Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi (Arabic: محمد البوعزيزي; 29 March 1984 – 4 January 2011) was a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, in response to the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that he said was inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides. This act became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolutionand the wider Arab Spring, inciting demonstrations and riots throughout Tunisia in protest of social and political issues in the country. Simmering public anger and sporadic violence intensified following Bouazizi’s death, leading then-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down on 14 January 2011, after 23 years in power.
.. He supported his mother, uncle, and younger siblings, including paying for one of his sisters to attend university, by earning approximately US$140 per month selling produce on the street in Sidi Bouzid
.. A close friend of Bouazizi said he “was a very well-known and popular man [who] would give free fruit and vegetables to very poor families”
.. According to friends and family, local police officers had allegedly targeted and mistreated Bouazizi for years, including during his childhood, regularly confiscating his small wheelbarrow of produce; but Bouazizi had no other way to make a living, so he continued to work as a street vendor. Around 10 p.m. on 16 December 2010, he had contracted approximately US$200 in debt to buy the produce he was to sell the following day. On the morning of 17 December, he started his workday at 8 a.m. Just after 10:30 a.m., the police began harassing him again, ostensibly because he did not have a vendor’s permit
.. Similarly, two of Bouazizi’s siblings accused authorities of attempting to extort money from their brother, and during an interview with Reuters, one of his sisters stated, “What kind of repression do you imagine it takes for a young man to do this? A man who has to feed his family by buying goods on credit when they fine him…and take his goods. In Sidi Bouzid, those with no connections and no money for bribes are humiliated and insulted and not allowed to live.”
.. Bouazizi’s family claims he was publicly humiliated, that a 45-year-old female municipal official, Faida Hamdi, slapped him in the face, spat at him, confiscated his electronic weighing scales, and tossed aside his produce cart. It was also stated that she made a slur against his deceased father. Bouazizi’s family says her sex made his humiliation worse.
.. Faida Hamdi and her brother claimed in interviews that she did not slap Bouazizi or otherwise mistreat him. An eyewitness referred to by Asharq Al-Awsat claimed not to have seen Hamdi slap Bouazizi
Both Bouazizi’s mother and the eyewitness who spoke with Asharq Al-Awsat stated that Hamdi’s aides had kicked and beaten him after confiscating his fruit cart. Faida Hamdi states it might have happened and Asharq Al-Awsat denies it did.
.. Bouazizi, angered by the confrontation, went to the governor’s office to complain and to ask for his scales back. The governor refused to see or listen to him, even after Bouazizi was quoted as saying, “If you don’t see me, I’ll burn myself.” Bouazizi then acquired a can of gasoline from a nearby gas station and returned to the governor’s office. While standing in the middle of traffic, he shouted, “How do you expect me to make a living?” He then doused himself with the gasoline and set himself alight with a match at 11:30 a.m. local time, less than an hour after the altercation.
.. Bouazizi was visited in the hospital by then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. According to Bouazizi’s mother, Ben Ali promised to send him to France for medical treatment, but no such transfer was ever arranged. Bouazizi died at the Ben Arous Burn and Trauma Centre 18 days after the immolation, on 4 January 2011, at 5:30 p.m. local time.
.. According to Bouazizi’s mother, Bouazizi chose to take this action because he had been humiliated, not because of the family’s poverty.“It got to him deep inside, it hurt his pride,” she said, referring to the police harassment
One of Bouazizi’s sisters stated during an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that their family intends to take legal action against all involved, “whether this is the municipal officers that slapped and insulted him, or the mayor [who] refused to meet him.”