On this day in 2010, the 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. His extreme act of resistance sparked the Arab Spring.
Bouazizi was driven to his actions by the continuous harassment and humiliation by local authorities. After one municipal officer and her aides had confiscated his wares, Bouazizi, a young man with a university degree but no job, grew so desperate that he saw no other way out but to resort to the ultimate act of resistance: he sacrificed his own life to demand justice for the ones he left behind.
Rioting and demonstrations followed Bouazizi’s self-immolation, which intensified after his death on 4 January 2011. After ten days, mass demonstrations caused the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali to step down, bringing an abrupt end to his 23 years in power.
Bouazizi’s actions sparked the Tunisian Revolution, which in turn inspired the Arab Spring. One year later, rulers had been ousted from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, while civil uprisings had erupted in over a dozen countries.
At the time, these uprisings filled the hearts of millions with hopes for a better future. Today, five years on, the Arab Spring has largely become recognized as a failed revolution that led to the replacement of one dictator with another, caused the eruption of violent conflicts and ignited bloody civil wars that saw fundamentalist organizations gaining strength and establishing their authority.
In spite of this tragic outcome, Mohamed Bouazizi is still widely regarded a hero and symbol of the state oppression that continues to define the everyday experience of so many across the Arab world and beyond.
Source URL — https://roarmag.org/2015/12/17/on-this-day-in-2010-mohamed-bouazizi-set-himself-on-fire/