Obama condemns violence used against Tunisian protesters
After declaring state of emergency and dismissing government, Tunisian president flees to Saudi Arabia; King Abdullah: "Wish for peace and security to the people of Tunisia."
By ASSOCIATED PRESS, HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
January 15, 2011 08:48
3 minute read.
Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
President Barack Obama condemned the violence used against protesters in
Tunisia Friday, urging the sides to remain calm and the government to
move toward an open and democratic system.The office of Saudi King Abdullah confirmed early Saturday that
ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his family had landed in
Saudi Arabia, after several hours of mystery over his whereabouts. "As a
result of the Saudi kingdom's respect for the exceptional circumstances
the Tunisian people are going through, and with its wish for peace and
security to return to the people of Tunisia, we have welcomed" him, the
Obama called on
Tunisian authorities “to respect human rights, and to hold free and fair
elections in the near future that reflect the true will and aspirations
of the Tunisian people.”
Tunisia shuts down schools amid unrest
'Tunisian president flees'; PM announces he's taking power
He said the US “stands with the entire
international community in bearing witness to this brave and determined
struggle for the universal rights that we must all uphold, and we will
long remember the images of the Tunisian people seeking to make their
“I applaud the courage and dignity of the Tunisian
people,” he said. “I have no doubt that Tunisia's future will be
brighter if it is guided by the voices of the Tunisian people.”
After 23 years of iron-fisted rule, the president of Tunisia was driven from power Friday by violent protests over soaring unemployment and corruption. Virtually unprecedented in modern Arab history, the populist uprising sent an ominous message to authoritarian governments that dominate the region.
Tunisians buoyant over Ben Ali's ouster faced
uncertainly, however, about what's next for the North African nation.
The country was under the caretaker leadership of the prime minister who
took control, the role of the army in the transition was unknown, and
it was uncertain whether Ben Ali's departure would be enough to restore
The ouster followed the country's largest protests in
generations and weeks of escalating unrest, sparked by one man's suicide
and fueled by social media, cell phones and young people who have seen
relatively little benefit from Tunisia's recent economic growth.
Thousands of demonstrators from all walks of life rejected Ben Ali's
promises of change and mobbed Tunis, the capital, to demand that he
The government said at least 23 people have been killed in
the riots, but opposition members put the death toll at more than three
On Friday, police repeatedly clashed with
protesters, some of whom climbed onto the entrance roof of the dreaded
Interior Ministry, widely believed for years to be a place where the
regime's opponents were tortured.
With clouds of tear gas and
black smoke drifting over the city's whitewashed buildings, Prime
Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi went on state television to announce that
he was assuming power in this North African nation known mostly for its
wide sandy beaches and ancient ruins.
"I take over the
responsibilities temporarily of the leadership of the country at this
difficult time to help restore security," Ghannouchi said in a solemn
statement on state television. "I promise ... to respect the
constitution, to work on reforming economic and social issues with care
and to consult with all sides."
The prime minister, a longtime
ally of the president, suggested that Ben Ali had willingly handed over
control, but the exact circumstances were unclear.
In a string of
last-ditch efforts to tamp down the unrest, Ben Ali dissolved the
government and promised legislative elections within six months — a
pledge that appeared to open at least the possibility of a new
government. Before his removal of power was announced, he declared a
state of emergency, including a curfew that was in effect Friday night
and was to be lifted at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Isolated bursts of
gunfire broke a general quiet in the evening. But overnight, in a sign
that Ben Ali's departure hadn't fully restored calm, plainclothes police
were seen hustling some people off the streets of Tunis: One was
clubbed, another was dragged on the ground.