NEW YORK – As I try to grasp the full meaning of the Tunisian Revolution and gauge its future, I am looking at my desk, where I have spread two issues of TheNew York Times, both featuring Tunisia on their front pages. The two issues are dated 23 years apart.
The first is a yellowish, wrinkled copy from November 7, 1987. The article beneath the headline, “A Coup is Reported in Tunisia,” reported the fall of Habib Bourguiba, the aging founder of modern Tunisia and a hero of its independence. He had been ousted in the dead of night in a bloodless coup staged by his prime minister, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
In the days that followed, tens of thousands gathered in downtown Tunis to celebrate their deliverance from years of stagnation and uncertainty, caused by Bourguiba’s worsening senility. Ben Ali, the new president, was a hero to most and, in the first years of his rule, deservedly so.
The second front page is from Saturday, January 15, 2011. The headline once again: “President of Tunisia Flees, Capitulating to Protesters.”