A decade on, Tunisian demands for change not extinguished

A decade after Bouazizi's self-immolation, Tunisian demands for change not extinguished
2 min read
17 December, 2020
Tunisians in Bouazizi's marginalised hometown, Sidi Bouzid, say they are suffering from the same sorrows as a decade ago.
It is the 10th anniversary of Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation [Getty]
Demands for economic and social development are yet to be satiated in Mohamed Bouazizi's hometown a decade after his self-immolation.

Bouazizi lit himself on fire on December 17, 2010, a desperate act motivated by the constant harassment the street seller faced from Tunisian police.

He died in hospital just over two weeks later, his last act sparking Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution and the subsequent Arab Spring protests that spread like wildfire throughout North Africa and the Middle East.

In Sidi Bouzid, the central Tunisian town where police confiscated Bouazizi's wares, Tunisians are still waiting for economic and social justice a decade later.

Tunisians did not only demand political freedoms in the wake of Bouazizi's death. 

For many the 26-year-old, who was the sole earner for his extended family of eight, represented the thousands of unemployed and marginalised Tunisians facing severe economic hardship who went on to form the backbone of the protest movement that toppled Zine Abedine Ben Ali.

"Nothing has changed," said Turkia, an elderly woman living in Menzel Bouziane, Sidi Bouzid governorate.

Kamal Soleimani, a tree surgeon unable to find work in his field, agreed.

It is as if time has stopped still in Sidi Bouzid, Soleimani told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site.

Article continues under interactive timeline of Arab Spring


Young people are still largely unable to find work in the town, the day labourer explained. The region remains among the areas of Tunisia with the highest levels of unemployment and poverty.

State funds allocated for development projects in the region are rarely implemented on the ground, said Abdel Halim Hamdi, a political activist from Sidi Bouzid. The area has seen little of the promised economic development beyond a few new factories, he added.

For that reason Sidi Bouzid is often one of the first places to turn to protest, Hamdi said.

Noufal Jamali, minister for vocational training and development and a parliamentary deputy for Sidi Bouzid, said the region's problems are not unique.

Most Tunisian provinces continue to suffer from high unemployment and poverty despite promises for development, said Jamali, a member of the Ennahdha party.

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated the already difficult economic situation, the minister added.

Quick reforms need to be made to ensure the people of Sidi Bouzid feel the effects of the revolution on an economic level, Jamali explained.

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