Friday, January 14, 2011

Tunisians continue protests, demand Ben Ali to step down

 Tunis, Friday morning: crowd in front of the ministry of the interior

Thousands of people gathered outside Tunisia's interior ministry on Friday to demand the immediate resignation of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. The crowd were shouting slogans including: "Ben Ali, barra, Ben Ali out, Ben Ali dehors!" and "Ben Ali, thank you but that's enough!"

Update news of Friday afternoon: Ben Ali fired his entire government. Also he announced that he is ready to organise elections within 6 months. Police fire live ammunition and teargas to disperse demonstration at Interior ministery.  In whole country state of emergency. Stories that a pilot a Carthago airport refused to take off with six Trabelsi  famity members on board.

The Guardian has an audio tape of its reporter Angelique Chrisafis telling that the mood is of a crowd that is waiting for Ben Ali to go and nothing else.

The BBC's Adam Mynott has a great video and comment

In an attempt to calm the protest Ben Ali yesterday promised on tv that he would not seek another term in office and vowed to liberalize the political system. Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane said Ben Ali is prepared to hold legislative elections before a presidential poll in 2014 at the end of his term. Asked on France's Europe 1 radio about Ben Ali's plans after he promised in the face of deadly protests to step aside in 2014, Morjane said, "The president said it in a direct manner, since he decided the creation of a commission which will propose a revision of the electoral code."
"He said there would be no more holding of presidential and legislative elections in parallel. In so doing, he accepted the principle of (legislative) elections before the presidential poll in 2014," the minister said, urging a return to calm.
Tunisia's opposition parties reacted cautiously on Friday to Ben Ali's pledge not to seek another term in office and to his promise to liberalize the political system."The positive fact is that the president decided not to stand again" said Mohammed Nejib Chebbi, long-standing leader of the Progressive Democratic Party, which is legal but not represented in parliament. 
But in the streets the mood is different. The site Al Nawaat publishes bloody video's from Tunis' Kaireddin hospital and says that also after Ben Ali's speech, and after the troops withdrew from the city center of Tunis,  people were killed by the security forces. In all 14 people got killed on Thursday, according top Nawaat:  4 in Tunis, 3 in Bizerte, 4 in Nabeul and 3 in Hamma. Scores of others were wounded. 
 In  the whole of Tunisia a general strike is taking place. Confrontations seem to continue in several places. Demonstrations are underway, according to Twitter sources, in Sfax, Sousse, Gafsa, Kasserine, El Kef and Khadra, apart from Tunis itself of course, while clashes are reported in Hammam Lif . Some sources report that the villa of one of Ben Ali's daughters in La Marsa has been pillaged, as well as the villa of the hated Belhassen Trabelsi, brother of the president's wife.    
  The sign on the wall.
Is this the future? Al Arabiya shows how a soldier in Bizerte salutes a funeral procession of one of the protesters.

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