The 29 days that preceded Ben Ali’s departure from Tunisia

Twenty-nine days were enough to revolutionize the status quo in Tunisia. They saw President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali flee the country after 23 years in office. What started with a jobless young man's self-immolition ended with Ben Ali's flight to Saudi Arabia.

The following is a chronological narration of events:

17 December 2010: 26-year-old Muhammed Bouazizi sets himself ablaze to protest municipality agents' confiscation of his vegetable cart. Authorities had rejected his complaint against a policewoman who slapped him in public.

18-19 December 2010: Clashes between security forces and protestors during demonstrations of solidarity with Bouazizi in the city of Sidi Bu Zeid. The protests were also against unemployment and backwardness in Tunisia.

21 December 2010: Sidi Bu Zeid's protests turn into massive demonstrations in other cities, such as Miknassi, Regueb, Sidi Ali Ben Oan and Manzel Bu Zyan. People demand job opportunities, equality, and and civil and political rights.

24 December 2010: An 18-year-old man is killed and scores wounded in clashes between protestors and security forces in Manzel Bu Zyan, where a peaceful demonstration by nearly 2000 jobless youths turns violent. Protestors attack police stations and the police open fire. The Interior Ministry announces the death of one demonstrator and the wounding of two demonstrators and a number of policemen, two who are in a coma.

25 December 2010: Demonstrations reach Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, where hundreds of citizens demonstrate peacefully downtown, expressing sympathy with the people of Sidi Bu Zeid. They chant "Shame on you government! Prices are on fire," "to work is a human right," "all against tyranny" and “freedom is part of our national dignity."

26 December 2010: Renewed clashes in Sidi Bu Zeid start spreading to new areas, including the city of Souk al-Gedid, 15km south of Sidi Bu Zeid. National Guard members fire into the air to disperse demonstrators, who blockade a post office and burn the Souk al-Gedid governorate headquarters. Violent clashes lasting six hours took place in Regueb city, 37km south east of Sidi Bu Zeid, between police and rioters. Protestors set fire to government offices and smash shops. Demonstrations reach Ben Gardane, near the Tunisia-Libya border.

27 December 2010: Renewed protests in Tunis and other cities, including Sfax and Kairouan. Unionists and students join the protests. Security forces intervene and two protestors commit suicide, one a young man who drowns himself in a well.

28 December 2010: The president gives a speech labelling the rioters a mere "minority of extremists." He promises to continue fighting unemployment, provide job opportunities for new graduates and expand social welfare. He visits Bouazizi in Ben Arous hospital and meets the young man's mother. He also meets the father of Muhamad al-Amari, a protestor shot by police, and the mother of Hasan Ben Nagi, a protestor who committed suicide by grabbing an electric wire.

29 December 2010: Ben Ali reshuffles five cabinet departments: telecommunications, youth, commerce, religious affairs and foreign affairs. He calls a plan to solve the unemployment problem. The president of Libya, Muammar al-Qadhafi, opens a labor market in Libya for Tunisians.

30 December 2010: Security forces prevent protests in Jendouba province in northwest Tunisia, and in the Jabaniana and Gabes provinces in the south. Ben Ali sacks governors of the Sidi Bu Zeid, Jondeya, and Zaghouan governorates. French unions call on the Tunisian government to release detainees and stop suppressing protests.

4 January 2011: Bouazizi dies in hospital.

7 January 2011: Four rioters are wounded in violent clashes with the police at Regueb in Sidi Bu Zeid.

8 January 2011: A campaign begins to recruit 50,000 fresh graduates.

9 January 2011: The Tunisian opposition announces that the death toll from clashes has risen to 25, while the Interior Ministry announces that the number is 14.

10 January 2011: Ben Ali delivers a speech accusing foreign powers and "masked gangs" of causing chaos and disorder in the country, describing the protests as "terrorism." He pledges better conditions for workers and the creation of 300,000 jobs in 2011 and 2012. He calls for early legislative elections with the presence of international observers. The government decides to temporarily close schools and universities. Demonstrations break out in the Kasserine governorate.

11 January 2011: A Tunisian local union member, al-Sadek al-Mahmoudy, says that the death toll of the Kasserine protests has reached 50. Violent clashes break out between demonstrators and security forces in Tunis. For the first time the US expresses its deep concern about excessive use of violence against protestors in Tunisia. The Tunisian Minister of Communication, Samir al-Obeidi, claims that the death toll in the preceding three days is 21.

12 January 2011: Ben Ali dismisses Interior Minister Rafik Belhaj Kassem, and appoints Ahmed Freaa instead. He orders the investigation of certain officials for corruption. Army units spread out over the Tunisian capital. Deadly clashes between demonstrators and security forces break out on Habib Bu Rekeiba, Tunis' main street, and security forces use tear gas to disperse protestors. Freaa imposes a curfew in the governorate of Greater Tunis from 8 PM till 6 AM. Police kill four civilians and a 23-year-old man is killed in clashes in Tala, in southwest Tunis. The Kasserine governorate witnesses violent protests, in which thousands call on the president to step down and leave the country. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls on the Tunisian authorities to immediately start a credible investigation. Hundreds of Tunisians in France stage a protest calling for Ben Ali's resignation.

13 January 2011: Seven protestors die and scores of others are wounded in clashes. Rioters burn and destroy properties that belong to the president's family and close friends amid chaos in the southern and western parts of Tunis. Other violent protests take place in the country, many more deaths. Ben Ali dismisses the presidential spokesperson. He declares that he does not intend to run in presidential elections in 2014. He promises to support democracy and end media and internet censorship. He orders the reduction of prices.

14 January 2011: Ben Ali dissolves parliament and calls for parliamentary elections in 6 months' time, after thousands stage demonstrations near the Interior Ministry, chanting slogans demanding his departure. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds. France calls on Ben Ali to fulfill his promises and to make efforts to restore security. The UK warns its citizens not to travel to Tunisia. Prime Minister Muhamed Ghannouchi announces on state television that he is taking temporary control of the country. Ghannouchi promises to begin discussing political and economic reforms. The US says it is keeping an eye on daily developments in Tunisia and calls on Tunisian authorities to respect human rights. France and Malta announce their refusal to host the fleeing president. Saudi Arabia announces that it is hosting Ben Ali and his family. Some reports say members of his wife's family were arrested at the airport. “The situation in Tunisia is really serious… We will try to avoid more deaths and restore peace,” says German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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