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.

Turkey considering quitting treaty on violence against women

Updated 06 August 2020

Turkey considering quitting treaty on violence against women

  • The AKP will decide in the next week whether to initiate legal steps to pull out of the accord

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party is considering whether to pull Turkey out of an international accord designed to protect women, party officials said, alarming campaigners who see the pact as key to combating rising domestic violence.

The officials said the AKP is set to decide by next week whether to withdraw from the deal, just weeks after the vicious murder of a woman by an ex-boyfriend reignited a row over how to curb violence against women.

Despite signing the Council of Europe accord in 2011, pledging to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and promote equality, Turkey saw 474 femicides last year, double the number seen in 2011, according to a group which monitors murders of women.

Many conservatives in Turkey say the pact, ironically forged in Istanbul, encourages violence by undermining family structures. Their opponents argue that the deal, and legislation approved in its wake, need to be implemented more stringently. The row reaches not just within Erdogan’s AKP but even his own family, with two of his children involved in groups on either side of the debate about the Istanbul Convention.

The AKP will decide in the next week whether to initiate legal steps to pull out of the accord, a senior party official told Reuters.

“There is a small majority (in the party) who argue it is right to withdraw,” said the official, who argued however that abandoning the agreement when violence against women was on the rise would send the wrong signals.

Another AKP official argued on the contrary that the way to reduce the violence was to withdraw, adding that a decision would be reached next week. The argument crystallized last month around the brutal killing of Pinar Gultekin, 27, a student in the southwestern province of Mugla, who was strangled, burned and dumped in a barrel — the latest in a growing number of women killed by men in Turkey.

Opponents of the accord say it is part of the problem because it undermines traditional values which protect society.

“It is our religion which determines our fundamental values, our view of the family,” said the Turkish Youth Foundation, whose advisory board includes the president’s son Bilal Erdogan. It called for Turkey to withdraw from the accord.

“This would really break Turkey away from the civilized world and the consequences may be very severe,” Gamze Tascier, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, told Reuters.

The Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), of which Erdogan’s daughter Sumeyye is deputy chairwoman, rejects that argument. “We can no longer talk about ‘family’... in a relationship where one side is oppressed and subject to violence,” KADEM said.

Many conservatives are also hostile to the principle of gender equality in the Istanbul Convention and see it as promoting homosexuality, given its principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Critics of the bid to withdraw from the pact say it would put Turkey further out of step with the values of the EU, which it has sought to join for decades.

“This would really break Turkey away from the civilized world and the consequences may be very severe,” Gamze Tascier, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, told Reuters.

Turkey would not be the first country to move toward ditching the accord. Poland’s highest court is to scrutinize the pact after a Cabinet member said Warsaw should quit the treaty which the nationalist government considers too liberal.

Turkish women’s groups were set to protest on Wednesday to demand better implementation of the accord, taking to the streets after an online campaign in the wake of Gultekin’s killing where they shared black-and-white selfies on Instagram.

Turkey does not keep official statistics on femicide. World Health Organization data has shown 38 percent of women in Turkey are subject to violence from a partner in their lifetime, compared to about 25 percent in Europe.

The government has taken measures such as tagging individuals known to resort to violence and creating a smartphone app for women to alert police, which has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.