Tunisia ministers quit ruling party, political prisoners freed
Can members of the party that served ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abdine Ben Ali hang on?
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A few dozen members of Ben Ali's family, particularly members of his wife Laila's hated Trabelsi clan, are in custody on corruption charges and state-controlled TV has promised justice for their crimes (Issandr El Amrani wrote a wonderful portrait of Laila who "meddled in the affairs of the country's elite like Joan Collins once did in the soap opera Dynasty" a few days ago.) A bank controlled by Mohamed Sakher El Materi, married to one of Laila's daughters, was seized by the government on Wednesday.Skip to next paragraph
Dan Murphy is a staff writer for the Monitor's international desk, focused on the Middle East. Murphy, who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and more than a dozen other countries, writes and edits Backchannels. The focus? War and international relations, leaning toward things Middle East.
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But will that go far enough to appease the Tunisian public? That's got to be the foremost worry for the remaining regime figures -- that tossing the Ben Alis and Trabelsis to the wolves will not be enough and that they too could end up facing the loss of their fortunes and liberty.
How angry are Tunisians? Monitor correspondent Kristen Chick had a nice atmospheric piece from Sidi Bouzid, ground zero for Tunisia's uprising, yesterday. That was where Mohamed Bouazizi, fed up with corruption and feeling economically strangled, set himself on fire and the country alight in December. The moment she arrived she encountered a gusher of public grievances:
They all talked at once, loudly, in Arabic, English, and French, telling me about the miserable conditions that had led to the uprising. It was as if they had been silent for so long, enduring injustice and hardship without acknowledgment, that now that the dam had broken, and there was no stopping the rush of words.
There are no jobs,” said one man. “We all have university degrees, and we sit in cafes all day. The government ignored us.” Another jutted in, shouting over the first. “If you want a job here, you have to pay the Trabelsi family,” he said, referring to the family of Ben Ali’s wife, Laila Trabelsi, who engenders a special hatred in most Tunisians. A woman plucked insistently at my sleeve. “See this?” she said, pointing to her hijab. “Ben Ali made this illegal in Tunis.”
I was quickly overwhelmed by the crush of people. I’ve never before in my work experienced such a phenomenon, where crowds appeared every time I opened my notebook. And it happened each time I tried to interview someone on the street in Sidi Bouzid.
This thing isn't over.