News / Africa

Tunisian Protesters Challenge President's Grip on Power

Tunisians shout slogans as they demonstrate against Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis, 14 Jan 2011
Tunisians shout slogans as they demonstrate against Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis, 14 Jan 2011

A political drama continues to unfold in Tunisia, where thousands of demonstrators marched through the capital, Tunis, Friday demanding President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's resignation. The street protests come a day after the president sought to tamp-down the political unrest by pledging not to seek another term in office and to push through political and media reforms.

Listen to Kate Woodsome's report:

President Ben Ali's concessions appear to be a dramatic reversal of a long-standing policy of repression.

Protestors marching down the main boulevard in central Tunis shouted slogans against the president, calling him an assassin and demanding his removal. Friday's demonstrations were the first test of President Ben Ali's pledge to loosen restrictions on the media, slash food prices and stop security forces from using firearms on demonstrators in a country where freedom of speech has long been suppressed.

Slideshow of Tunisian protests Jan 13 - 14, 2011



"As for your political requests, I understood them," Mr. Ben Ali said in a televised address Thursday evening. "Yes, I understood them and I decided to give press freedom on all levels and will not block access to the Internet, and there will be no more scrutiny over the media. However, we have to respect our principles and behavior."

The president appeared shaken during his speech, hastily called to try to stop deadly riots over food prices and high unemployment.

The unrest has at times turned deadly, with hospital officials reporting 13 new killings late Thursday. The latest deaths, not officially confirmed, add to the 23 people already reported by the government to have died since the turmoil erupted in December. Rights groups and the opposition say that number is far higher.

Mr. Ben Ali's conciliatory tone in his national address initially sparked celebrations, with one-time critics blessing the president for recognizing his mistakes. Thousands of people poured into the streets to praise Ben Ali’s name.

But a day later, the president's history of alleged corruption caught up with him, sparking new protests. Mr. Ben Ali has ruled Tunisia for 23 years, and he and his family are accused of stealing the country's wealth for their own gain.

One protestor, Dilou Thoraya, says a promise to reform is not enough.

"He has done that under the pressure of the people," she noted. "It is too late, there are 70 dead people. While he was doing his speech, there were people dying in Kairouan. We don't have any trust anymore. The police are in charge here, the Ministry of Interior is in charge."

The unrest began in December when an unemployed university graduate set himself on fire after police confiscated his produce stand. Authorities say he was selling the goods without a permit. But the graduate’s suicide struck a chord among Tunisians frustrated by their lack of influence in the country’s long-running political leadership.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More