When A Street Vendor Brings Freedom To Two Nations
The fire that Mohamed Bouazizi set over his own body had burnt thrones of two dictators whose autocratic rules spanned 23 and 30 years respectively, and accorded freedom to people of two nations—first Tunisia and then Egypt.
It all began at Sidi Bouzid, a nondescript small town in Tunisia, in humiliation for a man who had suffered life long indignation at the hand of corrupt public officials, the goons of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country with iron hands for 23-years.
At the age of 10 Mohamed Bouazizi became the provider for his family, selling fresh produce in the local market. His father had died when he was three years old, and he did not have the opportunity to finish school, for there were five younger siblings that he had to take care of. He applied for various jobs, but in a country where unemployment ran in double digits, he could find none. Finally, he improvised to earn a livelihood on his own.
Every day, his journey would begin at the local supermarket where he would fill his wooden cart with fruits and vegetables and then walk two kilometers to the local souk, and nearly everyday, he would be bullied by local police officers. They would often confiscate his scales and his produce, or levy fine for setting up a stall without a permit. Six months prior to his suicide, police had sent him a fine for $280 to his house—the amount was equivalent to two months of his earnings.
"Since he was a child, they were mistreating him. He was used to it," Hajlaoui Jaafer, a close friend of Bouazizi, said. "I saw him humiliated." On December 17, 2010, however, it crossed the limit that Mohamed could endure. That morning, a policewoman sized his vegetable laden cart and proceeded to seize his weighing scales. Bouazizi refused to hand it over; he was slapped by the policewoman, and she pinned him to ground with the help of her colleagues. They wrestled away his weighing scale.
Bouazizi sought justice by going to the local municipality building and asking to meet an official to express his grievances, however, no one would meet him. With frustration pinning him against the wall, Mohamed poured paint fuel over his body, outside the local municipal office, and set himself ablaze.Continued on the next page