There seems little doubt that the Wikileaks-released cable describing the opulence of now former president Ben Ali's lifestyle played a key part in bringing him down. Here's a fascinating account from a young Tunisian about the series of events:
The internet is blocked, and censored pages are referred to as pages "not found" as if they had never existed. Schoolchildren are exchanging proxies and the word becomes cult: "You got a proxy that works?"
We all know that Leila has tried to sell a Tunisian island, that she wants to close the American school in Tunis to promote her own school as I said, stories are circulating. Over the internet and under the desks, we exchange "La régente de Carthage" [a controversial book about the role of Leila Trabelsi and her family in Tunisia]. We love our country and we want things to change, but there is no organised movement: the tribe is willing, but the leader is missing.
The corruption, the bribes we simply want to leave. We begin to apply to study in France, or Canada. It is cowardice, and we know it. Leaving the country to "the rest of them". We go to France and forget, then come back for the holidays. Tunisia? It is the beaches of Sousse and Hammamet, the nightclubs and restaurants. A giant ClubMed.
(Photo: A video grab shows a fire at a residence said to be owned by a member of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's inner circle. By Clotilde Gourlet/AFP/Getty Images.)