Many years ago I had a holiday in Tunisia. It was Christmas and in a gesture to European tourists the hotel had garnished potted palms with wads of ‘snow-like’ cotton wool.
I remember warm days, cool nights, and wonderful spicy, fragrant street food.
Although I was very young and holidaying on a shoe string budget, it wasn’t hard to work out that just having the money to take a holiday set us apart from the Tunisians .
Not much seems to have changed several decades later.
Until, that is, the protests and uprising that forced the country’s president to flee to the sanctuary of Saudi Arabia. It remains to be seen how willing the henchmen of Ben Ali are to relinquish power and privilege.
Yet my thoughts keep returning to 26 year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, a graduate who set fire to himself on 17 December.
From what I can gather Bouazizi was scraping a living together selling vegetables from a cart that was confiscated by Tunisian police.
It’s impossible to imagine the despair that leads anyone to take their own life yet it seems he embodied the pent up frustration and anger of many other young Tunisians, including trade unionists who were bearing soaring food prices and inequality while their rulers lived in obscene luxury.
It’s important to remember that Bouazizi is one of many young people whose sacrifice is iconic. Remember the Soweto schoolchildren shot in cold blood by the foot soldiers of apartheid?
And for each a mother mourns. We can only hope that all who have been killed during Tunisia’s uprising have not died in vain.