On December 17, a street vendor set himself on fire in a square in Sidi Bouzid, south of Tunisia, to protest the livelihood conditions and voice anger against authorities. As we were told, the tragedy of the young man Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation –we were also told that the direct reason behind his suicide was a policeman’s slap – sparked the Jasmine Revolution, as it was described in Tunisia, and the rest is known.
A few days ago, a young Tunisian man identified as Abderrazak Zorgui who works as a photographer in a private television channel set himself on fire in the city of Kasserine, in west central Tunisia, to protest what the poor Bouazizi protested before him. Friends of Zorgui, who died of his injuries, said Zorgui had social problems which impacted his psychological condition and made him set himself on fire.
The question is why hasn’t Zorgui’s self-immolation led to the same result as Bouazizi’s?
Interpreting major political coups using a single excuse, let alone a naive one, is a deceitful and incomplete explanation. It’s not enough for people to protest or for someone to set himself on fire in front of everyone in order for the situation to entirely changeMashari Althaydi
Not the right solution
Back then, we were told that Bouazizi’s suicide was the reason behind ousting Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime as the Tunisians were angry of the miserable conditions that made the young poor man who was humiliated by the policeman’s slap and insult (it later turned out that this story with the policeman is fake) set himself on fire.
This anger was translated into a revolution and a new constitution and the iron president Zine El Abidine fled. Ennahda Movement, which blessed and participated in the Tunisians’ revolution, is part of the authority, and other revolutionaries from other movements are also part of the authority. Despite that, nothing has changed to prevent a young Tunisian from setting himself on fire, and this time the young man is perhaps more mature and educated than the street vendor.
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Interpreting major political coups using a single excuse, let alone a naive one, is a deceitful and incomplete explanation. It’s not enough for people to protest or for someone to set himself on fire in front of everyone in order for the situation to entirely change. Tunisia’s economic and political situation will not be suddenly repaired if people flow into the streets, tear photos apart and chant demanding the fall of the regime.
The path to change goes through a difficult course with many miles and stops and requires mobilizing all efforts. Yes, it needs patience to change the identity of the economy, stimulate production, attract foreign investment, achieve public serenity, hold accountable the corrupt and “besiege” corruption in the harshest ways possible. Other “fiery” solutions are nothing more than a flaming torch that is quickly put out via the truth.
May God have mercy on Bouazizi and on Zorgui but repairing the Tunisian situation lies somewhere else and it’s neither in the street vendor’s cart nor in the desperate photographer’s camera.
Does all this raise the question about the truth of what happened and what was interpreted in Tunisia during the Arab Spring?
This article is also available in Arabic.
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.
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