Fallen Tunisian autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali dies

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Ben Ali and his wife Leila mark the 20th anniversary of Ben Ali's presidency, in Rades, outside Tunis in 2007. (AP)
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Tunisia's President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali waves to supporters after he took the oath at the national assembly in Tunis November 12, 2009. (Reuters)
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Ben Ali welcomes Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat prior to their talks in Tunis in 2001. (AP)
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President Bush shakes hands with Ben Ali in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington in 2004. (AP)
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Former Tunisian President Habib Ben Ali Bourguiba (R) shakes hands with his then prime minister Ben Ali (L) in 1986. (AFP)
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Ben Ali waves to the crowd upon arrival in Rades stadium where he delivered his speech on the 50th anniversary of independence of Tunisia from France in 2006. (AFP)
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Ben Ali (C) is greeted by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak as he arrives at the EU-Mediterranean summit in Paris, July 13, 2008. (Reuters)
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Ben Ali poses for an official picture in front of the Tunisian flag in 1988. (AFP)
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Ben Ali meets Libya's leader Muammar Qaddafi as they pose for a family photo during the third European Union-Africa summit in Tripoli in 2010. (Reuters)
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Children welcome Tunisian President Ben Ali in 2008 as he arrives to a meeting marking the 21st anniversary of his accent to power in Tunis. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2019

Fallen Tunisian autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali dies

  • Ben Ali was the first of several Arab leaders to be driven from power during regional uprisings
  • Ben Ali ruled the North African country from 1987 until 2011

TUNIS: Former Tunisian president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, the first leader to be toppled by the Arab Spring revolts, died on Thursday in Saudi Arabia.
"We had confirmation of his death 30 minutes ago," Tunisia's foreign ministry said, without giving further details.
The 83-year-old's lawyer, Mounir Ben Salha, confirmed the news, citing family members and Ben Ali's doctor.
Ben Ali, who ruled his North African country from 1987 until 2011, was viewed by some as a bulwark against extremism, but faced criticism for muzzling the opposition and his reluctance to embrace democracy.
Eventually, growing frustration over unemployment and high prices snapped.
In late 2010, after a young trader died when he set himself on fire, protests erupted across the country and sparked a deadly clampdown.
Ben Ali fled Tunisia on Jan. 14, 2011 and sought exile in Saudi Arabia.
His rapid departure sparked a string of similar uprisings across the region, toppling Egyptian and Libyan strongmen Hosni Mubarak and Moamer Qaddafi.
The turmoil triggered what was to become Syria's devastating eight-year war.
In mid-2012, Ben Ali was sentenced in absentia to life in jail for his role in the deaths of protesters during the uprising that ousted him.
Ben Ali is survived by six children; three daughters by a first marriage and two daughters and a son by Leila Trabelsi.

Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

Updated 24 min 42 sec ago

Reza Pahlavi, son of Iran’s last shah, says regime is cracking from within

  • ahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani
  • "How long can it possibly be sustained?”

LONDON: The former crown prince of Iran says the regime is cracking from within under the pressure of a wave of fresh protests.

Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah, was just 17 when he fled into exile with his family during the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the monarchy.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said the demonstrations, which have included chants for the royal family to return, show that the current regime may be coming to an end.

“The cracking from within of the system is getting more and more obvious,” he said. “When you look at the circumstances in Iran today, put yourselves in the shoes of the worst-off — how long can it possibly be sustained?”

The protests intensified in November after an increase in fuel prices. Vast crowds demonstrated in cities across the country before the regime cut the internet and killed hundreds of people in a brutal crackdown.

Large numbers returned to the streets this month, angered by the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet by the Iranian military, and Tehran’s initial insistence that it was an accident.

“The protests are very pervasive, in many sectors of society,” Pahlavi, 59, said in Washington where he lives. “They are all over the country. And a new development we haven’t seen before: the so-called silent middle class, which until now were not taking positions, are beginning to speak out.

“I’m not saying this is a guaranteed collapse. But the ingredients that get us closer to that point seem to be more prevailing these days than ever before.”

Pahlavi said he no longer has any desire to return to the throne, despite once being a rallying point for opposition groups after his father died in 1980.

However, he said he believed there could be a new Iran after the fall of the clerical regime and that his role could be as a go-between for the Iranian diaspora, foreign governments and opposition groups inside Iran.

“To the extent that there is a name recognition, I can utilise that,” he said. “I have no ambition of any kind of role or function or title. I’d like to be an advocate for the people. I don’t let any of this go to my head, I’ve been around too long for that.”

Pahlavi strongly backed the US drone strike that killed the powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani “as a breakthrough that is positive for the region.”

He also backs the punishing US sanctions introduced when Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

He said he hopes one day to be able to return to his homeland.