Mohamed Bouazizi: memories of a Tunisian martyr

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A handout picture released by the Tunisian Presidency on 28 December 2010 shows Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali (2nd L) looking at Mohamed Bouazizi(R), during his visit at the hospital
Image caption,
Mohamed Bouazizi (R) was visited by the president before his death

Mohamed Bouazizi has become a hero in Tunisia ever since he doused himself in petrol and set himself alight in December, triggering protests which ultimately led to the downfall of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

He sold fruit and vegetables without a permit because he was unable to get a formal job.

Mr Bouazizi, 26, later died from his injuries. His younger sister Samia told the BBC World Service what her brother was going through before his death and how he inspired Tunisia.

"Mohamed was in trouble because agents from the council were asking for bribes every time he was buying and selling his vegetables.

On the day he set himself on fire he went to sell his vegetables as usual.

An agent from the council asked for bribes and again he refused so they took his vegetables, fruit, took his goods and put them in the car. One of them asked for the scales and Mohamed refused.

At that point one of the agents smacked him and beat him in the face. The other three agents also started beating him.

Mohamed was crying, screaming and pleading with them but they wouldn't stop.

After that he went to the town hall and asked for his goods and scales to be returned. But they refused so he went to the main government and again asked for his goods to be returned to him.

'Only solution'

Mohamed asked to see the governor but the police prevented him from entering the building. Again he pleaded, cried and screamed but still they refused.

All the doors closed before him. He was crying and crying but nobody was helping. So for him the only solution he saw was death.

He then just went away, bought a bottle of petrol and did this act.

Shortly after, my neighbour came to see me to tell me Mohamed had set himself on fire and he was badly burnt.

It was a terrible shock for us and we're all suffering and crying since Mohamed died. The loss is very difficult for all of us because we are all unemployed. Nobody is helping us.

No member of our family could believe he was dead, it was a big, big surprise.

But it was also a surprise to see all these people with Mohamed's big picture taking to the streets and shouting his name and crying. There were many people in the centre of Sidi Bouzid. It was a huge movement.

Before in Tunisia there wasn't any justice or solidarity, fraternity but now owing to Mohamed all young people can talk freely."

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