The First WikiLeaks Revolution

SUBHEAD: 'First WikiLeaks Revolution': Tunisian revolution credited to cables which revealed despot's corruption. By Staff Reporter on 15 January 2011 for the Daily Mail - ( Image above: V is for Victory in Tunisia. From (
  • President Ben Ali goes into exile after 23 years in power
  • Published US Embassy cables likened President's family to a Mafia elite
  • Department of State issues travel alert to avoid the north African country
  • Riots have claimed 23 lives so far this week
Events in Tunisia have led to it being called the 'First Wikileaks Revolution'. Although there has long been opposition to the corrupt rule of President Ben Ali, protests gathered pace when US embassy cables were published by Wikileaks. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has fled the North African state he ruled for 23 years and has gone into exile. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has taken charge as the interim leader. A recently released June 2009 cable referred to the president and his siblings as 'The Family', likening them to a Mafia elite who ran Tunisia's economy.
The cables, published in December, also claimed that the president's wife - Leila Ben Ali - had made huge profits out of the building of an exclusive school. Video above: RT: Fierce clashes in Tunisia as security forces fire into crowds. From ( The cables lifted the veil on the corruption of the country's elite. Another cable which detailed how much the first family was loathed was blocked. Within weeks, word of mouth had forced protesters onto the streets, culminating in yesterday's revolution. In the banned cable, US ambassador Robert Godec wrote: 'Corruption in the inner circle is growing. Even average Tunisians are now keenly aware of it, and the chorus of complaints is rising.
'Tunisians intensely dislike, even hate, first lady Leila Trabelsi and her family. In private, regime opponents mock her.'
Mr Godec headlined some of the passages in the banned cable as 'The Sky's the Limit,' 'All in the Family,' 'Yacht Wanted,' 'Show Me Your Money', to show how the Ben Alis were operating. American travelers were yesterday warned against non-essential travel to the north African country amid the risk of violence during demonstrations in the country. The Department of State's travel alert warned of 'intesifying political and social unrest' including clashes between protesters and police that have resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries. 'The unrest has recently spread to Tunis and all major cities, including popular tourist destinations', the travel alert said. 'While these disturbances appear to be triggered by economic concerns, and not to be directed toward Westerners, US citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security', the alert continued. Deadly clashes between protesters and security forces occured yesterday in Tunis and its suburbs in an unprecedented challenge to the regime, which has claimed 23 lives so far this week. Police crackdowns in the past month have resulted in 66 deaths, according to an international human rights organization. The riots, which have been rumbling all month and have gripped the nation, have been caused by levels of high unemployment and general disenchantment with a government some view as corrupt. President Ben Ali, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1987, had said he would leave the presidency when his term ends in 2014 but has now been forced to leave immediately. He ordered prices on food to be slashed and made pledges for political and media freedom. Hundreds of people took to the street of the capital Tunis today to march after Mr Ben Ali read out the list of promises and concessions. Some protesters carried posters reading 'We won't forget', a reference to the 23 deaths - though Mr Ben Ali's opposition party believe that there are dozens more than that. The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, known by its French acronym FIDH, said yesterday it has tallied 66 dead in the unrest so far, including seven people who killed themselves. The peaceful march came as Tunisia's only legal trade union went ahead today with a symbolic two-hour strike in the region of the capital. The deadly riots have destabilized the authority of Mr Ben Ali, who has led the country for 23 years. And he has been forced to be unusually contrite ordering prices on sugar, milk and bread to be dropped. Buoyant crowds spilled into the streets after his speech, many cheering his price cuts but some questioning his commitment to real change. Calling for a 'cease-fire', Mr Ben Ali, 74, told his nation in a televised speech: 'I have understood you.
'I have understood the demands about unemployment, the demands about necessities, and the political demands for more freedoms.'
Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said this week that they fear he could face execution in the United States if he is extradited to Sweden. The 39-year-old whistleblower is wanted by the Swedish authorities over claims that he sexually assaulted two women during a visit to Stockholm in August. But his defense team believe there is a 'real risk' he could be extradited on to the U.S., where he could be detained in Guantanamo Bay or even face the death penalty. The claim emerged in a skeleton argument released by Assange's lawyers in the wake of a preparatory legal hearing at Woolwich Crown Court in London. Assange's legal team suggested that extraditing him to Sweden could breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which bans torture. They wrote: 'It is submitted that there is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the U.S. will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a risk of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere, in conditions which would breach Article 3 of the ECHR.
'Indeed, if Mr Assange were rendered to the USA without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty.'
Assange’s lawyers will begin a full two-day extradition hearing on February 7. Speaking outside court after the hearing, Assange said he was 'happy about today's outcome' and vowed that WikiLeaks's activities would continue. 'I would also like to say that our work with WikiLeaks continues unabated and we are stepping up our publishing for matters relating to 'cablegate' and other materials,' he went on.
'This will shortly be occurring through our newspaper partners around the world, big and small newspapers and some human rights organisations.'
The computer programmer was released on $315,000 bail by a High Court judge last month after spending nine days in Wandsworth Prison. He denies committing any offences and his supporters claim the criminal inquiry and extradition request is unfair and politically motivated. The controversial figure was behind the release of hundreds of United States diplomatic cables, as well as information about the Iraq war, that sparked global uproar. Assange recently signed a book deal for his life story as the U.S. authorities stepped up their pressure on WikiLeaks by demanding information from Twitter.

Tonight we are all Tunisians
SUBHEAD: Tunisians are in the process of seizing back their country from corruption. By Yvonne Ridley on 15 January 2011 for Foreign Policy Journal - (
Video above: ITN: Curfew halts riots in Tunisia. From (
Over the last few days we have seen some of the bravest people facing down some of the worst.
Armed with nothing more than a revolutionary heart and hopes of a better future they gathered and protested as government forces aimed their weapons and fired live rounds in to the crowds. But the ammunition and the underlying threats of arrest and torture meant absolutely nothing to the masses – for they had simply lost their fear. It was the final testament to the brutality of a dictator who has had the support of European leaders and various presidents of the United States.
And that the Tunisian President Zine El-Abedine Ben Ali fled from his country like a rat up a drainpipe after 23 brutal years spoke volumes about the character of the man himself.
If he had one ounce of the courage his own people displayed, he too would have stayed but most of these tyrants are gutless with the moral fiber of a dung beetle.
The demise of Ben Ali came when police prevented an unemployed 26-year-old graduate from selling fruit without a license. Mohammad Bouazizi turned himself in to a human torch on December 17 and died of the horrific burns in Sidi Bouzid, in central Tunisia.
It was the final straw, a defining moment which ignited rallies, marches and demonstrations across Tunisia.
And revelations from Wikileaks cables exposing the corrupt and extravagant lifestyle of Ben Ali and his grasping wife fanned the flames of unbridled anger from a people who were also in the grip of poverty.
I knew it was coming. I saw the burning desire for freedom in the eyes of the courageous people of Ghafsa when the Viva Palestina Convoy entered the country in February 2009 on its way to Gaza.
Our convoy witnessed the menacing secret police intimidate the crowds to stop them from gathering to cheer us on.
This vast army of spies, thugs and enforcers even tried to stop us from praying in a local mosque. That they stood their ground to cheer us on prompted me to leave my vehicle and hug all the women who had turned out. We exchanged cards and small gifts and then, to my horror, I discovered 24 hours later that every woman I had embraced in the streets of Gafsa had been taken away and questioned.
Human rights organizations have constantly condemned and exposed the brutality of the Ben Ali regime but that has not led America and European leaders to intervene or put pressure on the regime to stop the brutality.
Sadly, it serves western interests to have a people brutalized and subjugated.
Now Tunisia is minus one dictator but it is still in a state of emergency. The next few days and weeks are going to be crucial for the Tunisian people who deserve freedom and liberty. My God, they’ve paid for it with their own blood and we must always remember their martyrs.
None of the politicians, secret police or other odious government forces will emerge from this period with any honor and quite a few are already cowering in the shadows.
But perhaps the biggest show of cowardice in this whole sorry episode has come from The White House.
Not one word of condemnation, not one word of criticism, not one word urging restraint came from Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton as live ammunition was fired into crowds of unarmed men, women and children in recent weeks.
And news of the corrupt, mafia-like regime would not have come as a surprise to either of them. We know this thanks to the Wikileaks cables written by US Ambassador Robert Godec who revealed in one memo: “Corruption in the inner circle is growing.”
But, as the injustices and atrocities continued there was not one squeak from the most powerful nation on earth … until America’s dear friend, Ben Ali had scuttled from the country.
The reality is the US Administration likes dealing with tyrants and even encourages despotic behavior. Egypt is one of the biggest testaments to this with its prisons full of political opposition leaders.
Pakistan’s treatment of its own people is little better. Remember when US Ambassador Anne Patterson in Islamabad wrote in one Wikileaks cable about the human rights abuses carried out by the Pakistan military? Patterson then went on to advise Washington to avoid comment on these incidents.
But now the US has made a comment on the situation in Tunisia … but only when Ben Ali was 30,000 feet in the air did White House spokesman Mike Hammer issue a statement which read: “We condemn the ongoing violence against civilians in Tunisia, and call on the Tunisian authorities to fulfill the important commitments … including respect for basic human rights and a process of much-needed political reform.”
Unbelievable. Too little, too late, Mr President. Actually that statement could have been uttered any time during the last US presidencies since Ronald Reagan.
But as I say, America couldn’t give a stuff about the human rights of the people of the Maghreb, Pakistan, Egypt and Palestine to name but a few.
When US condemnation finally came through the tyrant had fled leaving behind more than 60 civilian martyrs and countless more injured.
Tomorrow I will go to the Tunisian Embassy in London as I have done previously and stand shoulder to shoulder with my Tunisian brothers and sisters and their supporters. We will remember the dead, we will pay tribute to the brave and courageous many who are still in the process of seizing back their country and we will pray that no tyrant will sleep easy in his bed from this moment on.
Tonight we are all Tunisians.
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1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Following Tunisia?, this seem to be a good spot for info.

Yesterday it was looters being caught and killed by security forces. Today it has been former Presidential security forces and Tunisian Army fighting each other.

Western media is not reporting what is going on. Also, unrest starting to appear on the streets in Algeria, Libya, and Egypt.

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