In some ways, Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street merchant whose business was confiscated by the Tunisian police, is like Rosa Parks. Both were apolitical citizens living under oppressive conditions. Both had enough of the humiliation and injustice that followed them since birth.
Both took one dramatic step against the local power structure. Parks refused to move to the back of a segregated bus and unknowingly sparked the 1950s civil rights movement in the US.
Mr. Bouazizi set himself afire, a more dramatic protest against an Arab autocracy that ruled on behalf of its elite supporters and against the millions of Tunisians trying to make a living in a society stacked against them.
Comparing the two, of course, is somewhat ham-fisted. A modern, developed, democratic country is far different from a post-colonial Norther African state that achieved formal independence from France a few decades ago. Refusing to move to the back of a bus is not the same as self-immolation. Yet the actions of both – as the most ordinary of citizens in their society – changed the worlds they lived in.
This week’s article in Foreign Policy by Hernando De Soto does justice to the martyrdom of Bouazizi. It does justice to the Arab Spring. The hundreds of millions of Arabs who rallied for democratic change over the last year weren’t inspired by politicians and elites but by the brave and desperate act of someone they didn’t even know, a no-body, just as Rosa Parks sparked an out pouring that no US politician could
This article demonstrates what’s at stake in American foreign policy.