Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The tragic life of a street vendor - Features - Al Jazeera English

The tragic life of a street vendor - Features - Al Jazeera English

Six months before his attempted suicide, police sent a fine for 400 dinars ($280) to his house – the equivalent of two months of earnings.

The harassment finally became too much for the young man on December 17.

That morning, it became physical. A policewoman confronted him on the way to market. She returned to take his scales from him, but Bouazizi refused to hand them over. They swore at each other, the policewoman slapped him and, with the help of her colleagues, forced him to the ground.

The officers took away his produce and his scale.

Publically humiliated, Bouazizi tried to seek recourse. He went to the local municipality building and demanded to a meeting with an official.

He was told it would not be possible and that the official was in a meeting.

"It's the type of lie we're used to hearing," said his friend.

Protest of last resort

With no official wiling to hear his grievances, the young man brought paint fuel, returned to the street outside the building, and set himself on fire.

For Mohamed's mother, her son's suicide was motivated not by poverty but because he had been humiliated.

"It got to him deep inside, it hurt his pride," she said, referring to the police's harassment of her son.

The uprising that followed came quick and fast. From Sidi Bouzid it spread to Kasserine, Thala, Menzel Bouzaiene. Tunisians of every age, class and profession joined the revolution.

In the beginning, however, the outrage was intensely personal.

"What really gave fire to the revolution was that Mohamed was a very well-known and popular man. He would give free fruit and vegetables to very poor families," Jaafer said.

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