Entering January, the government response has intensified even further, making it almost absurd to continue describing events as protests or even riots. The streets of many cities in Tunisia now resemble battle zones; buildings are burning, stores have been looted and soldiers have been deployed in the suburbs around the namesake capital, Tunis.
The death toll rises daily: on January 12 alone, thirteen Tunisian civilians were killed by police bullets. Eyewitness reports and amateur video coming out of Tunisia attest to police taking up sniper positions on roofs of buildings to purposefully select protestors to shoot. Most strikingly, there are few reports of injuries, suggesting that these shots are meant to kill, not merely frighten. Photos of the deceased, with their neat, single bullet wounds, usually to the head or chest, seem to support this contention.
In light of the rising number of civilian deaths, the Tunisian activists' sites took on a new tone and focus, moving from Internet freedom to freedom from what they perceived to be government oppression and police violence. Now it is war. Tunisian flags dripping with blood have replaced profile pictures and the word "revolution" has begun appearing on blogs and Facebook pages along with calls for the immediate removal of Ben Ali. Ordinary Tunisian Facebook members are flocking to such sites, including the Facebook page, Revolution Tunisienne, swelling its following to well over 8000 as this writing.
In a televised speech Thursday, Ben Ali announced that he has ordered his forces to stop shooting civilians. This is an incongruous statement since the government has consistently maintained that its forces have not shot civilians and that there is no proof of civilian deaths linked to peaceful protests.
Just hours after his announcement , however, there is still evidence of police harassment of civilians. According to Wahid Soukadine, a shopkeeper in Hammamet, the police stopped him as he walked to the mosque to pray yesterday evening. Having witnessed the burning of most banks, the general store, the post office today , as well as having three civilians shot dead in his town two days ago, Soukadine pretended not to hear the call to stop. Without further warning, he says, "They shot at me and, thank God, missed. I ran as fast as I could and don't know if anyone else was hit."
Other reports posted on Facebook overnight claim that the killing has not stopped. On "Tunisian Riots: English Information", a Facebook member reports:
"SkanderMzah from the emergency room at La Rabta [hospital in Tunis]: one killing by dismemberment, 3 dead and about twenty serious injuries, among them adolescents. I'm outraged by the savagery..."
of this hunt, a veritable hunt, for there have
been victims chased to the doors of their houses while others, amongst them a
child (now at the Ben Arous Hospital) who was standing outside the door, and
another still, shot in the heart. At Ben Arous [hospital]: all the surgical
units are full; we saw injured people with a bullet between the eyes or in the
carotid artery [artery that supplies head and neck with blood] The Ben Arous
personnel are slammed with patients.
Tifo Ladhar: Today was the worst experience of my life. I saw innocents die from shots by the police. The wounded arrived one by one and all this for a pathetic show that no one believed. Unfortunate people!Walid Ibn Essaied: Today; Mahmoud Matri Arina emergency roomWith my own eyes: a 17 year old! A bullet in the left femur with a displaced fracture. Beaten like a dog for an hour. The police forced him into the bathroom and urinated on him. Worse yet, people are cheering for Ben Ali as if it weren't he who's responsible! As of this moment, Tunisian protesters continue to fight in the streets, and Tunisian cyber activists continue their unique fight from their computers, exchanging information on an almost minute by minute basis, not only with their fellow Tunisians, but also with the rest of the world, in the hope that while they have not won the battles in the streets of Tunisia, they might at least win the attention of the world.
Perhaps they will triumph indeed; as I complete this documentation, I have learned that Ben Ali has fled the country leaving the Prime Minister in charge. The first real Facebook revolution might be complete before the broadcast news agencies even begin to properly report on its beginnings.
Facebook page: Tunisian Riots: English Information
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