Dozens of protesters have been killed and untold thousands have taken to the streets as Tunisia’s young people have begun to stand up to their government in recent weeks. Protests began in December after the suicide by self-immolation of a young college graduate, and have swelled to envelope the entire North African nation.
Here’s the latest:
Tunisia’s president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, declared in a speech yesterday that he would step down at the end of his current term in 2014. He also announced new constraints on police action and new internet freedoms while promising lower food prices, but his words were greeted by a deeply skeptical public and had little effect on public opinion.
Today Ben Ali went further, announcing that he would call new elections within six months. But again the protesters rebuffed him, marching on the capital demanding his immediate resignation.
Now word is arriving that Ben Ali is attempting once again to clamp down on protests, declaring a state of emergency banning public gatherings, imposing a nation-wide curfew, and authorizing the use of live fire by security forces against anyone defying police orders.
Things are moving very rapidly in Tunisia right now, and there’s a lot of rumor and unconfirmed information flying about. Follow the #sidibouzid hashtag on Twitter for the latest, but be sure to take what you read there with a grain of salt.
Update | Here’s a good overview of the Tunisia crisis from Mother Jones.
Update | Sources are telling Al Jazeera and Agence France Presse that President Ben Ali has left Tunisia and been stripped of power. Contradictory reports as to who is now in power.
Update | Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has gone on state-run television to declare that he has stepped up as interim president, pledging to respect the constitution and restore order. It’ll be a while before there’s much clarity about what’s going to happen next.