TUNIS, Tunisia – In the cruise ship brochures, Tunisia is a land of endless sandy beaches, warm Mediterranean waters, ancient ruins and welcoming bazaars.
But behind the postcard-perfect facade, legions of jobless youths who see no future are seething under the iron-fisted leadership of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and worried fathers wonder how they will feed their families. Their despair over Tunisia’s soaring unemployment and rising food prices has fueled more than three weeks of deadly riots, posing the most significant challenge yet to the 74-year-old leader who grabbed power 23 years ago in a bloodless coup.
And what has helped to break the barrier of fear that kept Tunisian anger bottled up for so long? Social networks like Facebook, which have helped organize protests and fuel online rage across this North African nation.