One year ago today, Tunisian vendor Mohammed Bouazizi decided that it was time to take his life back - if only for a day. After losing his father at an early age, Bouazizi worked hard as a child and began selling produce as a teenager to support his mother and six sisters. In addition to a harsh economic reality, his relatives and friends testified that Bouazizi had endured harassment from government officials.
The alleged slap from Faida Hamdi’s hand remains controversial, but Bouazizi nevertheless paid a visit to Sidi Bouzid’s governor. Promptly declined, he then set himself aflame.
Bouazizi never meant to change the world, but his rejection of a corrupt system inspired a non-violent army of millions to wage their own revolutions. Family members first jumped to his defense, followed by friends and random strangers. His resistance spread through the country and tossed Ben Ali out of power before he was martyred in Ben Arous hospital, before the majority of regional protesters started their own movements. Bouazizi’s defiance through death inspired a living hope in those who face similarly overwhelming conditions.
His very anonymity - the key to his universal appeal - has triggered one of the largest revolutionary waves in organized history.