Friday, January 14, 2011
Population: 10.4 million (UN, 2010)
Area: 164,150 sq km (63,378 sq miles)
Major languages: Arabic (official); French
Major religion: Islam
Life expectancy: 73 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Tunisian dinar (TD) = 1,000 millimes
Main exports: Agricultural products, textiles, oil
GNI per capita: US $3,720 (World Bank, 2009)
circa 1100 BC - Phoenicians settle the north African coast. The city of Carthage, near the site of present-day Tunis, becomes a naval power.
146 BC - Carthage falls to the Romans.
439 AD - Vandals invade; Roman buildings and artefacts are destroyed.
600s - Arabs conquer the territory of present-day Tunisia.
909 - Berbers wrest the region from the Arabs.
1600s - Tunisia becomes part of the Turkish Ottoman empire, but has a high degree of autonomy.
1800s - French and Turkish designs on Tunisia force it to tread a careful path.
1881 - French troops occupy Tunis. France controls economic and foreign affairs; Tunisia is a French protectorate from 1883.
1934 - Habib Bourguiba founds the pro-independence Neo-Dustour Party
1942 - World War II: German troops arrive to resist allied forces in Algeria. Allied forces drive German, Italian troops out in 1943.
1956 20 March - Tunisia becomes independent with Bourguiba as prime minister.
1957 - The monarchy is abolished and Tunisia becomes a republic.
1961 - Tunisia says French forces must leave their base in Bizerte. Fighting breaks out. France pulls out of Bizerte in 1963, after long-running talks.
1981 - First multi-party parliamentary elections since independence. President Bourguiba's party wins by a landslide.
1985 - Israel raids Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) HQ in Tunis; 60 people are killed. The raid is in response to the killing by the PLO of three Israeli tourists in Cyprus.
1987 - Bloodless palace coup: Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has President Bourguiba declared mentally unfit to rule and takes power himself.
2000 - Obituary - Habib Bourguiba
1989 - Ben Ali wins presidential elections, and is re-elected in 1994. He is uncontested in both polls.
1999 - First multi-party presidential elections; Ben Ali wins a third term.
2000 April - Habib Bourguiba, the founding father of independent Tunisia, dies.
2002 April - 19 people - 11 of them German tourists - are killed in a bomb explosion at a synagogue in the resort of Djerba; Al-Qaeda claims responsibility.
2002 May - President Ben Ali wins a referendum on constitutional changes, paving the way for his fourth term.
2002 September - Jailed leader of Communist Workers' Party, Hamma Hammami, is freed on health grounds. He had been accused of being in an illegal organisation and of inciting rebellion.
2004 October - President Ben Ali wins a fourth term with 94% of the vote.
2005 July - Parliament introduces an upper house - the Chamber of Councillors - which is dominated by the ruling party.
2005 November - Tunisia hosts a UN conference on the global information society. Authorities deny that police have harassed journalists and other delegates.
2006 - October - Authorities launch a campaign against the Islamic headscarves worn by some women.
2006 December - The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party, elects a woman as leader - a first for Tunisia. She is May Eljeribi.
2007 January - Islamist militants and security forces clash in Tunis. Twelve people are killed. Interior Minister Rafik Belhadj Kacem says the Salafist militants had come from Algeria.
2009 February - French court sentences German convert to Islam to 18 years over attack on Djerba synagogue in 2002. Walid Nouar, brother of suicide bomber, got 12 years for his part in al-Qaeda attack.
2009 July - Police charge nine men, including two air-force officers, with plotting to kill US servicemen during joint military exercises.
2009 October - President Ben Ali wins a fifth term in office.
2009 November - Taoufik Ben Brik, a journalist critical of the president, is jailed for assault. Rights groups say the case is politically motivated.
2010 July - Appeals court upholds prison sentence imposed on journalist Fahem Boukadous over his coverage of violent protests.
2010 December - Protests break out over unemployment and political restrictions, and spread nationwide.
2011 January - Protests continue, with demonstrators saying police killed at least 50 people in attempting to suppress dissent. The government blames Islamist and left-wing "extremists" and says 21 people were killed. The authorities close schools and universities and deploy the army in Tunis to contain the protests, but also promise economic and social reforms. President Ben Ali sacks interior minister Rafik Belhaj Kacem, orders the release of most protestors and sets up special committee to investigate corruption.
French colonial rule ended in 1956, and Tunisia was led for three decades by Habib Bourguiba, who advanced secular ideas. These included emancipation for women - women's rights in Tunisia are among the most advanced in the Arab world - the abolition of polygamy and compulsory free education.
Politics: Tunisia has been relatively stable and prosperous under the leadership of President Ben Ali since 1987; human rights groups criticise the suppression of dissent
Economy: The diverse economy has grown steadily and the slum population has halved, but the world recession has pushed unemployment up in recent years
International: Tunisia has strong ties with the European Union; its peacekeepers have served in several conflict areas
Mr Bourguiba insisted on an anti-Islamic fundamentalist line, while increasing his own powers to become a virtual dictator.
In 1987 he was dismissed on grounds of senility and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali became president. He continued with a hard line against Islamic extremists, but inherited an economically-stable country.
Although Tunisia has introduced some press freedoms and has freed a number of political prisoners, human rights groups say the authorities tolerate no dissent, harassing government critics and rights activists.
Mr Ben Ali faced reproach at home and abroad for his party's three "99.9%" election wins. The opposition condemned changes to the constitution which allowed him to run for re-election in 2004, and in 2009.
Tunisia is more prosperous than its neighbours and has strong trade links with Europe. Agriculture employs a large part of the workforce, and dates and olives are cultivated in the drier regions. Millions of European tourists flock to Tunisian resorts every year.
Political violence was rare until recently, but militant Islamists have become an issue of concern for the authorities. A suicide bomb attack on an historic synagogue in the resort of Djerba in 2002 killed 21 people and led to a dramatic drop in tourist numbers.
A dozen suspected Islamists were killed in shoot-outs with security forces in and around Tunis at the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007. Lawyers say hundreds of people were arrested on suspicion of links with terrorist groups since 2003, when the authorities gained new powers of arrest.
Violent repression of protests over unemployment and lack of political freedom in the winter of 2010-2011 left tens of people dead and prompted the government to pledge reforms, although it blamed the demonstrations on Islamist and left-wing "extremists".