Sunday, January 16, 2011

Talking about a Revolution

We've been focusing a lot of attention the past couple of weeks on the situation in Tunisia. It began a few weeks ago when a young man, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in protest of corruption and unemployement. After completing univeristy he was unable to find a job- there are few, and it requires paying a bribe equal to several years' wagers to get one, usually. When he set up his own business- a food cart- the police took it away from him, saying he didn't have a liscense.
So protests began in that region and then spread to other areas of the country. The government responded with riot police, who shot and killed protestors. The protests continued to grow, and people organized using Twitter and posted what was going on using Facebook.
The president came on t.v. and said he had no idea what was going on and he would change things. This was recognized as untrue by the people, and the protests continued.
The president said he would not seek reelection in 2014. (He was recently reelected with about 95% of the vote. The percentage has varied slightly in each election.) That was the first signal that he was on the way out. Then he promised elections in six months. By that evening he had left the country. He was in power for 23 years, having deposed the previous dictator, who was not as corrupt. Benali has allowed his relatives and his wife's family to rob the country.
He left the prime minister as acting president. However, that wasn't constitutional, so a day later he was gone, and the head of the senate was declared the leader. Since he is still part of the ruling party, this isn't much of a change, but it is something.
The police have had a very violent response to the people protesting. Snipers posted on buildings have shot people, and police have used tear gas and live bullets as well. The protests have not been violent- the president first tried to say that they were a small group of extremists, but this was completely untrue. Videos that show looters appear to have been directed by the police. (In one video, one of the "looters" is wearing a police helmet.)
There are many videos on Youtube- here's one.- but I warn you- it has some violence toward the end. The beginning shows the masses of people out in protest.

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