Dictators rarely relinquish power of their own accord. They either die or have to be pushed out by force. Just before this stage is reached, when they’re about to be ejected by a mass movement, they try everything possible to stay in power. They torture. They kill.
It was when we lost our fear of death and when the funeral processions of our dead comrades were being saluted on the streets by uniformed soldiers, that the end was nigh for President Zine Ben Ali, a useful Washington ally in the ‘war against terror’.
His security thugs, composed of criminals, misfits and clansmen, were seen attacking men and women. An old historian reflected: ‘It’s like Scipio’s armies in Carthage over two thousand years ago. They looted, killed and raped our women. But they were Romans seeking revenge.
Ben Ali and his gangsters are Tunisian mercenaries. They do the dirty work for Washington and Paris...’ A staunch ally of Washington, recipient of Saudi largesse, admired as a model by the president of the IMF and visiting Western journalists (most recently, the easily flattered Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair) and politicians, supported to the end by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy - but to no avail.
Ben Ali had failed. His unsentimental friends in the West hurriedly organized his exile and then washed their hands. Ben Ali was given asylum in Saudi Arabia, a good home for tyrants: they can easily access their foreign bank accounts. Will they freeze them and seize them and return the money to our country and its people? Only if hell freezes. This was one of their guys.
He did their bidding, and in return they let him amass a fortune. We want our money back, and we want this criminal tried for his crimes - not at The Hague but in the court of our people. Our poet of the last century Abu al-Kasem El-Chebbi, wrote that ‘he who cultivates thorns will reap wounds’.
We have not yet won the war. The structures of the dictatorship are still in force. Three hundred people died to get rid of the tyrant, mainly young men shot in the head and dumped in the streets. While their menfolk watched at gunpoint, Ben Ali’s militia thugs raped the women. That’s why we will carry on the struggle for a new democratic constitution that will get rid of the filth that is elite corruption and give us the right to work and provide a better future for all our citizens. We have won the first battle, and Ben Ali’s sponsors in Washington and Paris told him it was time to leave.
Things had to change so they could remain the same, they thought. And that gives us heart to carry on. Other Western-backed dictators - the decaying Bouteflika in Algiers, and Hosni Mubarak in Cairo - will be soiling their trousers in fear. So will Muammar Gaddafi, who took power in 1969 and has still not managed to educate his people. He may be eccentric.
He may be mentally unbalanced. But those who depend on him keep him in power, a laughing stock of the Arab world. He’s upset at what happened here, and with good reason. He might die in office, but what we have achieved will make life difficult for the sons of Mubarak and Gaddafi and Ali Saleh (Yemen’s dictator since 1978), being groomed for power by Western intelligence agencies, just as here.
And what of the King of Morocco, whose dungeons echo with the screams of Saharan prisoners? How long will he last? Listen to the bells of Tunis, you corrupt, monstrous, moth-eaten dictators. They’re ringing for you. Listen to the bells in Tunis, Presidents Obama and Sarkozy. They’re ringing for the torturers that you sustain. Citizens are burning themselves in Algiers and in Cairo, hoping to trigger a revolution. It will come.
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