A scoop in good and perfect shape. Eleven years after the departure of former Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the BBC aired on Friday, January 14 the shocking recordings of a plane carrying the deported leader to Saudi Arabia.
Recall that the BBC (Arab Service) said that the phone records obtained by him were examined by experts.
Also, recordings were heard by people who knew the people involved and believed the voices were real, which confirms the authenticity of these audio documents.
Secret audio highlights the frantic last hours of the overthrown Tunisian dictator https://t.co/NgSxeMmdoZ
– BBC News (World) (BCBBCWorld) January 14, 2022
If true, the records provide incredible insights into the change of mind of Ben Ali, who has been in power for the past 48 hours, as he slowly begins to understand the real impact of the protests that rocked his intimidating police state.
+ The Dictator’s Last Calls +
Here are some excerpts from Telephone Communications: Reported by logs
First, a call for a close confidante believed to be Tarak Ben Ammar, a well-known media mogul known for promoting director George Lucas to film the first Star Wars film in Tunisia.
Ben Ali addressed the nation on television in an attempt to stem the tide of mass protests.
It was Ben Ali’s famous speech over and over again that “Fahmtkum …” (I understand you), he told angry protesters in the streets of Tunis.
Recall that economic hardship and widespread discontent over decades of dictatorial rule and corruption erupted a few weeks ago when a young street vendor, Mohamed Poussi, set himself on fire when authorities stopped him from selling goods in the city of CD Poussid.
As a reminder, on January 13, 2011, hundreds of people were killed in protests that now invade the streets of the capital.
But it seems that Ben Ammar is praising Ben Ali.
“You were amazing, this is Ben Ali we’ve been waiting for,” Ben Ammar says in the post.
Ben Ali insults himself, says there is no fluidity in his speech, but his confidant assures him.
“No … this is a historic comeback. You are the man of the people. You speak their language, ”said his friend.
Ben Ammar: “The world is on your side”.
Ben Ali smiles casually. But the speech to the Tunisian people was not enough.
+ The situation changed quickly
The next day, protests escalated, threatening to overthrow the Interior Ministry. Arrangements were made for Ben Ali’s family to leave the country for their own safety – to fly to Saudi Arabia, after which Ben Ali was forced to pick them up, he said.
The contents and time of the following recordings put Ben Ali on this flight:
You can hear him making a series of frantic calls to three people believed to be his defense minister, army chief and close confidante – Kamal Eldeif.
He begins by asking what is believed to be Defense Minister Rita Girira about the underground situation in Tunisia.
Girira informs him that there is now an interim president.
Ben Ali repeats this information three times before answering that he will return to the country “in a few hours”.
He then calls a man he considers a close confidante of the BBC, Kamel Eltife. Ben Ali tells Elitef that the defense minister assured him that events were under control.
Ben Ali: Are you advising me to come back now? ⁇
Eltife correctly corrects this assumption.
“No no no. The situation is changing fast, the army is not enough,” his friend told him.
Ben Ali interrupts him and asks: “Are you advising me to come back now or not?”. He had to repeat the question three more times before Eltife answered correctly.
“Things are not going well,” Eltife finally replied.
+ Pilot abandons Ben Ali and returns to Tunisia
The person we think Ben Ali is the leader of the army is called General Rashid Ammar.
Ammar did not recognize the voice in the line. “I’m the president,” Ben Ali told him.
“Everything is fine,” Ammar reassures him. Ben Ali again asks the same question Eldeif asked: Should he return to Tunisia now? “Wait a minute,” Rashid replied.
“If we see that you can come back, we will let you know, Mr. President,” Ammar told Ben Ali.
He calls his defense minister again and asks if he wants to go home, and this time Girira is so elusive that he tells Ben Ali that ‘his security cannot be guaranteed’.
Shortly after midnight, President Ben Ali’s plane landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He orders the pilot to prepare for the return journey, and he and his family are taken to the guest house of King Faisal Palace.
But the pilot violates that order. He leaves Ben Ali in Saudi Arabia and immediately returns to Tunisia.
Ben Ali, who woke up in Saudi Arabia the next morning, recalled his defense minister. The latter acknowledges that the administration has no control over what happens on the street. He tells Ben Ali that there is even talk of a coup.
+ “We can not guarantee your safety” +
Ben Ali dismisses the idea as an act of “Islamists” before talking about returning home.
Girira: “We can not guarantee your safety”.
Girira now seems to be trying to tell his leader the truth.
“There’s anger in the streets that I can’t describe,” Girira says. He seems to want to be clear with the President, “So you can not say I misled you, the decision is yours.”
Ben Ali is trying to defend his reputation. “What did I do on the street? I exchanged it. ⁇
“I’ll give you the situation, not the explanation,” Girira replied.
In a matter of hours, a new government was formed in Tunisia – a government in which several of the same ministers, including Girira, retained their positions. Ben Ali never returned to his home country in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia until his death in 2019.
Defense Minister Rita Girira and Army chief Rashid Ammar declined to comment on the record when contacted by BBC Arab.
Ben Ali’s insiders, Kamel Eltife and Tarak Ben Ammar, denied that the calls had been made and that Ben Ammar had not tried to reassure the president of his regime. Source: BBC Arabic Service