Mohammed Bouazizi was a 26-year-old Tunisian man, a vegetable seller and the legend that caused the downfall of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, and sparked the Arab spring, the downfall of many Arab dictators.
He was the only source of income his family had, and struggled to make a living by selling produce, even with harassment from the corrupt police forces, that would demand bribes to let him be.
On December 17th 2010, Bouazizi was working on the streets of his town, Sidi Bouzid, when he had his unlicensed vegetable cart and its contents promptly confiscated by a female police officer. He offered her the equivalent of 7 US dollars to pay the fine, but she refused him and allegedly slapped the poor man, spat on his face, and insulted his dead father.
With spirits crushed and feeling extremely humiliated, Bouazizi traveled to the provincial headquarters, requested to speak with a municipal officer, and was refused entry. After hours of waiting, he stood in front of the big fancy building, screamed “How do you expect me to make a living?” ,doused himself with petrol, and then lit himself on fire.
Protests began in Sidi Bouzid just hours later. The sight of a man using his body to symbolize his anger touched the Tunisian people, and the message spread across the country. The peaceful citizens of central Tunisia, began to protest their outrage. The dictator Ben Ali then turned to his police force, and began to attack his own people. Facebook pictures of officials killing civilians spread across the land, and many more Tunisians started to protest.
Ben Ali then visited Bouazizi, hoping that would calm his people. On January 4th 2011, Bouazizi passed away. Word spread all over Facebook to protest heavily, and virtually the entire population of Tunisia took to the streets, shouting “Dégagé” – get out – to their dictator. Many believed that the army was to attack, but they stood strong; to their surprise, Ben Ali panicked and fled to Saudia Arabia. It was done. The nationwide effort to overthrow a dictator had succeeded, and inspired neighbouring countries to do the same.