The Tunisian Revolution: Annotated Bibliography, Version 1
The Tunisian Revolution has been compared to the storming of the Bastille and the fall of the Berlin Wall; its repercussions are already being felt in Albania, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Sudan, and Yemen. The head of the Arab League has warned Arab heads of state that they might be next if they don’t clean up their acts. Yet the Tunisian Revolution continues to be grotesquely underreported in the U.S. news media, including the mildly left-leaning media such as MSNBC — and on Firedoglake. Only in the foreign media — especially, and unsurprisingly, Al Jazeera — has it been given the prominence that it must have in our minds if we are to understand what drives events in the world of 2011, and not be eternally surprised by them.
As one step toward rectifying this lamentable state of affairs, I’ve compiled this very preliminary first version of an annotated bibliography on the Tunisian Revolution, comprising 43 items. It makes no pretense to completeness (even with regard to events that have already occurred). Currently the main sources are Al Jazeera and WikiLeaks.
Al Jazeera has a “Spotlight on Tunisia” portal:
as well as a “Spotlight on Algeria” portal to cover unrest there:
The total number of diplomatic cables available through WikiLeaks is enormous, but there are apparently only 10 WikiLeaks cables from the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, all available from the following page:
It is my hope that this annotated bibliography will make it easier for us to give the Tunisian Revolution the level of attention that it deserves. The section on “Repercussions Outside Tunisia”, in particular, will reward close scrutiny.
U.S. involvement with the Ben Ali regime
U.S. Embassy, Tunis. Succession in Tunisia: finding a successor or feet first? [diplomatic cable]. Transmitted 2006 Jan 9. WikiLeaks reference identifier 06TUNIS55. Stockholm, Sweden: WikiLeaks; 2011 Jan 17. Available from: http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2006/01/06TUNIS55.html.
Speculates on Ben Ali’s possible illness and death, as well as possibilities for a successor.
U.S. Embassy, Tunis. President Ben Ali meets with A/S Welch: progress [diplomatic cable]. Transmitted 2008 Mar 3. WikiLeaks reference identifier 08TUNIS193. Stockholm, Sweden: WikiLeaks; 2010 Dec 7. Available from: http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2008/03/08TUNIS193.html.
Documents the close working relationship between the United States and the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia. In one remarkable section, Ben Ali describes the situation in Egypt as “explosive”, and states his belief that the Muslim Brotherhood will eventually take over there; he clearly thinks many other parts of the Arab world are far less stable than Tunisia.
U.S. Embassy, Tunis. Corruption in Tunisia: what’s yours is mine [diplomatic cable]. Transmitted 2008 Jun 23. WikiLeaks reference identifier 08TUNIS679. Stockholm, Sweden: WikiLeaks; 2010 Dec 7. Available from: http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2008/06/08TUNIS679.html.
Describes rampant Tunisian corruption in lurid detail.
U.S. Embassy, Tunis. ICRC: treatment of prisoners in MOI facilities a concern [diplomatic cable]. Transmitted 2009 Jun 18. WikiLeaks reference identifier 09TUNIS399. Stockholm, Sweden: WikiLeaks; 2010 Nov 30. Available from: http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2009/06/09TUNIS399.html.
Documents concerns of the International Red Cross with mistreatment of prisoners held by the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior.
U.S. Embassy, Tunis. Troubled Tunisia: what should we do? [diplomatic cable]. Transmitted 2009 Jul 17. WikiLeaks reference identifier 09TUNIS492. Stockholm, Sweden: WikiLeaks; 2010 Dec 7. Available from: http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2009/07/09TUNIS492.html.
The U.S. Embassy wrings its hands over the corruption and repressive conditions in Tunisia, reaching the inevitable conclusion that the USA has too much at stake to write off the Ben Ali regime.
U.S. Embassy, Tunis. Tunisia: dinner with Sakher El Materi [diplomatic cable]. Transmitted 2009 Jul 27. WikiLeaks reference identifier 09TUNIS516. Stockholm, Sweden: WikiLeaks; 2010 Dec 7. Available from: http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2009/07/09TUNIS516.html.
A vignette of the lifestyle of Ben Ali’s cronies, which in this case included a caged pet tiger.
Parvaz, D. Cable: US knew of corruption. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 16. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/2011116191654327302.html.
Summarizes evidence from WikiLeaks cables that the United States knew of extensive corruption in the government of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but supported him anyway.
Cole, Juan. US ignored Tunisian corruption: diplomatic cables suggest US was aware of deep-rooted corruption among Tunisia’s elite. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 18. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/20111171299907176.html.
Recounts the release of U.S. diplomatic cables via WikiLeaks in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, and their implications for U.S. complicity in the Tunisian regime.
Hill, Evan. US assessed successors in Tunisia: a 2006 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks assessed end of ex-president Ben Ali’s reign and suggested he has cancer. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 18. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/201111891748574125.html.
Recounts U.S. speculation on Ben Ali’s possible illness and death, as well as possibilities for a successor.
History and Chronology of the Tunisian Revolution
Life and death of Mohamed Bouazizi
Tunisian protester dies of burns: Mohamed Bouazizi, the 26-year-old unemployed man whose self-immolation sparked nationwide unrest, dies of severe burns. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 5. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/201115101926215588.html.
Reports the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, as well as early protest activity, including cyberwar. Also gives some background, including the role of the IMF, and U.S. knowledge of the extent of corruption in Tunisia.
Ryan, Yasmine. The tragic life of a street vendor: Al Jazeera travels to the birthplace of Tunisia’s uprising and speaks to Mohamed Bouazizi’s family. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 20. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/01/201111684242518839.html.
Recounts the life and self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi.
War and revolution in cyberspace
Ryan, Yasmine. Tunisia’s bitter cyberwar: Anonymous has joined Tunisian activists to call for end to the government’s stifling of online dissent. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 6. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/01/20111614145839362.html.
Describes extensive Tunisian government censorship and sabotage of news media and dissident websites, and counterattacks by Tunisian dissidents and the hacker group “Anonymous”.
Miladi, Noureddine. Tunisia: a media led revolution? Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 17. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/2011116142317498666.html.
Analyzes the role of social media, electronic communications, the Internet, and cyberwar in the Tunisian Revolution.
Gizbert, Richard. The revolution was not televised … social media helped tell the story of Tunisia’s unrest, but Western news outlets were slow to grasp its significance . Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 22. Listening Post. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/listeningpost/2011/01/2011122103121600656.html.
Describes the role of social media and advanced telecom, including satellite surveillance, in the Tunisian Revolution.
Protests before the departure of Ben Ali
Riots reported in Tunisian city: images posted on social-network sites show police intervening to halt disturbances ignored by national media. Al Jazeera. 2010 Dec 20. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/12/2010122063745828931.html.
Describes the role of social media in circumventing censorship of early protests in Sidi Bouzid, home town of Mohamed Bouazizi.
Protester dies in Tunisia clash: several wounded in Sidi Bouzid as demonstrations against unemployment turn violent. Al Jazeera. 2010 Dec 25. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/12/20101224235824708885.html.
Recounts increasing violence in protests in Sidi Bouzid, including use of Molotov cocktails by protesters, and of gunfire by police.
Randeree, Bilal. Protests continue in Tunisia: clashes erupt between security forces and residents in Sidi Bouzid amid wave of social unrest [text with video]. Al Jazeera. 2010 Dec 26. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/12/2010122682433751904.html.
Recounts the spread of protest from Sidi Bouzid to other towns, and to the capital, Tunis. Also describes the self-electrocution of a protester.
Tunisia struggles to end protests: demonstrations over unemployment and poor living conditions continue despite president’s warnings of reprisals. Al Jazeera. 2010 Dec 29. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/12/20101229122733122341.html.
Describes extreme corruption in Tunisia, and shows a photograph of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali standing at the hospital bedside of the critically burned Mohamed Bouazizi.
Ryan, Yasmine. Another Tunisian protester dies: a protester dies after being shot by police, as activists criticise government repression of protests. Al Jazeera. 2010 Dec 31. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/12/201012317536678834.html.
Recounts the inability of the government to suppress the protests, the dismissal of the regional governor of Sidi Bouzid, and the arrest and torture of lawyers who had spoken out against the repression. Also describes the role of a disparity between high education and poor employment prospects in setting the stage for revolution.
Ryan, Yasmine. Deadly protests continue in Tunisia: UN calls for probe into police crackdown as 11 more deaths are reported in clashes across North African nation. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 13. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/2011113144842312650.html.
Describes street protests, setting of fires, and the activities of Tunisia’s 150,000-strong police force in imposing a curfew and shooting demonstrators.
The interim government after Ben Ali’s departure
Tunisia PM forms ‘unity government’. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 17. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/201111715545105403.html.
Describes the formation of an interim government by Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi after the departure of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Also recounts early criticisms of the interim government as a “masquerade” by opposition leader Moncef Marzouki, on the ground that it was largely composed of members of Ben Ali’s former government. In particular, the interior ministry, which organizes elections, was left under the control of a former supporter of Ben Ali. Islamists also commented that they had not been invited to join the interim government.
Foster, David. Progress or more instability? Hundreds of Tunisians took to the streets refusing to recognise their new unity government . Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 18. Inside Story. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/insidestory/2011/01/20111191373932453.html.
David Foster discusses Mohamed Ghannouchi’s interim government in depth with Tunisian opposition leader Moncef Marzouki and Middle East experts Noureddine Jebnoun and Youcef Bouandel.
Tunisia leaders resign from party: president and prime minister step down from ruling party as several opposition members resign from the new cabinet [text with video]. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 18. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/201111810106847770.html.
Recounts skepticism about the legitimacy of the interim government, and measures taken by the government to appease skeptics. Opposition leader Moncef Marzouki labels the interim government a “masquerade” and is quoted as saying “Tunisia deserved much more.” He also comments: “Ninety dead, four weeks of real revolution, only for it to come to this? A unity government in name only because, in reality, it is made up of members of the party of dictatorship, the CRD.” Accompanying video shows Marzouki arriving in Tunis on his return from years of exile in France, and calling on protesters to avoid violence.
Tunisia’s new government in trouble: within a day of forming a “unity government”, four ministers resign and the PM and president quit the ruling party. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 18. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/2011118194731826312.html.
Describes early negative reactions to the interim government. Opposition leader Moncef Marzouki calls the ruling party a “parasite of the country”, and remarks “It’s a government that isn’t one, they have to leave.”
Bays, James. Hijacking the Tunisian revolution: it was driven by disenfranchised young people, but are professional politicians now trying to take over? . Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 20. Inside Story. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/insidestory/2011/01/2011121165938708665.html.
James Bays discusses the future of the Revolution with three young female Tunisian activists: Fidaa al-Hammami, Haifa Jmour, and Dhouha Bokri. The three women disagree on whether Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi and his interim government can be trusted.
Tunisia cabinet to lift party bans: interim government decides to recognise previously banned parties and adopts an amnesty for all political prisoners. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 20. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/201112014107109184.html.
Describes widespread protests against the interim government, and measures taken by the government to reassure the population that it can be trusted.
Tunisia PM vows to quit after polls: Mohamed Ghannouchi pledges to step down amid fresh protests calling for the departure of all remnants of the old regime [text with video]. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 22. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/20111212306587886.html.
Recounts promises by the interim government’s Prime Minister to hold elections as soon as possible (but without giving a specific schedule), and to leave the political scene after the elections. Accompanying video shows a policewoman joining the protesters and marching with them.
Police join protests in Tunisia: PM’s pledge to quit politics after elections fails to pacify demonstrators demanding dissolution of interim government. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 22. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/2011122133816146515.html.
Describes cases of Tunisian police wearing red armbands and marching with protesters.
Repercussions Outside Tunisia
Whitaker, Brian. This week in the Middle East: Can Tunisian protesters end the ‘Arab malaise’? Will Egypt ever catch the people traffickers? What is a woman’s life worth? [Internet]. Guardian (UK). 2010 Dec 30. Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/30/tunisia-uprising-egypt-hostages.
Describes the Tunisian Revolution as “the biggest, most important and most inspiring story from the Middle East this year” (2010). Remarks on media underreporting of the story.
Andoni, Lamis. The rebirth of Arab activism: how one young Tunisian is emerging as a symbol of disenfranchised and impoverished Arab youth. Al Jazeera. 2010 Dec 31. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2010/12/20101231161958792947.html.
Describes the factors that created the Tunisian Revolution, and their relevance to other Arab nations. Mentions simultaneous protests in Algeria.
Andoni, Lamis. To the tyrants of the Arab world …. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 16. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/2011115135046129936.html.
Compares the 2011 Tunisian Revolution to the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
Foster, David. Tunisia: the seeds of revolution . Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 16. Inside Story. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/insidestory/2011/01/201111693415867722.html.
David Foster leads an in-depth panel discussion of the implications of the Tunisian Revolution with Middle East experts Noureddine Miladi, Abdullah al-Ashal, and John Entelis. Scenes from the revolution are shown in the background, including brutal attempts at police repression of the protests, but also cases of security forces embracing the protesters (sometimes literally).
LeVine, Mark. Tunisia: how the US got it wrong. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 16. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/20111167156465567.html.
Argues that United States policy in the Middle East is based on fundamental misunderstandings of the region, and that the Tunisian Revolution is likely to spread to other Arab countries. Describes related protests in Algeria, Egypt, and Jordan, including chants of “We are next, we are next, Ben Ali tell Mubarak he is next” in Egypt.
Khan, Mohammed. Tunisia’s tide of defiance: as revolutionary zeal engulfs the region, the people must be on their guard against the forces seeking to smother it. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 18. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/20111178151948130.html.
Compares present-day Arab regimes to the former Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe. Warns against possible subversion of the revolution by Western powers, especially by France against the Tunisian Revolution itself.
Sadiki, Larbi. Tunisia: A democratic roadmap. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 18. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/201111895219875257.html.
Compares the Tunisian Revolution to the storming of the Bastille. Draws morals for Tunisia’s own future and for future reform or revolution in other Arab nations.
Arab leaders warned of ‘revolution’: head of Arab League warns regional leaders that recent political upheaval is linked to deteriorating economic situation. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 19. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/01/2011119165427303423.html.
Arab League head Amr Moussa warns 20 Arab leaders, including Egyptian head of state Hosni Mubarak, that “”The Tunisian revolution is not far from us” and “The Arab citizen entered an unprecedented state of anger and frustration.” Also mentions copycat self-immolations in Algeria, Egypt, and Mauritania, and demonstrations in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Oman, Sudan, and Yemen.
Sebastos. The Tunisian Revolution: who’s next? Firedoglake. 2011 Jan 23. Available from: http://my.shadowproof.wpengine.com/sebastos/2011/01/23/the-tunisian-revolution-whos-next/. Cross-posted at Mosquito Cloud: http://mosquitocloud.net/the-tunisian-revolution-whos-next/.
Argues that the Tunisian Revolution is likely to spread to other countries, and will be of lasting historical significance.
Four shot dead in Albania clashes: four people killed and dozens injured in extensive anti-government clashes with police outside PM’s office in Tirana. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 22. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2011/01/201112119754408514.html.
Crowds of over 20,000 people protested corruption and suspicious election results. Prime Minister Sali Berisha compared the Socialist leadership of the protests to Ben Ali, and accused them of contriving “Tunisian scenarios” for Albania.
Albania opposition vows protests: prime minister asks supporters to hold “peace march” following an anti-government demonstration that ended in violence [text with video]. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 22. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2011/01/2011122134433502716.html.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Socialist leader Edi Rama have called for rival demonstrations for and against the government. Amnesty International has called for inquiry into the deaths of protesters.
Downes, Selina. Albania protests turn violent: anti-government demonstrations in the capital Tirana turn violent, resulting in deaths of at least three people . Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 22. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/video/europe/2011/01/20111227022257980.html.
Shows Albanian security forces engaged in violent confrontation with demonstrators.
Algerian democracy rally broken up: several injured as police disperse 300 people who defied a ban and attempted to demonstrate in capital, Algiers. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 22. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/2011122105819527114.html.
Describes demonstrations held in the face of martial law, which has been in place in Algeria since 1992.
Shenker, Jack. Mohamed ElBaradei warns of ‘Tunisia-style explosion’ in Egypt: Mohamed ElBaradei says Egyptians ‘yearning for change’, but draws criticism for refusing to back street-level protests [Internet]. Guardian (UK). 2011 Jan 18. Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/18/mohamed-elbaradei-tunisia-egypt.
Describes the basis for revolutionary discontent in Egypt, plans for street protests, and differences among Egyptian dissidents over the role of street protest in reform.
Yemen protests urge leader’s exit: thousands of students, activists and opposition groups stage anti-president protest at Sanaa University. Al Jazeera. 2011 Jan 23. Available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/01/201112314714887766.html.
Describes how Yemeni demonstrators have called for the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh by chanting “Oh, Ali, join your friend Ben Ali”. Violent clashes with police have occurred. Speculates that Yemen may run out of oil reserves in 10 years.Cross-posted at Mosquito Cloud.