Mohamed Bouazizi was a 26-year-old Tunisian with a computer science degree.
Like millions of angry and desperate Tunisians, he faced the unpleasant combination of poor employment prospects and food inflation. Moreover, the Tunisian government was seen as corrupt and authoritarian.
By December 17, resentment against authorities has been brewing for a while.
To make ends meet, the unemployed Bouazizi sold fruits and vegetables from a cart in his rural town of Sidi Bouzid, located 160 miles from the country’s capital Tunis. He did not have a license to sell, but it was his sole source of income.
On December 17, authorities confiscated his produce and allegedly slapped his face.
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Bouazizi became incensed.
He then drenched himself in gasoline and set himself on fire outside the governor’s office. Bouazizi survived his initial suicide attempt. After being transported to a hospital near Tunis, he was visited by President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali before passing away on January 4.
After his suicide attempt, unrest broke out in Sidi Bouzid. The police cracked down on the protestors, which only fueled the movement. The revolt eventually spread to the capital city.
On January 14, the masses of protestors prevailed as President Ben Ali fled the country amid escalating violence and opposition.
During Bouazizi’s funeral, Agence France Presse reported that marchers chanted “farewell, Mohamed, we will avenge you. We weep for you today, we will make those who caused your death weep.”
Correction: Bouazizi was not a college graduate, according to more update-to-date sources.