In the second installment of The Hunger Games Trilogy, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, lead character Katniss Everdeen claimed, “Every revolution begins with a spark.” On December 17, 2010, 26 year-old Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi was trying to get to market to set up his cart. It was at this time that he was reported to have been stopped and harassed by two police officers who demanded a bribe payment. Seeking relief, his uncle sought assistance from the chief of police, who ordered the police officers to allow Bouazizi to get to work (Fisher). Outraged, a policewoman slapped Mohamed Bouazizi in the face on a stone road in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia and sparked a revolution that revealed long held frustrations in a small North African country, that then spread through an entire region.
Mohamed Bouazizi is another testament to the fact that revolutions are sparked when one person or a group of people say enough, and when enough people hear their cries. Though not the first to protest as he did, the reason we know of Mohamed Bouazizi is because locals succeeded at getting the news to foreign media. Bouazizi’s cousin, Ali, successfully “posted a video of a peaceful protest led by [Bouazizi’s] mother outside the municipality building” on the day of the incident (“How Tunisia’s Revolution Began”). Al Jazeera then found the footage on Facebook. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to see it fall, then the immediate vibrations created by that tree slamming to the ground was felt by no one. Facebook provided people with the opportunity to feel the immediate vibrations from Bouazizi’s fall and to capitalize on the momentum.
Three media outlets that have explored the story of Mohamed Bouazizi are the Guardian, the Washington Post, and Al-Jazeera. Yasmine Ryan of Al-Jazeera has conducted an extensive amount of research of Bouazizi’s life, family, and the events of December 17, 2010. He has written many pieces for Al-Jazeera that gives the reader a peep into the environment that preceded the uprising in Tunisia. From the treatment Bouazizi and other Tunisians received on a regular basis, to the local economy which deprived educated thirty year olds of their dignity due to lack of employment and financial independence. The Guardian newspaper has also published numerous articles which cover Bouazizi’ past, his self immolation, and the effects that that event has had on his family. The Guardian’s Elizabeth Day provided an enormous service when she interview Fedia Hamdi, the policewoman who slapped Bouazizi, first after she was released from prison. There is always two sides to every story and Hamdi’s recollection of the events should be of the utmost importance to those who seek the truth behind what really happened that day in December 2010. Thessa Lageman of al-Jazeera investigated the aftermath of the self-immolation and the effects of Bouazizi’s acts five years after. She reports the improvement (wealth due to foreign interest in Bouazizi’s story) in Bouazizi’s family’s financial standing and the increased threat and scowls they have received from neighbors since.
Roberto J. Pierre is a fourth-year Accounting student from Champlain College in Burlington, Vt.
Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams, Ph.D., Champlain College Faculty Advisor
Beaumont, Peter. “Mohammed Bouazizi: The Dutiful Son Whose Death Changed Tunisia’s Fate.” The Guardian, January 20, 2011, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jan/20/tunisian-fruit-seller-mohammed-bouazizi
Day, Elizabeth. “The Slap That Sparked a Revolution.” The Guardian, May 14, 2011, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/may/15/arab-spring-tunisia-the-slap
Fisher, Marc. “In Tunisia, Act of One Fruit Vendor Sparks Wave of Revolution through Arab World.” Washington Post, March 26, 2011, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-tunisia-act-of-one-fruit-vendor-sparks-wave-of-revolution-through-arab-world/2011/03/16/AFjfsueB_story.html
Lageman, Thessa. “Mohamed Bouazizi: Was the Arab Spring worth Dying For?” – Al Jazeera English, January 3, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/12/mohamed-bouazizi-arab-spring-worth-dying-151228093743375.html
Malsin, Jared. “Why the Arab Spring Has Not Led to Disaster in Tunisia.” Time, December 18, 2015, http://time.com/4154134/arab-spring-tunisia-anniversary/
Rifai, Ryan. “Timeline: Tunisia’s Uprising.” Al Jazeera English, January 23, 2011, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/tunisia/2011/01/201114142223827361.html
Ryan, Yasmine. “How Tunisia’s Revolution Began.” Al Jazeera English, January 26, 2011, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/01/2011126121815985483.htm “The Tragic Life of a Street Vendor.” – Al Jazeera English, January 20, 2011, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/01/201111684242518839.htm