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Tunisian celebrates Bouazizi
Tunisian celebrates Bouazizi

Tunisians celebrate Arab Spring Anniversary

(Dp-news - Sana)

TUNISIA- It started with a death in Tunisia, spreading to Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria. But one year on, the youth revolt has gone truly global. It could have easily been overlooked. It was not the first time a young, frustrated Arab had taken desperate action to draw attention to the plight of the marginalised millions. But on this occasion, the news of a suicide went viral.

A year to the day since Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation in a Tunisian town kicked off a year of revolt, the convulsions have spread further than could ever have been imagined: in the depths of a Russian winter, activists are planning their next howl of protest at the Kremlin; in a north American city, a nylon tent stands against a bitter wind; in a Syrian nightmare, a soldier contemplates defection.

Sidi Bouzid is celebrating the first anniversary of the Tunisian uprisings, starting on December 16th, 2011 and continuing until December 19th, 2011. Sidi Bouzid is a southwestern Tunisian town that served as the birthplace of the uprisings that shook the country last winter. The uprisings acted as the first spark in the Arab world to rise up against dictatorship and corruption, ushering in a new chapter in the history of the region.

The committee organizing the first “International Festival of the Revolution of December 17th” held a press conference at the Ibn Rachik Culture Center in Tunis to shed light on the festival’s program. The festival’s aim is to commemorate the outbreak of the Tunisian Revolution in Sidi Bouzid.

Mohamed Jellali, a member of the committe, stressed that the success of the January 14th, 2011 revolution was an outcome of what happened on December 17th, 2010 – when Mohamed Bouazizi, in an act of desperation, set himself ablaze.

The organization of the festival is part of a rehabilitation program of the governorate of Sidi Bouzid – honoring the crucial the role it played in the outbreak of the uprising.

The festival will kick off on December 16th, 2011 with a photographic exhibition of portraits of martyrs and those wounded. The official opening of the festival will take place on December 17th, 2011, and will be marked with the unveiling of a portrait of Mohamed Bouazizi, a memorial of the uprisings.

The festival’s program includes entertainment shows to be performed on Sidi Bouzid’s main street, conferences, poem recitations from famous Arab poets, and large screen projections of films depicting the revolts.

Tunisian director Mohamed Zran’s movie, “The People Want: Dégage (Get out),” will be among the movies screened. Other highlights include a soccer game for 12-13 year olds, a marathon, an operetta performance, and a performance by the Spanish artist Manu Chao. Famous personalities that will attend the festival include 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karaman from Yemen and Palestinian poet Tamim Barghouthi.

An international conference entitled “The Tunisian Revolution: Building for the Right to Democracy and Revolution” will take place as part of the festival as well. The festival will close with a big gala.

Interim President Moncef Marzouki, Head of Constituent Assembly Mustapha Ben Jaafar, and Interim Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali are attending the event while promoting a conference on regional development being held the same day.

The 26-year-old high school dropout, who had worked as a fruit vendor since he was 10 to support his mother, uncle and five brothers and sisters, Mohamed Bouazizi has become a national hero and the father of a regional revolution.

Every day, he would push his cart through the hot, dusty streets, struggling to earn just five dinars ($3) a day.

But on Dec. 17 last year, Mohamed Bouazizi had a run-in with the police when Feyda Hamdi, a municipal inspector, confiscated his unlicensed cart, vegetables and a prized electronic scale.

After allegedly accepting a 10-dinar ($7) “fine” from Mr. Bouazizi, she slapped him, spat in his face and insulted his dead father.

Humiliated, angry and dejected, Mr. Bouazizi went to provincial headquarters in Sidi Bouzid, hoping to get his vegetables and scale back and to complain to local officials. But they refused to see him and had police send him away.

Within an hour, the distraught vegetable vendor returned to the elegant white-washed building, shouted out against the injustices and poured two bottles of paint thinner over his body. Then he set himself on fire.

The flames ignited a year of chaos and change in the Middle East as they unleashed waves of anger against the Arab world’s poverty, unemployment and repression.

Overnight, Mr. Bouazizi’s gruesome suicide bid became a symbol of the humiliations to which the Arab world’s authoritarian states subjected their citizens.

A day after his self-immolation, hundreds of youths smashed shop windows and damaged cars in Sidi Bouzid. Film footage of the rampage was posted on Facebook and went viral as millions of Tunisians and other Arabs witnessed the rare rebellion.

When the government rushed extra security forces to Sidi Bouzid to try and crush the unrest, the rioting grew more intense and spread to nearby towns.

Within three days of Mohamed Bouazizi’s attempted suicide, as he lay dying in a Tunis hospital, the street protests had reached the capital and 1,000 workers clashed with police outside the offices of the General Union of Tunisian Workers.

Quietly, a lifetime of old power structures -- political, social, and ideological -- have been dissolved and the certainties of one generation have been replaced by the messy unpredictability of another. Today the furniture of the new sits deliberately beside the supposed certainties of the old. Handmade barricades are bolted to public squares, plastic tents pitched beside stone cathedrals and the solid steel of a New York bank is harassed by pop-up armies of retweeters.

It began as a Mediterranean revolt spreading on both sides of the sea -- from Tunisia through Egypt and Libya and beyond, and from Greece and Spain upwards into Europe. In a million different and fragmented ways, scenes of protest were the narrative backbone to 2011 played out again and again in cities as far afield as Santiago, Stockholm and Seoul.

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