The spark that lit the tinder was a series of what began as peaceful protests followed by disproportionate – and uneven – countermeasures by the Tunisian government. Protests began after the public self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor left destitute after harassment by local authorities. Early media coverage was stifled and word of the protests leaked out through social networks and satellite television. Tunisian authorities reacted violently, then backpedaled and granted elaborate concessions (for example Pres. Ben Ali visited Bouazizi in his hospital bed shortly before the latter died and former fled.) The government seemed weak, arbitrary and cruel. People quickly lost confidence.
January 31, 2011