Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tunisia: Ben Ali issues warning on tv, protests continue

Several hundred lawyers staged a demonstration in the capital Tunis on Tuesday calling, among other things,  for an abolishment of the 'dictatorship'. Two of them were arrested and molested, but they were set free on Wednesday. The protest followed a similar protest, one day earlier, of lawyers in Sidi Bouzid, the capital of the region where the unrest started on 17 December.

The Tunisian president Zine al Abedin Ben Ali held a televised adress to the nation Tueday evening in which he  expressed understanding for the plight of some people who can't find jobs, but in which he at the same time warned that the police will use all means possible to quell the unrest.
'It is not acceptable that a minority of extremists and agitators in the pay of others, and against the country’s interests, resort to violence and street disturbances as means of expression, whatever their form is in a State of law like ours, Ben Ali said. 'This is a negative and anti-civil behaviour that presents a distorted image of our country and impedes the flow of investors and tourists which impacts negatively on job creation, while we need them to curb joblessness. Law will be enforced rigorously against these people.'
The president also resorted to the well kinown tactics of balming outside powers and  'some foreign television channels which broadcast false and unchecked allegations and rely on dramatisation, fabrication and defamation'. The weakest part of his speech however were his remarks that ''the State will strive to find solutions likely to meet job applications which will carry on increasing in the coming years, as it will act in the meantime to further increase wages and household incomes and, in general, improve living standards of all Tunisians,' without offering any concrete solution.
A hilarious moment occurred when in the middle of his speech of seven minutes the telephone on his desk rang. The president did not answer and continued, only slightly distracted. But the incident led to a  many jokes and questions about who the hell might hav tried to reach him. One of his worried collegues from other dictatorial governed Arab countries who wanted to tell him to stand firm in order not to trigger any possible domino effect? Ben Ali's performance, in any case, was hardly convincing and therefor merely  served to underline the fact that the situation in Tunisia is, indeed, serious.
The president on Tuesday also payed a visit to the parents of Hassan Ben Salah Neji, the young man who electrocuted himself, and Mohamed Ammari, the 18-year old boy who was killed during the demonstration on Friday. On the same day he vsisited the hospital where Mohammed Bouazizi is taken care of, the fruit seller who set fire to himself, thereby  triggering the unrest in Sidi Bouzid. It resulated in the following rather strange picture of the president meeting a mummy.
Earlier the same day police in Gafsa blocked the way for a large protest demonstration, according to various sources. In Tunis some 300 laywers held aa protest demostration (picture on top) and also there was a demonstration in front of the ministry of education by the high school trade union. The authorities blocked the release of two opposition parties' papers, "Tareeq al-Jadid" and "al-Mawqif".
"They were censored because they wrote about the protests of Sidi Bouzid this week," blogger Lisa Ben Mhenni told Al Jazeera.

Update:As proof that violent clashes continue,watch this video taken this morning in Ferayna.

The site Nawaat de Tunisie published on Tuesday a map (see under) of places where protests had taken place or where taking place which showed that the unrest was nationwide. There was no way to verify this from other sources. 

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