In Tunisia, Ben Ali was ‘big brother’

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Borzou Daragahi
Los Angeles Times
January 18, 2011

Reporting from Tunis, Tunisia — He remembers the form. You filled it out to become a “citizen watcher” for the party of Zine el Abidine ben Ali. It meant you would spy. Inform on your friends, your family, the people at work and get paid for it.

Again and again over the years, Ahmad Chebil says, they approached him. They offered him perks and advantageous jobs, home loans and car credit. But each time he refused entreaties to join the president’s Constitutional Democratic Rally, or RCD, its French initials.

He pushed them away because he had read a book in his early teens that explained everything he needed to know about the party and political life of his country: a French translation of “1984,” George Orwell’s dystopian vision of a totalitarian society.

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