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Tunisians Mark Revolution Anniversary Peacefully
January 16, 2012

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One year to the day since thousands of Tunisians gathered in the center of their capital city, Tunis, to demand their leader's resignation, the streets were alive with chants of peace.

Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled authoritatively for nearly two decades, left peacefully, creating the first of the so-called "Arab Spring" revolutions. (Ben Ali himself, along his wife, Leila Trabelsi, are still in Saudi Arabia, where they fled a year ago.)

Following in the Tunisians' wake were similar movements in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria. The first two ended with leaders ousted. The last three are still ruled by authoritarians.

Differences still remain in Tunisia. Many people are poor or unemployed, or both.

In Tunis, though, the mood was largely that of happiness, as thousands marched Bourguiba Avenue, scene of the original protests, chanting "Tunisia is free." Under Ben Ali, the Tunisian people suffered little right to speak out against the government, with protesters routinely tortured, thrown in jail for long periods of time, or exiled from the country.

The current president, Moncef Marzouki, was a political prisoner not long ago. He marked the one-year anniversary of the revolution by pardoning 9,000 prisoners and removing the death sentence for 122 others.

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