Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, also known as Ben Ali or Ezzine, was a Tunisian politician who served as the second president of Tunisia from 1987 to 2011. Born on September 3, 1936, and passing away on September 19, 2019, Ben Ali held various positions in the Tunisian government before assuming the presidency.
In October 1987, Ben Ali was appointed Prime Minister and later took over the presidency in a bloodless coup d'état on November 7, 1987, by declaring the then-president Habib Bourguiba incompetent. He was reelected several times, with significant majorities exceeding 90% of the vote. However, during the Tunisian revolution in 2011, he fled to Saudi Arabia.
Following a month of protests against his rule, Ben Ali and his wife Leïla Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011. The Tunisian government sought his arrest through Interpol, charging him with money laundering and drug trafficking. In absentia, Ben Ali and his wife were sentenced to 35 years in prison in June 2011 on charges of theft and unlawful possession of assets. He faced additional life sentences for inciting violence and murder during protests. Despite the convictions, he never served his sentences and passed away in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in September 2019 at the age of 83 after nearly a decade in exile.
Born into a modest family in 1936, Ben Ali joined the Tunisian resistance against French colonial forces and later became a military officer. He received training in France and the United States before returning to Tunisia. Throughout his military career, he held several positions, including the establishment of the Military Security Department and serving as the General Director of National Security.
In his political career, Ben Ali served as ambassador to Poland and held key positions such as Minister of Defense and Interior Minister. He eventually became Prime Minister in October 1987 before assuming the presidency. His rise to power, known as the "Tunisian revolution," included a bloodless coup d'état and subsequent constitutional conformity.
Ben Ali's presidency was characterized by economic reforms that boosted Tunisia's growth rate and foreign investment. The per capita GDP tripled during his tenure, and Tunisia ranked favorably in economic competitiveness among African countries. However, his regime faced criticisms for human rights violations, including restrictions on freedom of the press and political dissent.
Despite his initial promises of democracy and political reforms, opposition parties faced obstacles in elections, and the press experienced censorship. Ben Ali won consecutive presidential elections by wide margins, often being the sole candidate on the ballot. The Tunisian revolution in 2010-2011 was sparked by protests over unemployment and dissatisfaction with the government.
In response to the protests, Ben Ali declared a state of emergency, dissolved the government, and promised new legislative elections. However, he eventually lost the support of the armed forces and key members of the legislature. As a result, he fled the country, and a caretaker ruling committee was established.
Ben Ali's government was widely criticized for its human rights record, and Tunisia was classified as an authoritarian regime. International human rights organizations condemned his regime for suppressing political rights and interfering with human rights organizations' work.
Despite his economic achievements, Ben Ali's presidency ended with widespread dissatisfaction and a desire for political change in Tunisia. The revolution marked a turning point in the country's history and set the stage for the Arab Spring movement across the region.
Date of Birth: 3rd September, 1936
Time of Birth:
Place of Birth: Hammam Sousse