Bloomberg reports: Two years after he set himself on fire, Mohamed Bouazizi remains history’s most famous fruit vendor. Like many enterprising Tunisians, Bouazizi, 26, was subject to constant fines of as much as 10 times his daily earnings as he tried to make a living on the streets of Sidi Bouzid. After his scale and cart were seized on Dec. 17, 2010, he doused himself with a liter of paint solvent while standing in front of the provincial governor’s office. A flick of a lighter and …
What then? Tunisia’s revolution and the Arab Spring that followed created a list of dead, imprisoned, or exiled autocrats—including Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, and Tunisia’s own Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. (Syria’s Bashar Assad hangs on, brutally.) But hope and vengeance are very different from progress, as Ben Ali’s successor as president, the physician and ex-opposition leader Moncef Marzouki, has discovered.
On Dec. 17, 2012, Marzouki went to Sidi Bouzid to commemorate the man and the moment that began all the changes in the region, only to be greeted by angry chants of “Leave! Leave!” When he told the crowd he lacked a “magic wand” to cure Tunisia’s ills, the response was a hailstorm of rocks and tomatoes. Marzouki had to be hustled into a car and sped away from the stage.
“Nothing has changed, and that’s the sad reality,” says Mohamed Amri, a close friend of the Bouazizi family. Unemployment is officially 18 percent, but a September study published by the Middle East Economic Association says about 50 percent of young Tunisians with higher education are without work. At 33, Amri is unemployed and relies on an allowance from his father to cover soaring food and living costs. “I feel like I need to be optimistic, but in the end, I’m pessimistic.” [Continue reading…]