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Operation Tunisia
#1
Anonymous Attacks Tunisian Government over Wikileaks Censorship

[Image: 340x_anonopstuna_01.jpg][Image: custom_1294031274637_hacpfaadf.jpg]Anonymous, the loosely-organized band of hacker activists and vigilantes, has chosen its next victim: The government of Tunisia. (They've taken down its official website.) Why? In part, because it tried to block access to secret-sharing website Wikileaks.
Sometime in early December, according to The Next Web Middle East, the Tunisian government blocked not just Wikileaks but any news source publishing or referencing leaked cables that originated or referenced Tunisia—including Tunileaks, a Tunisia-specific exploration of the massive cache of diplomatic communication. In one of the cables, an American diplomat referred to the country as "a police state"; currently, anti-government protests have wracked the country in the wake of an unemployed man's self-immolation.
[Image: custom_1294031233361_anonopstuna.png]The block of Tunileaks wasn't the first time the Tunisian government had attempted to censor the internet. But it seems to have been noteworthy enough to have spurred, or at least raised the profile of, a semi-organized effort to, well, mess with the Tunisian government's web presence. (It doesn't hurt that Wikileaks is the current internet cause célèbre.) A "recruiting" call went up on AnonNews.org, a user-edited clearing house for information and news by and about the disorganized, decentralized "hacktivist" group:
A time for truth has come. A time for people to express themselves freely and to be heard from anywhere in the world. The Tunisian government wants to control the present with falsehoods and misinformation in order to impose the future by keeping the truth hidden from its citizens. We will not remain silent while this happens. Anonymous has heard the claim for freedom of the Tunisian people. Anonymous is willing to help the Tunisian people in this fight against oppression. It will be done. It will be done.
This is a warning to the Tunisian government: attacks at the freedom of speech and information of its citizens will not be tolerated. Any organization involved in censorship will be targeted and will not be released until the Tunisian government hears the claim for freedom to its people. It's on the hands of the Tunisian government to stop this situation. Free the net, and attacks will cease, keep on that attitude and this will just be the beginning.
"#optunisia" so far seems to have taken the same kind of disruptive strategy that Anonymous hackers used in December against PayPal and MasterCard when those companies announced they wouldn't do business with Wikileaks anymore. But while in those cases the "hacking" was limited to DDoS attacks that took down the sites temporarily, there is some evidence that the hackers involved in #optunisia have been a little more sophisticated—specifically, this screenshot taken of the Tunisian Prime Minister's website (courtesy WL Central):
[Image: 500x_sl92u.jpg]
The Prime Minister's site, as well as official government site Tunisia.gov.tn and several others, are, as of this blog post's publication, down.
[WL Central; AnonNews; Wikileaks Forum via Michael Hastings]
Send an email to Max Read, the author of this post, at max@gawker.com.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#2
Immolations Draw Attention to WikiLeaks Tunisia Cables (Part 4)

By Rob Prince, December 24, 2010

The last part of Nawaat's interview (edited) with Rob Prince.
For my work, I have just finished reading an excellent book -- quite serious and frankly not easy reading -- on the Savings and Loan crisis in the United States in the late 1980s, early 1990s by William Black, a former federal bank regulator here in the USA. Its title is The Best Way To Rob A Bank Is To Own One. One could make a slight change to make this relevant to Tunisia: "The Best Way To Rob A Country Is To Be President For Life."
But at some point, the social crises of Redeyef and Sidi Bouzid will spill over onto the beaches of Sousse and Djerba, the villas of Sidi Bou Said. Social unrest and tourism have never been particularly good partners. That is why at Sidi Bouzid, as at Redeyef, the government of Tunisia (GOT) moved so quickly to "localize" the problem, cutting off foreign and press access in both places. That is why the GOT has pursued such a vicious policy against Fahem Boukkadous, only the last of many Tunisian journalists to suffer repression. Thanks to his reporting the events of Redeyef became known beyond Tunisia, in France and then, really worldwide.
I was reading online reports that several journalists from Tunis hoping to report on Sidi Bouzid were arrested, one badly beaten up by the government security forces. Still, in this age of the internet, it will be impossible for the GOT to keep a lid on what is unfolding at Sidi Bouzid, now in its third day of protesting, with reports of a large number of arrests. The word is out.
The point here is that sooner or later these events will affect tourism, both from Europe and from Arab countries (particularly Libya). And the social unrest could have more far-reaching impacts as, at least in principle (and we know unfortunately how little that can sometimes mean), Tunisia's economic ties with the European Union are based upon improving its human rights situation.
France seems to have a president who cares a lot more about economic contracts with French companies than he does about young Tunisians burning themselves to death. But even here, there is even a limit to how much longer Sarkozy can turn his back on Tunisia's economic crisis, especially given the strong movement of support for Tunisian democracy in countries like France, with its large Magrebian community, still strong trade unions and generally active social movements.
Nawaat: To what degree will the endemic corruption of the Ben Ali and Trabelsi families, their tendency to use the Tunisian economy as their own personal cash cow, affect foreign investment, foreign economic relations?
Prince: Here, the cables were interesting. They suggest that it is Tunisian investors who have pulled back their capital from investing in the country, while to date, the foreign investors have not yet withdrawn much. This is interesting, but not so surprising. What sectors are we talking about where foreign investment is strong? Mostly tourism and now, offshore oil and gas exploration. At least not yet.
At some point, all the shenanigans taking place in the banking sector will have an impact. Tunisian banks are, it is well known, not in good shape. When the only profitable and well-run private bank in the country, Banque de Tunisie, is taken over by the current foreign minister and Mme Ben Ali's brother, Belgassem Trabelsi, this is taking events a bit too far. The cables express a great deal of concern about this takeover, and some of the other machinations in Tunisia's banking industry. What will the U.S. State Department recommend to US investors and business concerns? The cable strongly suggest they will urge caution in investment as long as Ben Ali remains in power.
There is something else, though, concerning the corruption and economic developments which is related to the current social crisis gripping Tunisia that deserves mention and thought.
Since the early 1980s, Tunisia has been one of the most faithful pupils to World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs, and has frequently been praised by the Bretton Woods institutions for their fiscal discipline and market economic policies which is supposed to result in making the country attractive to foreign investment.
As a part of this economic approach, Tunisia has been encouraged, if not pressured to privatize different state holdings and to lift subsidies on food and other basic needs as is typical of loans given with structural adjustment provisions. What is the result?
  • In Tunisia as elsewhere where capital controls have been lifted, investment flows into non-productive activities, bubble creating activities, real estate and finance, rather than into less profitable (at least in the short run) infrastructural grown and agro-industrial modernization.
  • The lifting of subsidies has gone on for more than 25 years, beginning with the lifting of subsidies on the price of bread in 1984 which triggered what are referred to as "bread riots," not only in Tunisia, but many places. As salaries have remained stagnant and prices have increased, combined with the growing crisis in unemployment, the lives of the majority of Tunisians have suffered. We are now more than a quarter of a century into such trends
  • But most interesting of all has been Tunisia's process of privatization and joint ventures which has exacerbated the gulf between rich and poor in the country in an interesting fashion.
  • Foreign investment itself, although it exists, has been lackluster, especially from Europe and the USA. After the collapse of communism some of the foreign investment Tunisia hoped to win more or less went to Eastern Europe restructuring. There is some from Arab oil producing countries, true…but necessarily in strategic economic sectors that would lead to growth long term.
It is impressive the degree to which unrestrained and unregulated privatization has been a failure in so many Third World and former Communist countries. Look at the privatization impact in Russia, Central Asia, Latin American countries like Bolivia, Argentina and Chile… and in Tunisia.
It is not that privatization and joint ventures under certain circumstances, are not viable economic responses, but not the way it has happened in Tunisia. There the processes have been dominated by the two ruling families, the Ben Alis and the Trabelsis, who more and more monopolize all the contracts and are first in line when the Tunisian government sells off state resources at bargain basement prices.
As long as the families have control of the process, be it in the banking sector, the media or in education, privatization and joint ventures with foreign capital are supported.
As a result, these two families have become extraordinarily wealthy. But there has been another consequence: independent Tunisian entrepreneurs, small, medium sized and even some big investors have been driven from the field, either by hook or crook, by the crude methods of the first lady's brother, or by more refined but equally self-serving approaches.
Not even Habib Bourguiba -- in the end, no great democrat -- was so crude. Yes, he seemed to like his palaces and that did represent a certain level of corruption, but Bourguiba's corruption was pocket change compared to that of the Ben Ali and Trabelsi families today. And if Bourguiba wasn't a great democrat, nor was he a cleptomaniac, robbing the country blind. For Bourguiba "wealth" was simply the trappings of power. He understood the importance of Tunisia's economy "delivering" for certain key social milieus and while not immune to nepotism, kept something of a lid on it.
But these past 20 years, nepotism (giving special favors to close family members) in Tunisia's economy has grown to rampant proportions, icing out of the possibilities for success many elements who did not fair badly in the Bourguiba years. This trend is so developed that a whole strata of businesspeople and entrepreneurs has been adversely affected or ruined. They now find themselves, along with the country's intellectuals, trade unions and students, in the country's burgeoning political opposition, narrowing Ben Ali's political base to a considerable degree.
The TuniLeaks cables suggest that the U.S. State Department has, at long last, caught up with the rest of the world. The cables acknowledge as much. If the cables are accurate, they suggest that the State Department is beginning, however dimly, to understand the political consequences of these economic policies, many of which, while applied in Tunisia are "made in America"…and referred to as "The Washington Consensus."
The more fundamental question: why did it take so long?
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#3
TuniLeaks




[Image: bw_tnleaks_header.jpg]

Tunisia: Dinner With Sakher El Materi December 8th, 2010


[Image: entete2.png]
09TUNIS516 2009-07-27 16:04 2010-12-07 21:09 SECRET Embassy Tunis VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB
DE RUEHTU #0516/01 2081609
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 271609Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6604
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 0189
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1481
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 0371
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0251
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1963
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0806
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0175

S E C R E T TUNIS 000516
SIPDIS
NEA/MAG; INR/B
EO 12958 DECL: 02/28/2017
TAGS PREL, PTER, PGOV, PINR, ENRG, EAID, TS
SUBJECT: TUNISIA: DINNER WITH SAKHER EL MATERI
REF: TUNIS 338
Classified By: Ambassador Robert F. Godec for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
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Summary
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1. (S) The Ambassador and his wife had dinner with Mohammad Sakher El Materi and his wife, Nesrine Ben Ali El Materi, at their Hammamet home July 17. During the lavish dinner Al Materi raised the question of the American Cooperative School of Tunis and said he would seek to "fix the problem prior to the Ambassador's departure" as a gesture to a "friend." He praised President Obama's policies and advocated a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. He also expressed interest in opening a McDonald's franchise and complained about the government's delay in passing a franchise law. He expressed pride in his Islamic Zaitouna radio and in the interviews with opposition party leaders published in his newly purchased newspaper publishing group. During the evening, El Materi was alternately difficult and kind. He seemed, on occasion, to be seeking approval. He was living, however, in the midst of great wealth and excess, illustrating one reason resentment of President Ben Ali's in-laws is increasing. End Summary.
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The ACST Situation
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2. (S) Presidential son-in-law and wealthy businessman Mohamed Sakher El Materi, and his wife, Nesrine Ben Ali El Materi hosted the Ambassador and his wife for dinner at their Hammamet beach residence July 17. El Materi raised the American Cooperative School of Tunis (ACST), asking what was happening. The Ambassador explained the situation and emphasized that there is anger and concern in Washington and the English-speaking American/international community in Tunis. He said if the school is closed, there would be serious consequences in our relations. El Materi said he could help and would seek to resolve the situation immediately, i.e., prior to the Ambassador's departure. He wished, he said, to do so for a "friend." He noted that he had helped the UK Ambassador secure several appointments (including a lunch with the Prime Minister) for UK Prince Andrew during his recent visit. Before his intervention, El Materi said, the Prince had only one appointment with a single Minister.
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Freedom of Expression
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3. (S) Ambassador raised the need for more freedom of expression and association in Tunisia. El Materi agreed. He complained that, as the new owner of Dar Assaba, the largest private newspaper group in the country, he has been getting calls from the Minister of Communications complaining about articles he has been running (Comment: This is doubtful). He laughed and suggested that sometimes he wants to "give Dar Assaba back." El Materi noted the interviews his newspapers have been running with opposition leaders (he mentioned FDTL Secretary General Mustapha Ben Jaafar). He was clearly proud of the interviews.
4. (S) El Materi said it was important to help others, noting that was one reason he had adopted a son. The Ambassador mentioned the Embassy's humanitarian assistance projects, noting they could not get media coverage. El Materi said forcefully they should be covered, that it was important the Embassy seek such coverage. He said it would counteract some of the negative US image. The Ambassador asked if El Materi would send reporters to do stories on the US assistance projects. El Materi said yes, absolutely.
5. (S) El Materi complained at length about Tunisian bureaucracy, saying it is difficult to get things done. He said communication inside the bureaucracy is terrible. He said people often "bring wrong information" to the President implying he had to get involved sometimes to get things corrected.
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On Exterior Politics and Economics
---------------------------------
6. (S) El Materi praised President Barack Obama's new policies. He said the invasion of Iraq was a very serious US mistake that had strengthened Iran and bred hatred of the United States in the Arab world. He pressed for a two state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and indicated Tunisia needs to accelerate convertibility of the dinar. In general, however, El Materi's knowledge of and interest in international political and economic issues seemed limited.
7. (S) The Ambassador raised economic liberalization, noting the importance of opening up to franchising. El Materi agreed, noting that he would be pleased to assist McDonald's to enter Tunisia, suggesting they begin at the new cruise port in La Goulette. He complained about the unhealthy food served by McDonald's, however, adding it is making Americans fat. He also complained about the GOT's delay in passing a franchising law.
8. (S) The Ambassador noted he has been asking Tunisians what ideas they have for the new US President and Administration. El Materi commented that Nesrine would like more done on the environment. The Ambassador responded by explaining some of the Administration's policies on the environment. El Materi said Nesrine is focused on organic products and wants everything (even the paint and varnish) in their new house in Sidi Bou Said (next to the Ambassador's residence) to be organic.
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Islam
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9. (S) El Materi said he had begun to practice Islam seriously at 17. He repeatedly said he was practicing, and had a strong faith. (NB. He went off to pray at the sunset call to prayer.) He suggested that if you have faith and pray to God, he will help. He emphasized that his religion is personal, and he does not believe it is appropriate to impose his views on others. (Comment. During the evening, El Materi seemed at his most passionate when describing the Koran, his belief in one God, and the importance of Mohamed as the final prophet of God.)
10. (S) El Materi said he was proud of Zeitouna radio, the first and only Tunisian Koranic radio station, and discussed how Zeitouna bank would be opening. He hopes to create a regional version of Zeitouna radio to spread the Malakite school of Islam. He expressed the view that Islamists and extremists pose a great threat to Islam and modernity. He said he follows Islam, but modern Islam.
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El-Materi Unplugged: Home/Personal Life
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11. (S) El-Materi's house is spacious, and directly above and along the Hammamet public beach. The compound is large and well guarded by government security. It is close to the center of Hammamet, with a view of the fort and the southern part of the town. The house was recently renovated and includes an infinity pool and a terrace of perhaps 50 meters. While the house is done in a modern style (and largely white), there are ancient artifacts everywhere: Roman columns, frescoes and even a lion's head from which water pours into the pool. El Materi insisted the pieces are real. He hopes to move into his new (and palatial) house in Sidi Bou Said in eight to ten months.
12. (S) The dinner included perhaps a dozen dishes, including fish, steak, turkey, octopus, fish couscous and much more. The quantity was sufficient for a very large number of guests. Before dinner a wide array of small dishes were served, along with three different juices (including Kiwi juice, not normally available here). After dinner, he served ice cream and frozen yoghurt he brought in by plane from Saint Tropez, along with blueberries and raspberries and fresh fruit and chocolate cake. (NB. El Materi and Nesrine had just returned from Saint Tropez on their private jet after two weeks vacation. El Materi was concerned about his American pilot finding a community here. The Ambassador said he would be pleased to invite the pilot to appropriate American community events.)
13. (S) El Materi has a large tiger ("Pasha") on his compound, living in a cage. He acquired it when it was a few weeks old. The tiger consumes four chickens a day. (Comment: The situation reminded the Ambassador of Uday Hussein's lion cage in Baghdad.) El Materi had staff everywhere. There were at least a dozen people, including a butler from Bangladesh and a nanny from South Africa. (NB. This is extraordinarily rare in Tunisia, and very expensive.)
14. (S) They have three children, two girls and a boy. Leila is four and another daughter that is about 10 months. Their boy is adopted and is two years old. The youngest daughter is a Canadian citizen, by virtue of birth in Canada. The family's favorite vacation destination spot is the Maldives Islands.
15. (S) El Materi said he has begun an exercise and diet regime. He has, he said, recently lost weight (it was visibly true). El Materi said he eats in a "balanced" way. He had just spent an hour on a bike, he claimed. Nesrine said she gets no exercise.
16. (S) Both El Materi and Nesrine speak English, although their vocabulary and grammar are limited. They are clearly eager to strengthen their English. Nesrine said she loves Disney World, but had put off a trip this year because of H1N1 flu. Nesrine has, for sometime, had Tamiflu nearby (even taking it on trips). Originally it was out of fear of bird flu. She packs it for El Materi too when he travels. Nesrine said she has visited several US cities. El Materi had only been to Illinois recently in connection with the purchase of a plane.
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Comment
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17. (S) Throughout the evening, El Materi often struck the Ambassador as demanding, vain and difficult. He is clearly aware of his wealth and power, and his actions reflected little finesse. He repeatedly pointed out the lovely view from his home and frequently corrected his staff, issued orders and barked reprimands. Despite this, El Materi was aware of his affect on the people around him and he showed periodic kindness. He was unusually solicitous and helpful to the Ambassador's wife, who is disabled. Occasionally, he seemed to be seeking approval. One western Ambassador in Tunis, who knows El Materi, has commented that he has western-style political skills in his willingness to engage with ordinary citizens. It is an uncommon trait here.
18. (S) El Materi, in recent months, has been ever more visible in the local diplomatic community. He has clearly decided (or been told) to serve as a point of contact between the regime and key ambassadors. Nesrine, at age 23, appeared friendly and interested, but nave and clueless. She reflected the very sheltered, privileged and wealthy life she has led. As for the dinner itself, it was similar to what one might experience in a Gulf country, and out of the ordinary for Tunisia.
19. (S) Most striking of all, however, was the opulence with which El Materi and Nesrine live. Their home in Hammamet was impressive, with the tiger adding to the impression of "over the top." Even more extravagant is their home still under construction in Sidi Bou Said. That residence, from its outward appearance, will be closer to a palace. It dominates the Sidi Bou Said skyline from some vantage points and has been the occasion of many private, critical comments. The opulence with which El Materi and Nesrine live and their behavior make clear why they and other members of Ben Ali's family are disliked and even hated by some Tunisians. The excesses of the Ben Ali family are growing.
Please visit Embassy Tunis' Classified Website at: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/tunis/index.c fm
Godec
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Tags: Sakher El Materi Nesrine Ben Ali American Cooperative School Barack Obama McDonald Ben Ali Islam Zeitouna

Posted in Family Affairs | Trackback:https://tunileaks.appspot.com/?p=36001&c...HJ5GKGZAgw








TuniLeaks is a project by nawaat.org.
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"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#4
The Tunisian Intifada…

Rob Prince | Jan 03, 2011 | 0 comments
1. They Just Don't Stop Protesting…
[Image: tunisian-demonstrations-2.jpg]Not even torture, which is rampant or live bullets which the Tunisian authorities are using with greater frequency stop them..
It is more than two weeks since a distraught and unemployed young university graduate, Mohammed Bouazizi, sat down in front of the town hall in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, poured gasoline on himself and lit a match. Bouazizi's act of self-immolation and protest against Tunisia's high unemployment, rampant corruption and decades of repression by the government of Zine Ben Ali triggered a protest movement, first in the country's center and south, but now virtually everywhere, including the capital, Tunis.
[Image: tunisian-demonstrations-171x250.jpg]Demonstration Sites in Tunisia: It's Not Just Sidi Bouzid Anymore

Unwilling to admit how his own regime has contributed to the crisis, Ben Ali, predictably blames the protests on "radical elements," "chaos monger" ( an interesting and empty phrase) and "a minority of mercenaries" rather than on the policies Tunisia has implemented during his 23 years in power. Neither the intervention of the Tunisian security forces and army using live ammunition nor Zine Ben Ali's sacking of 4 members of his cabinet combined with promises of a $5 billion state jobs program has stopped the wave of anger and protest, which at the time of this writing (January 2, 2011) continues and is more and more taking the form of a national uprising. While some property has been destroyed, the overwhelming amount of violence has come from the state and the security forces. Virtually all of the demonstrations have been peaceful to date. That said, the economic grievances which fueled the initial outbursts now have a more political aspect to them as more and more voices within Tunisia outside of the ruling party, the Rassemblement Constitutionelle Democratique (RCD) are calling for Ben Ali and his increasingly influential wife, Leila Trabelsi, to step down and relinquish power.
Ben Ali is giving no indication of stepping down. He is combined increased repression on the one hand, with a media campaign and promises of economic and social reform on the other. Ben Ali is gambling that the protests, which seem to led mostly by unemployed youth as well as some elements of Tunisian's student and labor movement is a spontaneous expression of frustration that will fizzle sooner rather than later. While this might be the case, it appears that broad sectors of Tunisian society are more supportive of the protestors than the government and that Ben Ali's promised reforms are too little too late. Even if he is able to maintain his grip on power for the moment, his social base support has narrowed to the military, police and security apparatus, along with the support of a few key European governments, France key among them.
2. The United States Remains Silent
The United States State Department remains silent in face of the Tunisian protests. Since the protests began on December 17, 2010, there has been little media coverage in the mainstream US media, virtually nothing on mainstream television, nothing in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, or for that matter even Democracy Now! This is in sharp contrast with the European, North African and Middle Eastern media where the
[Image: sarkozy-and-ben-ali1-250x200.jpg]Sarkozy and Ben Ali...birds of a feather

Tunisian protests have become big news. In two articles in the British Guardian, columnist Brian Whitaker calls the Tunisian protests the "most important and most inspiring story from the Middle East this year". In another story a few days earlier, he wrote a scathing critique of the Tunisian government commenting at the end that Ben Ali's days in power are probably numbered.
The Obama Administration's failure to comment on the Tunisian events is another indication of its more general hypocrisy when it comes to supporting human rights in Middle East countries. It is not that the administration is unaware of the situation in the country. The WikiLeaks cables concerning Tunisia, from a former US ambassador to the State Department, contained very explicit and damning information, detailing the repressive environment in the country, the rampant corruption most especially of the families of President Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi, at one point labelling the regime as a "kleptocracy".
So why the measured silence for the Nobel Peace Prize winner?
A number of factors come into place, central among them, the Obama Administration is wary about opening up another front of social unrest with Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia on its hands. If Washington has no particular love for Ben Ali, still they worry about a replacement, wanting one that would, like Ben Ali and Bourguiba before him, support US strategic policy in the Middle East and Africa, who will cooperate with NATO and AFRICOM as Ben Ali has. It would not be the first time that the Obama Administration has thrown a U.S. commitment to human rights concerns to the winds to maintain strategic support for this or that tyrant.
[Image: imf-praises-tunisia1-250x162.jpg]
There are also economic considerations. Tunisia has been played up as an IMF-World Bank poster child, an example of how following "the Washington Consensus", ie IMF structural adjustment program leads to success. Except it didn't. Take for example Tunisia's rush to privatization, one of the IMF's sacred cows you know, that line of reasoning made popular by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, that somehow the private sector sector can conduct business better than the state. According to the dogma, privatization is supposed to lead to increased competitiveness and greater efficiencies. Perhaps under certain (increasingly rare) circumstances the logic works.
But in Tunisia as in many other places, privatization became a means of the two ruling families, the Ben Alis and Trabelsis to buy up state property at bargain basement prices and make a financial killing. It did not lead to a growth of Tunisian entrepreneurial ship, but simply to a greater concentration of economic power in the hands of the two families, and the corruption involved was so bad that even the U.S. ambassador (in a WikiLeaks cable) was embarrassed.
Yet despite the current economic crisis, which these structural adjustment programs only exacerbated, the IMF continues to pressure Tunisia to "stay the course"…cut remaining subsidies on basic food stuffs and fuel, privatize its social security system and open up its financial sector even further. And once again, the IMF is oblivious to how those policies have only deepened the socio-economic crisis in the country and that an entirely different economic strategy is in order
3. "Most Inspiring Story Coming Out Of The Middle East This Year"
There is another reason for Washington's hesitancy, call it "revolutionary contagion" …what starts in one place, as in the strategically not particularly important Tunisia, could spread to…Egypt, Saudi Arabia and who knows where else. Signs abound. Just to the west, Algerians are protesting inadequate housing that they have been promised for years. Although current turmoil in Egypt appears to center around the bombing of a Coptic Church, with accusations of the hand of an al Qaeda like attack, under the surface for all its differences with Tunisia, Egypt too is facing serious socio-economic problems.
And throughout the Middle East, governments are nervous. The Iranian and Syrian press have commented on Tunisia's unemployment and corruption problems, as if they too don't have to deal with similar drawbacks. Saudi commentators (of all people) are lecturing Ben Ali on the need for democracy, etc etc. Throughout the region among the ruling elites there is the growing concern that the Tunisian protests could spread to their countries. And they have reason for concern for despite many differences, unemployment, corruption and dictatorship are by no means limited to Tunisia.
So already, "the Tunisian example", in two short weeks has spread beyond the country's borders and governments are taking the events seriously. If Ben Ali will not relinquish power (yet), still, he reshuffled his cabinet firing four ministers and promised a $5 billion jobs program. He also was careful to visit Mohammed Bouazizi (the young man who set himself aflame) as well as meet with the families of those killed by the security forces. As the protests grew in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarek, speaking to the ruling political party in Egypt, seemingly "out of nowhere", announced that Egypt too would launch a $3.5 billion jobs program to deal with Egyptian unemployment. Coincidence? In a gesture to help Ben Ali, Muhammar Khadaffi in nearby Libya announced that Libya would not limit entry to Tunisians seeking jobs. Khadaffi also announced a major government financed housing project not long ago.
Nesrine Malik, like Brian Whitaker, writing in the Guardian on New Year's Eve calls the Tunisian protests "one of the most inspiring episodes of indigenous revolt against a repressive regime. Referring to the Tunisian protests she comments: "Change is sometimes more likely to happen when people know what it looks like, when the first person dares to point to the emperor and say that he is naked."
And if events continue in Tunisia, what does it mean for the other "geriatric regimes" of the Middle East, many of which themselves are on the verge of transitions of power? For if the Tunisian people can stand up to power and oppression, why not the others?
Meanwhile the protests in Tunisia continue…La Lutta Continua..
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#5
Tunisia's protest wave: where it comes from and what it means

Nawaat.org | Jan 04, 2011 | 0 comments
[Image: 107788557.jpg]
January traditionally has been Tunisia's month for political drama a general strike in January 1978; a Libyan-supported insurrection in January 1980; bread riots in January 1984. This year, however, January will be hard-pressed to top the previous December. The last two weeks of 2010 witnessed the most dramatic wave of social unrest in Tunisia since the 1980s. What began with one young man's desperate protest against unemployment in Sidi Bouzid, in Tunisia's center-west, spread quickly to other regions and other issues. Within days of Mohamed Bouazizi's attempted suicide in front of the local government office, students, teachers, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists, trade unionists, and opposition politicians took to the streets in several cities, including Tunis, to condemn the government's economic policies, its repression of all critics, and a mafia-style corruption that enriches members of the president's family.
In a country known for authoritarian stability, it is easy to see this unrest as a harbinger of dramatic change. In fact, the protests have been building for at least two years. The frustration is rooted in a deep history of unbalanced economic growth. Several organizations have helped to convert this frustration into collective protest. To date, the December protests have produced a cabinet reshuffle, a governor's sacking, and a renewed commitment to job creation in disadvantaged regions. Whether they lead to more dramatic change remains to be seen. If Ben Ali's rule is not in immediate danger, the protests at least suggest that his governing strategy is in serious trouble.
Ben Ali's rule has relied on a skillful combination of co-optation and repression. By pledging his fidelity to democracy and human rights early in his tenure, he deftly hijacked the core of the liberal opposition's message. At the same time, he used electoral manipulation, intimidation, and favors to co-opt leaders of ruling-party organs and civil society organizations. Those who remained beyond the reach of these tools felt the force of an internal security apparatus that grew dramatically in the 1990s. Most Tunisians grudgingly accepted Ben Ali's heavy-handedness through the 1990s. Authoritarian rule was the price they paid for stability that could attract tourists and investors. Ben Ali was an effective, if uncharismatic, technocratic who beat back the Islamists, generated growth, and saved the country from the unrest that plagued Algeria.
Over the last five years, however, the fabric of Ben Ali's authoritarianism has frayed. Once it became clear that the Islamists no longer posed a serious threat, many Tunisians became less willing to accept the government's heavy-handedness. The regime also lost some of its earlier deftness. Its methods became less creative and more transparently brutal. The government seemed less willing to at least play at any dialogue with critics or opposition parties. Arbitrary arrests, control of the print media and Internet access, and physical attacks on journalists and human rights and opposition-party activists became more common. So, too, did stories of corruption not the usual kickbacks and favoritism that one might expect, but truly mafia-grade criminality that lined the pockets of Ben Ali's wife and her family. The growth of Facebook, Twitter, and a Tunisian blogosphere much of it based outside the country made it increasingly easy for Tunisians to learn about the latest arrest, beating, or illicit business deal involving the president's family.
Shortly before the December protests began, WikiLeaks released internal U.S. State Department communications in which the American ambassador described Ben Ali as aging, out of touch, and surrounded by corruption. Given Ben Ali's reputation as a stalwart U.S. ally, it mattered greatly to many Tunisians particularly to politically engaged Tunisians who are plugged into social media that American officials are saying the same things about Ben Ali that they themselves say about him. These revelations contributed to an environment that was ripe for a wave of protest that gathered broad support.
Tunisia has built a reputation as the Maghreb's healthiest economy since Ben Ali seized power, as market-oriented reforms opened the country to private investment and integrated it more deeply into the regional economy. Annual GDP growth has averaged 5 percent. But the government's policies have done little to address long-standing concerns about the distribution of growth across the country. Since the colonial period, Tunisia's economic activity has been concentrated in the north and along the eastern coastline. Virtually every economic development plan since independence in 1956 has committed the government to making investments that would create jobs and enhance living standards in the center, south, and west. Eroding regional disparities would build national solidarity and slow the pace of urban migration. The latter became a particular concern as social protest organized by trade unionists, students, and Islamists mounted in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Government investment transformed the countryside in terms of access to potable water, electrification, transportation infrastructure, health care, and education. But the government never succeeded in generating enough jobs in the interior for a rapidly growing population. In fact, two aspects of the government's development strategy actually made it harder to generate jobs. First, Tunisia's development strategy since the early 1970s has relied progressively on exports and private investment. For a small country with a limited resource base and close ties to Europe, this strategy generated an emphasis on tourism and low-skilled manufactured products (primarily clothes and agricultural products) for the European market. Scarce natural resources, climate constraints, and the need to minimize transport costs make it difficult to attract considerable numbers of tourists or export-oriented producers to the hinterland. Consequently, 80 percent of current national production remains concentrated in coastal areas. Only one-fifth of national production takes place in the southwest and center-west regions, home to 40 percent of the population.
Education issues complicate matters further. The Tunisian government has long received praise for its commitment to broad education. The prevailing culture holds up university education as the key to security and social advancement. However, universities do not produce young people with training that meets the needs of an economy that depends on low-skilled jobs in tourism and clothing manufacturing. This mismatch between education and expectations on the one hand, and the realities of the marketplace on the other, generates serious frustrations for young people who invested in university educations but cannot find commensurate work. The challenge is particularly dire for young people in the interior. While estimates of national unemployment range from 13 to 16 percent, unemployment among university graduates in Sidi Bouzid ranges between 25 and 30 percent.
The trade unions' role is one of the most striking aspects of the December protests. The government worked very hard, and with great success, to domesticate the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), Tunisia's sole trade union confederation, in the 1990s. More recently, however, activists in some unions have succeeded in taking a more independent and confrontational stance. In 2008 and again in early 2010, union activists organized prolonged protests in the southern Gafsa mining basin. The players and the grievances in those cases resemble what we saw in late December. Education unions, some of the most independent and aggressive within the UGTT, played a critical role in organizing unemployed workers, many with university degrees, who protested the government's failure to provide jobs, its corruption, and its refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue. Human rights organizations, journalists, lawyers, and opposition parties then joined in to criticize the government's restrictions on media coverage of the protests and the arrests and torture of demonstrators. In this way, a broad coalition of civil society organizations has connected bread-and-butter employment grievances with fundamental human rights and rule-of-law concerns. They also pull together constituencies that transcend class and regional distinctions unemployed young people in Sidi Bouzid, Menzel Bouzaiene, and Regueb, and lawyers and journalists in Monastir, Sfax, and Tunis.
It is too early to know if these protests signal the beginning of the end for Ben Ali. However, Tunisia's current political scene looks a bit like it did in 1975 and 1976, the beginning of the long slide for Ben Ali's predecessor, Habib Bourguiba. Again, we see an aging president who seems increasingly out of touch and whose ability to co-opt and repress has deteriorated. We still see a political system that lacks strong possible successors and a clear mechanism for selecting one. We have a set of economic and political grievances that enjoys the support of a range of civil society organizations, including some with the ability to mobilize considerable numbers of protesters. Over the medium and long terms, this is the most significant aspect of the December protests. The fact that unemployed young people took to the streets is much less important than the fact that their cause has been taken up and supplemented by civil society organizations that spent most of Ben Ali's rule under his thumb or too cowed to act.
Despite all this, it is important to recall that Bourguiba did not fall suddenly to a mass movement that rallied broad popular support. His government rotted steadily for more than a decade. Additionally, Ben Ali's bloodless coup and his subsequent rule took great advantage of the disorganization in Tunisia's political class. Tunisia's civil society, including the opposition parties, is notoriously easy to divide and conquer. If Ben Ali's ability to repress and co-opt has deteriorated, it has not disappeared. With the December protests, Tunisia might have turned an important corner. However, nothing in the country's history or its current state of affairs makes it easy to believe that the protests will lead quickly to a coherent, unified opposition movement with a clear message, a charismatic leader, and a national support base. Additionally, another long, slow slide toward chaos could simply set the stage for another Ben Ali another unelected president who seizes power at the top and changes little below it.
Christopher Alexander is Davidson College's McGee director of the Dean Rusk International Studies Program, an associate professor of political science, and author of Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb.
FOREIGN POLICY
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Reply
#6
US supported and IMF/World Bank darling President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has fled Tunisia and the country is apparently now being headed by the Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi (if not the military) who is not seen as a member of the Ben Alo clique and regarded fairly well by most Tunisians. Ben Ali is supposed to have gone to France but I have heard he has gone to Malta under protection of Lybia and I have also heard he has gone to Saudi Arabia and that the Saudi Officials have acknowledged this. There is still rioting and a military presence on the street in Tunisia. It will be interesting to see how things play out from here.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Reply
#7
Magda Hassan Wrote:US supported and IMF/World Bank darling President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has fled Tunisia and the country is apparently now being headed by the Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi (if not the military) who is not seen as a member of the Ben Alo clique and regarded fairly well by most Tunisians. Ben Ali is supposed to have gone to France but I have heard he has gone to Malta under protection of Lybia and I have also heard he has gone to Saudi Arabia and that the Saudi Officials have acknowledged this. There is still rioting and a military presence on the street in Tunisia. It will be interesting to see how things play out from here.

The word in the MSM is he is in S.A. As interesting as how this plays out in Tunisia, is how it will 'play out' in just about all of the other Arab countries run by dictators or authoritarian regimes [most to all of them]...as well as some non-Arab countries run the same way......People Power is the last think any Government really wants.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Reply
#8
The trade unions have been playing a role in the most recent protests. But there are several left groups of various shades in Tunisia and I don't know how well they get on if at all. They are run from outside or underground of course. So it is difficult to know how they will fare in a general election. I had an email from some one who knows the situation there (French) telling me that there are divisions in the military on where to go from here. However the police have withdrawn from the streets and been replaced by the military. One man and his immediate family have gone but there are still plenty of other elites there who want to keep the old system going to their advantage. The old regeime is receeding but is it regrouping as well? Unlikely to give up just yet. People are setting up their own local committees and organising locally. Five members of Ben Ali's family have been arrested on charges of corruption, including some of the most prominent businessmen in Tunisia. Apparently, there are calls for a new demonstration tomorrow to force Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi to step down and for the holding of "free general elections".
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Reply
#9
Magda Hassan Wrote:The trade unions have been playing a role in the most recent protests. But there are several left groups of various shades in Tunisia and I don't know how well they get on if at all. They are run from outside or underground of course. So it is difficult to know how they will fare in a general election. I had an email from some one who knows the situation there (French) telling me that there are divisions in the military on where to go from here. However the police have withdrawn from the streets and been replaced by the military. One man and his immediate family have gone but there are still plenty of other elites there who want to keep the old system going to their advantage. The old regeime is receeding but is it regrouping as well? Unlikely to give up just yet. People are setting up their own local committees and organising locally. Five members of Ben Ali's family have been arrested on charges of corruption, including some of the most prominent businessmen in Tunisia. Apparently, there are calls for a new demonstration tomorrow to force Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi to step down and for the holding of "free general elections".

It will be interesting. Actually, the Prime Minister [likely on purpose] cited the wrong clause in the Constitution for his new powers as President. I forget the number. It is the very next provision in the Constitution of Tunisia that really applies - whereby he'd form a provisional government and call for elections ASAP.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Reply
#10
Peter Lemkin Wrote:It will be interesting. Actually, the Prime Minister [likely on purpose] cited the wrong clause in the Constitution for his new powers as President. I forget the number. It is the very next provision in the Constitution of Tunisia that really applies - whereby he'd form a provisional government and call for elections ASAP.
Ah, interesting. Wriggle room.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
Reply


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