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Vassar College

Publication Date

Fall 2011


The Kasbah square is large and covered in barbwire. Military men stand on the inside of the fence cradling automatic rifles, joking, chatting, texting on their cell phones. Coming out from the bustle of the souks the square feels tranquil. It is September, seven months since the square became a temporary home to thousands of protestors who demanded the end of oppressive government in Tunisia. It was here that the Tunisian people solidified their revolution, refusing to be appeased by the flight of a figurehead while the tentacles of his regime remained.

Ben Ali ruled Tunisia for twenty-three years. During that time he was successful in amassing a large fortune for himself and his extended family. This was done mostly through corrupt investment of public funds, dolled out to companies owned by those closest to him. While Ben Ali and the Trabelsi family thrived his country slipped deeper and deeper into economic despair. Any investment made to better the lives of his people was confined to the coastal regions, where Tunisia’s Mediterranean beaches became playgrounds for the European upper class. Through the years any attempts made to stand up the regime were met with harsh crackdowns by the dictator’s massive secret police force. The rural interior and southern regions where poverty and unemployment were most widespread became hotbeds of dissent and hatred of the regime. Ben Ali’s control on the media silenced all uprisings, with little word leaking out to the rest of the country.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Inequality and Stratification | Law and Politics | Peace and Conflict Studies | Politics and Social Change


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