Rally on Avenue Bourguiba in central Tunis shortly after the fall of Ben Ali in January 2011 Photo: Renate Fisseler-Skandrani
The self-immolation of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi on December 17, 2010, in Sidi Bouzid triggered spontaneous mass protests that led to the flight of dictator Ben Ali on January 14, 2011. Immediately, the opposition parties of Nejib Chebbi, Mustapha Ben Jaffar and Ahmed Brahim, which had been gagged under the dictatorship but were legal, turned to the public. Moncef Marzouki, former president of the Tunisian League for Human Rights, Ben Ali’s opponent in previous presidential elections, returned to Tunisia. His Congress for the Republic party was admitted.
A bang for the buck was when Rached Ghannouchi, founder of the moderate Islamic party Ennahda, banned under Ben Ali, returned after 20 years in exile. During the dictatorship, thousands of its sympathizers sat in Tunisian prisons and were tortured. The communist workers’ party "PCOT" of Hammam Hamami, who lived underground for years, also received its license. Human rights activist Sihem Bensedrine returned, and her radio Kalima is now on the air in Tunisia.