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Biography of Leïla BEN ALI

Tunisia > Politics : Leïla BEN ALI

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Born on 20/07/1957 (format : day/month/year)

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Biography :

 Leïla Trabelsi Ben Ali  or" Lady Macbeth "of Tunis born July 20, 1957, is the wife of ousted Tunisian president Zine el-abidine Ben Ali.

 The end of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s iron-fisted, 23-year rule brought joy to many ordinary people in this North African nation – and they were especially elated at the prospect of life without his wife and her rapacious family.

The clan of former first lady Leila Trabelsi, a one-time hairdresser who rose to become Tunisia’s most influential woman, was widely despised as the ultimate symbol of corruption and excess. Leila and her 10 siblings are said to have operated like a mafia, extorting money from shop owners, demanding a stake in businesses large and small, and divvying up plum concessions among themselves.

Their control over the North African country’s economy was vast. The Trabelsi and Ben Ali’s own families were said to have a stake in Tunisian banks and airlines, car dealerships, Internet providers, radio and television stations, industry and big retailers.

Trabelsi was brought up with 10 brothers and sisters  in the heart of the Tunis medina, the daughter of a fruit and nut seller. She was working as a hairdresser when she met her future husband and gave birth to their first daughter while he was married to his first wife.

When Ben Ali took power in 1987 he obtained a divorce and wed Trabelsi, who allegedly set about installing members of her family in positions of power. In the decades that followed the Trabelsi name became synonymous with the corruption that riddled Tunisian society and business, and a byword for shameless greed and excess – a son-in-law reportedly kept pet tigers in his garden, which he fed cuts of prime beef.

"Whether it's cash, services, land, property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali's family is rumored to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants," said a US government cable revealed by WikiLeaks .

Another stated: "Often referred to as a quasi-mafia, an oblique mention of 'the Family' is enough to indicate which family you mean. Seemingly half of the Tunisian business community can claim a Ben Ali connection through marriage, and many of these relations are reported to have made the most of their lineage. Ben Ali's wife, Leila Ben Ali, and her extended family – the Trabelsis – provoke the greatest ire from Tunisians."

Ben Ali and his wife went to Saudi Arabia in January after weeks of violent protests against poverty, repression and corruption. The couple amassed vast riches during their 23 years in power.


Last update : 03/24/2011

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