Who Exactly is Mohammed Bouazizi?
He is the spark that lit up the entire middle east on fire. And the fire is still raging on.
Those of you who have been tracking the current situation in the middle east may have an idea of who Mohammed Bouazazi is. For those of you who don’t know who exactly is Mohammed Bouazizi, he is the reason why the entire middle east has flared up in protest. He was the beginning of the Jasmine revolution.
Bouazizi was born on March 29 1984 in a village in Tunisia called Sidi Bouzid. His father was a construction worker in Libya and he passed away when Bouazazi was 3. Bouazazi studied in a one-room country school in another village 12 miles away from Sidi Bouzid.
At the age of 10, Bouazazi left all his studies in order to support his family, which included 6 siblings. He fed his family by selling vegetables from a cart in his village. Villagers knew him well, saying that Bouazazi was an honest person and was very helpful. He would give free fruit and vegetables to the poor.
Till then, Mohammed Bouazazi was a normal person, living a very normal life and earning around $140 a month selling fruits and vegetables from his cart in Sidi Bouzid. Friends and family of Mohammed Bouazizi claim that the local police and municipality officials harassed Bouazizi for years, but Bouazizi had very little choice other than making a living out of selling vegetables from his cart.
December 17 was the day when Mohammed Bouazizi became a hero and an icon from a normal vegetable vendor in a village.
At 8:30 in the morning of December 17, Mohammed began his workday. At 10:30, the local municipal officials came and started harassing him again over the fact that he had no permit to run his cart. There has been a lot of debate over this issue as apparently in Tunisia, street vending is illegal and at the same time, the municipal office in Sidi Bouzid states that no permit is required to sell wares from a cart.
In a country where corruption is rampant and nothing could be done unless you had connections or enough money to bribe officials so that you can continue your work, life was hard for a person like Mohammed Bouazizi. He was a poor man and he didn’t always have money to bribe officials.
On december 17 too, Bouazizi did not have the money to bribe the officials. He had taken vegetables on credit and had just started his day, he obviously wouldn’t have enough to bribe the officers. They threatened to confiscate his wares. But the biggest jolt came in the form of a female officer named Faida Hamdi. It is alleged that she slapped him in public, insulted his dead father and spat on his face. Her aides had beaten him up and swore at him. She toppled his electronic weighing scales and toppled all his produce.
Her gender was what made Bouazizi feel most insulted.
Unable to take such bitter humiliation, Bouazizi went to the regional governor’s office to protest. The governor refused to pay any attention and did not give him audience. Bouazizi had warned him that he would set himself ablaze if he did not pay attention. The governor didn’t budge.
Bouazizi then bought himself a can of gasoline, went in front of the governor’s residence and set himself ablaze, true to his word. Bouazizi did not die. He was taken to hospital in Sidi Bouzid. They weren’t able to treat his severe burns, so he was taken 70 miles away to the city of Sfax.
The government suddenly got interested in this case and got him transferred to a specialized trauma centre in Ben Arous. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali visited him here and promised to take him to France for further treatment. However, nothing of that sort was carried out. Bouazizi died on January 4, 2011.
He was cremated in his village in Sidi Bouzid. 5,000 people attended his funeral and promised to protest this.
The incident had provoked so much condemnation by the people of Tunisia, especially Sidi Bouzid. Protests had started in Sidi Bouzid and had slowly spread to more areas of Tunisia and eventually even the capital in Tunis.
The government had tried very hard to bring the situation under control. They fired Faida Hamdi and the governor and had detained Faida. The police tried breaking up protests, but they failed. The government tried almost everything to get things back in order, but they simply couldn’t. They wanted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his 23 year regime to end right then.
Image via Wikipedia
The protests were successful and Zine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, but not before literally looting the country once again for the last time.
Soon, country after country in the middle east woke up and started protesting. Egypt was the next most successful example. They forced Hosni Mubarak to step down and end his 30 year misrule. Syria, Jordan and Yemen have followed suit. There has been protests everywhere.
The most important thing what Mohammed Bouazizi did was that he had released the pent up frustration which was in the people of the middle east against the various regimes they suffer in. When the dictators and monarchs enjoy in their palaces in the capitals, undertaking foreign trips and enjoying the pleasures of life, the common people suffer abuses. They can’t even question the misrule and don’t have the freedom of speech and expression.
People have hailed Mohammed Bouazizi as a hero all around the middle east and north Africa. There is a square in Tunis which has been renamed as Mohammed Bouazizi square. Film-makers have found him to be a very good subject to make a movie on.
But the most important fact of Mohammed Bouazizi’s life is that he became a part of history not only of Tunisia alone, but of the entire middle east. He represented the common man of the middle east leaving under a despotic rule. His frustrations and worries and problems are what the youth of the middle east face everyday.
Mohammed Bouazizi has left a legacy behind. Mohammed Bouazizi is the one who started it all. Mohammed Bouazizi has changed the entire middle east.
Copyright © 2011 Ashwath Komath