Mohamed Bouazizi & the Arab Revolts
After being humiliated by state authorities, Mohamed Bouazizi, an unknown street vendor in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouaziz, set himself on fire on December 17, 2010. Just a few weeks before, WikiLeaks published revelations confirming what virtually every Tunisian knew: The regime of Ben Ali was thoroughly corrupt and operated like a mafia family. But the U.S. backed Ben Ali throughout his many years of dictatorial rule. Bouazizi’s action may be comparable to Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Who knew what would follow? In Tunisia, within weeks Ben Ali was toppled. Then Egypt erupted, then Syria and Libya. Impregnable regimes suddenly looked vulnerable. The political landscape of the Middle East had dramatically changed. People came out in the streets in unprecedented numbers. Interview by David Barsamian.
Rami Khouri has reported on the Arab region for decades. He is a senior fellow with the Middle East Initiative at the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School. He was the Founding Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut in 2006-14. He was Executive Editor of the Beirut Daily Star and before that Editor-in-Chief of The Jordan Times. His articles appear in major newspapers around the world.