It began when Mohamed Bouazizi, a twenty-six-year-old fruit seller, set himself alight last December 17th in provincial Tunisia. Bouazizi was not demanding fair elections, free speech, equitable wealth distribution, or free medical care. All he wanted was to support his siblings and widowed mother. Selling fruit and vegetables from a barrow in the streets of Sidi Bouzid was the best he could do. The police seized his produce cart, and a policewoman reportedly joined in publicly beating him. The loss of honor and livelihood led to his public suicide, a death that ultimately achieved more than a hundred suicide bombings against innocent civilians ever did. At his funeral, five thousand mourners chanted, “Farewell, Mohamed, we will avenge you.” And avenge him they did, overthrowing the president who had overseen the profound injustice that led to his death and giving hope to the dispossessed everywhere.
Who knew that one young man’s self-immolation would set the Middle East on fire? Tunisia and Egypt’s presidents have fled. Sheikhs in Bahrain and presidents in Algeria and Sudan live in fear of their populations and are answering their demands with violence. The germ of rebellion is infecting monarchies and republics alike. Its force has been felt in American client states such as Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain, but anti-imperial Iran is not immune. Arab states may have been the first affected, but Persian Iran, Kurdish northern Iraq, and Somali-speaking Djibouti are witnessing the same clashes between street demonstrators and security forces that toppled the regimes in Cairo and Tunis. People have, for the moment at least, lost their fear.
“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,” as Wordsworth famously wrote of the French Revolution’s enthusiasts, “But to be young was very heaven!” And heaven it must be for the young in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and everywhere else they are striking fear into their aged and corrupt rulers.
Read the rest on Taki’s Magazine.