It started with one town. Sidi Bouzid.
It started with one nation. Tunisia.
It started with one day. December 17, 2010.
Mohamed Bouazizi, 26, was an unemployed college graduate. With limited prospects for employment of any kind, he took what he had and bought a fruit cart. It was his only source of income. However, the police was not so understanding when they either fined him due to permits or requested a bribe he couldn’t afford (conflicting reports), they also humiliated him. His cart was confiscated, destroyed before his eyes and in front of his humble customers. When following procedures in making a government complaint went to no avail, ElBouazizi was not able to bare it all. Not knowing simply what to do, ElBouazizi self immolated himself in Sidi Bouzid’s public on December 17, 2010.
ElBouazizi died January 3, 2011.
Tunisia, a tightly run police state in North Africa, has had the same president for almost 25 years. Zine ElAbidine Ben Ali. Ben Ali – who’s first name ironically translates to “the best of the worshipers” – was the nation’s only second president since it’s independence from France. Like other neighboring Arab nations, it’s a given that once one obtains power, they stayed in power for life. Their family & friends reap the benefits while the people struggle to obtain simple basic needs.
After Bouazizi’s self immolation, many of the Tunisian youth asked themselves, “how much longer can they live with such humiliation? When was enough enough?”
Before long, Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks were ablaze with the young people organizing to have their voices heard. They, alongside their elder and younger generations, took to the streets chanting, striking and doing whatever it took to have their voices amplified. Despite the lack of journalistic broadcasts of their demands for their inherited rights and freedom, their voices did not go on deaf ears.
It took 29 days, clashes with police, enforced curfews and support for the world over before Ben Ali finally “understood” and fled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Today, there is an Interpol warrant out for his and his family’s arrest for courroption, theft and crimes against humanity. Protests remain to ensure that Ben Ali’s dictatorship does not continue through his circle still holding on to their government seats.
Before ElBouazizi, there was Khaled Said.
Said, a 28 year old young man of Alexandria, Egypt, was brutally killed by police in public for unknown reasons (conflicting reports have stated that it was either due to Said posting a video online of these same police offices in a corrupt deal after a drug sting or that he defended such an individual these officers were after). Eye witnesses and individuals who tried to intervene state that the police men dragged Said into a residential building lobby where they brutally beat him. Even as he begged them for mercy, the officers banged Said’s head several times against concrete steps, walls & floor of the building. A very graphic picture of Said after the incident can be found here.
Said died on June 6, 2010.
After the story spread across the nation via social media, blogs and the people’s uproar of the well known and feared police’s treatment of Egyptian citizens, authorities finally issued for an investigation of the policemen to take place. They were only charged with unlawful arrest & use of excessive force.
60 percent of Egypt’s population, like Said, are under the age of 35 and have only known one president, Hosni Mubarak. After President Anwar ElSadat’s assassination in 1981, Mubarak was sworn into office. Since then, Egypt has seen a rise in unemployment (now around 45%), extensive censorships and many living on survival mode as poverty reached the millions.
Since his swearing in 1981, Mubarak has put Egypt under an extended emergency law. Under this law persecutions, tortures, beatings, jailing without trail and/or of being taken “وراء الشمس” (“behind the sun” is what Egyptians refer to when one is arrested for unknown reasons and never seen again) was allowed; and the nation lived in fear.
After Said’s death, much of the Egyptian youth asked themselves, “how much longer can we live in such fear? When is enough enough?”
With a few unsuccessful protests, other forms of protests via the internet took place since. The story of ElBouazizi made it beyond the Tunisian borders. The young people of the Arab world watched Tunisia in amazement, mainly via social media, and took notes. (See “Thank You Tunisia” for images)
Ben Ali fled Tunisia on January 14, 2011.
Social media networks were already ablaze with young people of Egypt organizing to have their voices heard as well. A “Day of Rage” was organized to take place on Egypt’s National Police Day for them, alongside their elder and younger generations, take to the streets and do whatever it takes to have their voices as amplified as those of Tunisia’s own.
Egypt was diagnosed with the Jasmine Revolution on January 25, 2011. The rest is history being written.