, Leila
    Ben Ali, and her extended family -- the Trabelsis -- provoke
    the greatest ire from Tunisians. Along with the numerous
    allegations of Trabelsi corruption are often barbs about
    their lack of education, low social status, and conspicuous
    consumption. While some of the complaints about the Trabelsi
    clan seem to emanate from a disdain for their nouveau riche
    inclinations, Tunisians also argue that the Trabelsis strong
    arm tactics and flagrant abuse of the system make them easy
    to hate. Leila's brother Belhassen Trabelsi is the most
    notorious family member and is rumored to have been involved
    in a wide-range of corrupt schemes from the recent Banque de
    Tunisie board shakeup (Ref B) to property expropriation and
    extortion of bribes. Leaving the question of their
    progenitor aside, Belhassen Trabelsi's holdings are extensive
    and include an airline, several hotels, one of Tunisia's two
    private radio stations, car assembly plants, Ford
    distribution, a real estate development company, and the list
    goes on. (See Ref K for a more extensive list of his
    holdings.) Yet, Belhassen is only one of Leila's ten known
    siblings, each with their own children. Among this large
    extended family, Leila's brother Moncef and nephew Imed are
    also particularly important economic actors.
  • globalvoicesonline.org
    An unemployed Tunisian set himself on fire in protest against his joblessness, sparking a wave of riots on the ground and solidarity and support on social networking platforms. While the fate of Mohamed Bouazizi, aged 26, from Sidi Bouzid, in southern Tunisia, remains unclear, Tunisian netizens ceased the incident to complain about the lack of jobs, corruption and deteriorating human rights conditions in their country. From Facebook to Twitter to blogs, Internet users expressed their solidar...
  • One of the first videos depicting protesters in Sidi Bou Zid on December 17, 2010:
  • Reuters:

    Police in a provincial city in Tunisia used tear gas late on Saturday to
    disperse hundreds of youths who smashed shop windows and damaged cars,
    witnesses told Reuters....

    They were angered by an incident where a young man, Mohamed Bouazizi,
    had set fire to himself in protest after police confiscated the fruit
    and vegetables he was selling from a street stall, the witnesses said....
    Another witness, a relative of the man who set fire to himself, said
    outbreaks of rioting had continued into Sunday.

    "People are angry at the case of Mohamed and the deterioration of
    unemployment in the region," said Mahdi Said Horchani.

    Footage posted on the Facebook social network site showed several
    hundred protesters outside the regional government headquarters, with
    lines of police blocking them from getting closer to the building. It
    did not show any violence.
  • Tunisian online activists create a Facebook page, "Mr. President, Tunisians are setting themselves on fire."
  • facebook.com
    Welcome to a Facebook Page about شعب تونس يحرق في روحو يا سيادة الرئيس 5. Join Facebook to start connecting with شعب تونس يحرق في روحو يا سيادة الرئيس 5.
  • tunisie manifestations-sidi-bouzid.mp4
    TheTunisietunisia, December 19, 2010 at 14:12
  • guardian.co.uk
    Brian Whitaker: A relatively minor incident has become the catalyst for a wave of protests that may end the presidency of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
  • Protesters in Sidi Bou Zid, some appearing to be affected by tear gas. A body of a man is seen in the street; the crowd breaks out into singing the Tunisian national anthem, Humat Al Hima (Defenders Of The Homeland):
  • revolte tunisie
    dcroissance, December 29, 2010 at 19:27
  • Video of a lawyer and others protesting against the government. Some translated quotes:

    "Watch, the oppression is visible!!"
    "Down with the Doustour party!"
    "Down with the torturer of the people!"
    "See - the terrorism (of the police) is visible!"
    "Working is a right!"
  • Sidi bouzid tunisie révolte
    dcroissance, December 30, 2010 at 15:23
  • Three videos of riot police trying to quell a protest of lawyers in Tunis, December 31, 2010:
  • Video: today police besieging lawyers in Tunis before a ...
    Nawaat, December 31, 2010 at 17:49
  • 2n Video: today police besieging lawyers in Tunis befor ...
    Nawaat, December 31, 2010 at 18:53
  • 3n Video: today Assault of police assaulting lawyers in ...
    Nawaat, December 31, 2010 at 20:47
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