News from Tunisia

What happens when you call early elections

I am the first to admit that I know very little about neighboring Tunisia, aside from Bettino Craxi’s Hammamet exile and some happenstance encounters with Tunisian street kids in Bologna.  Despite the recent death of a RAI reporter, the only North African that the Italian press will give column inches to is Ruby.  But that’s the Italian angle.  Fortunately, I have a friend living in Tunis who wants to get his angle out.  Here is his open letter to the press.

The full story of what is happening in Tunisia is being portrayed as a story of Islamic radicals trying to overthrow a US ally.  Although there is mention of the government having fired on the public, it completely understates what is happening here.

This is a secular revolution against a secular dictator who has ruled with an iron fist, denying his people freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, while enriching his own family through graft and corruption.  Each day, there have been large protests downtown.  By the time you wake up in the morning and read this, today’s protest will probably already have been dispersed by riot police with rifles and tear gas, assisted by snipers on neighboring buildings.  Close friends of mine have heard gunfire outside their homes, and others with contacts in hospital emergency rooms have been tracking victims who are brought there after being shot by the police or the army.

In my own neighborhood, the soldiers patrolling the streets have already fixed bayonets onto their rifles.  I am staying home, barricaded inside my house with loads of food and water.  During the daytime it is possible to go out onto the street, but today there is a general strike nationwide, so everything is closed.  Besides, all the grocery stores closed early yesterday due to the curfew, and partly because they were running out of food to sell anyway.  There was a huge line outside the bakery that remained open yesterday in the afternoon, as I, like others, waited to buy baguette to be ready for the coming days when stores may or may not be open.

Many of my friends have been firsthand witnesses to the violence.  Although barely covered in the US media, Tunisians are telling the story through YouTube and Facebook videos that show dead bodies, protesters in the streets and a gunshot victim being videotaped as surgery is conducted on him.  This is happening in the neighborhoods where we live.

As I write this, I am viewing scenes from outside the interior ministry taken by my friends on their iPhones and posted to Facebook… the crowds seem ready to “storm the Bastille” as a thin line of interior ministry policy block the entrance.  The army seems to have abandoned the government to its fate.

Any assistance in getting this story out to the media in a more complete and detailed form would be greatly appreciated.

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