Tunisia’s Ben Ali: The Dictator’s Last Calls – BBC Africa

In exclusive, never heard before recordings believed to be of former Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, BBC News Arabic reveals the anxious telephone calls that helped seal the fate of his 23-year dictatorship and spark a wave of revolutions across the Middle East.

The recordings, which are strongly disputed by some, appear to show that, as protests rocked his feared police state, the president’s closest aides urged him to stay away from the country.

‘The Dictator’s Last Calls’ uses animation to recreate the last hours of President Ben Ali’s rule as he made a dramatic flight to Saudi Arabia to take his family to safety while demonstrators overran the streets.

There has been speculation over the events that led President Ben Ali to flee Tunisia and these calls shed light on how his rule finally ended.

The BBC has had the recordings forensically analysed by audio experts who found no evidence of tampering or manipulation.

We have also played these recordings to people who know the individuals concerned. They believe the voices to be genuine, further supporting the authenticity of the recordings.

00:00 – Introduction
02:24 – Tarak Ben Ammar
05:21 – Ridha Grira
06:59 – Saudi Arabia
08:19 – Kamal Eltaief
09:23 – General Rachid Ammar
10:25 – Ridha Grira
12:17 – Ridha Grira
14:25 – Post script and responses

Produced and Directed by Emir Nader; Animation by Jasmine Bonshor and Ismail Moneer; Executive Producer, Mustafa Khalili; Edited by Bettina Waked and Carole Bertinet; Digital Impact Producer, Janay Boulos.


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    1. Why is no one questioning the sources of the recordings?

      I think it is extremely suspect, the British intelligence must have spied on the communication network between the president and all his associates , which is very concerning..

    2. British Propaganda Channel

    3. I wonder how Tunisia is after 10 years. Any Tunisian willing to share how the situation was by 2020?

    4. حكموا كأشباه الأسود و غادروا كالكلاب

    5. His generals knew it was bad….their men told them flat out we will kill you if you start killing more ppl

    6. This Allah ho arkbar shits gotta stop. Makes them look like fanatics.

    7. Damn, that was intense. I think he got played and the pilot was told to leave the family in saudi arabia.

    8. Since that day tunisia has gone to shit

    9. 20 years later Kais said

    10. The pilot.
      What if, he did not "disobey" the president, but was obeying someone who possessed the authority to do so?
      I mean, the Defense Minister and the Interim President could have done things.

    11. it is laughable how to is clear from the phones that it was a coup and the reporter says the protesters won those ediots are not even trying to hide it any more, mybe one day weakiliks is going to reveal who was behind the coup

    12. I would say he had a nice retirement consodering he got away with the loot, and didn't pay for any of his crimes against the people.

    13. terrible translation

    14. Why is the BBC releasing those recordings now and who gave it to them. That is the real question. BBC has always looked down on us Arab and today is no different. Although in all fairness, the quality of their work is rather professional.

    15. I can't wait for the day,the British monarchy is toppled.

    16. Arab countries are in a total lost after they left islam. That’s sad and this will go until the end of the day.

    17. The ​Autumn of the Patriarch

    18. This was the "epicentre" of the whole "arab spring", the wars in Libya, Siria and Yemen are a direct result of this protests being cracked down in the most brutal ways by the pupet dictatorial regimes.

    19. Who's that Saudis official on the phone?

    20. Interesting nothing about the failures of “democracy” in the country now. Where is the full reporting about the people who now yearn for ben Ali days

    21. Nobody:
      Him: SHalL I wAit oR coMe noW??

    22. Guess who is the next dictator?💀 Teodoro

    23. And the viscious cycle of stupidity goes on, African dictators never learn those assols

    24. when P.O.W.E.R slips out of the palm.

    25. The more I listen, the more like there was a soft coup in effect. They may not have originally planned it. But they did use the protests to their maximum benefit. Either that, or thar all Tunisians including those in his inner circle despise him n grateful for him to leave.

    26. China should colonize Tunisia and take over.

    27. In facht seeing such a documentation by a foreign country but not by my homeland tunisia is ashaming. We are left behind in every matter. Tunis bil Tuali!

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