On this day, 10 years ago, a Tunisian fruit and vegetable vendor set himself on fire in the town of Sidi Bouzid and triggered the Arab Spring. His cousin, Ali, reflects on that day and the days that followed.
“17 December 2010 would have been a normal day if the local press and people hadn’t been here,” says Ali Bouazizi. “The fact they decided to stop being afraid of the government changed everything.”
It is 9pm and Ali, who is now 48 years old, has just returned home from work in his mini-market in Sidi Bouzid, a small town in the centre of Tunisia.
Ali Bouazizi at his supermarket, Al-Jasmin, in the centre of Sidi Bouzid [Thessa Lageman/Al Jazeera]
He used to see his cousin, Mohamed, almost daily, as the 26-year-old often helped out in Ali’s shop.
“I was very fond of him,” he says. “He was a good person. His only problem was that he would get angry quickly and couldn’t see reason anymore.”
‘I can’t breathe anymore’
When Mohamed was younger, people called him Basbous, which Ali translates as “someone who makes jokes”.
“He used to be a funny guy who laughed a lot,” he recalls. “But in the last years of his life, he’d lost his sense of humour because of the daily stress he experienced.”
Mohamed’s father worked in Libya, but died of heart failure when his son was just three years old, Ali explains. So, from an early age, Mohamed supported his mother and six siblings.
“Every day, he took his cart to the wholesale market at midnight to buy fruit and vegetables, which he would sell from early the next morning until evening,” he recalls.
Mohamed Bouazizi on the Post Office in Sidi Bouzid. The text reads: "The revolution of liberty and dignity, 17 December 2010-The martyr". Photo Angus Mcdowall/Reuters