President Flees as Tunisia Declares State of Emergency

State Media Announces Ban on Gatherings of More than Three People Nationwide

Yesterday’s promise by President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali that he would not run for reelection in 2014 did little to calm the growing popular protests across Tunisia, and with anger of the crumbling economy and increasingly draconian censorship regime rising, Ben Ali fled the nation today, likely putting an end to his 23 year reign.

Shortly after, Prime Minister Ghannouchi declared himself the “interim president” of the nation, and vowed to “respect the constitution” going forward. Before he left, however, Ben Ali declared a State of Emergency, and state media is still warning Tunisians that it is illegal for more than three of them to meet at any given time, and that anyone caught violating the ban will be shot. Ghannouchi gave no indication of whether this would be changed any time soon.

Unrest has been growing in Tunisia since last month. Initially beginning with a young graduate protesting after police shut down the produce stand he opened out of desperation after he couldn’t find a job. The protest caught on amongst the nation’s unemployed, though reports were heavily censored. Finally the government announced the large-scale censorship of the Internet in response to the story getting out to the international community.

As the protests grew, more and more restrictions have been added, to the point where officials orders to police now are to beat or shoot virtually anyone they see. Needless to say, the orders were impractical and the nation is now completely out of the government’s control, with the ever more desperate demands being ignored by protesters, rioters and looters.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.