Tunisian blogger claims 'Jasmine Revolution' slogan

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The Independent Culture

A well-known Tunisian journalist told AFP on Monday he was the first to call the wave of protests that ultimately led to the downfall of disgraced leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali a "Jasmine Revolution".

"It's one of the symbols of Tunisia," said Zied El Hani, who works on the foreign desk of the pro-government newspaper Essahafa but was also a popular dissident blogger and media rights campaigner under the now deposed regime.

"Its white colour symbolises the tolerance of Tunisians and its sweet odour smells like Tunisia. It reflects the richness of this country," he said.

Hani wrote a blog post entitled "The Jasmine Revolution" on Thursday - a day before Ben Ali's abrupt resignation after 23 years in power.

It soon went viral among the thousands of Facebook and Twitter users who played a crucial role in spreading the word about the protests.

"These people understand that dignity is more important than bread," read the post on his "Tunisian Journalist" blog.

The blog's web address - journaliste-tunisien-110.blogspot.com - refers to the number of times that it was shut down by Ben Ali's regime.

One of the many restrictions under Ben Ali was on the Internet, with several popular websites blocked by the authorities. Ben Ali lifted those controls last week in a desperate and ultimately futile attempt to cling to power.

The Tunisian Journalist blog is now visible in Tunisia for the first time.

The "Jasmine Revolution" post said the protests in which dozens were reported killed were "extraordinary" because they had not limited their demands to urgent social needs but had widened to call for the fall of Ben Ali.

Addressing itself to all Tunisians, Hani's blog post went on to say: "You are an extraordinary people for having unleashed a revolution whose echoes have reached the four corners of the world."

"Their fatal mistake was thinking that they could rob you and put you on your knees but you smashed that dream," it added, referring to the Ben Ali family - widely reviled for its alleged corruption.

The social movement against unemployment and high cost of living began in Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia after the attempted public suicide on December 17 of a young fruit and vegetable vendor - a university graduate.

Mohamed Bouazizi later died of his injuries and the protests escalated, climaxing in an unprecedented demonstration in central Tunis on Friday in which thousands of people from many walks of life demanded Ben Ali's resignation.

Hours later, Ben Ali resigned and escaped to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia.

Hani has been behind several protests in favour of media freedoms under Ben Ali, including on New Year's Eve when he penetrated the closely-guarded interior ministry in Tunis along with five other journalists.

"We went to deliver a letter of protest to the interior minister whom we considered legally responsible for the attacks on our colleagues and the obstacles to our work," he said.

Hani is also part of a group that has campaigned in favour of free radio stations. The only four private radio stations allowed under the ousted regime belonged to relatives or close allies of the president.

Cyrine Mabrouk, one of Ben Ali's daughters, launched a private radio station in September called Shems ("Sun" in Arabic). Express GM - a business radio station launched in October - belongs to the son of Ben Ali's personal doctor.

Several revolts in recent history have taken on poetic names, starting with the Carnation Revolution against the dictatorship in Portugal in 1974.

There was the Velvet Revolution in the then Czechoslovakia in 1989 and then in the former Soviet Union the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan in 2005.