On Dec. 17, Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old university Tunisian graduate who took to selling vegetables when he was unable to find work, set himself on fire after police confiscated his unlicensed vegetable cart.
His desperate act has caused a spontaneous outpouring of public anger in Tunisia over economic conditions and the ruling family's endemic corruption. The riots started in Bouazizi's hometown, Sidi Bouzid, deep in Tunisia's interior, and spread across the country to Tunis, Sousse, Sfax, Meknassi, and other cities.
Thousands marched in solidarity with the residents of Sidi Bouzid, demanding jobs, better living conditions, and an end to uneven economic development and the corruption that drives it.
In the days that followed Bouazizi's tragic act, violence erupted, and police killed an 18-year-old youth as they shot into a crowd of protesters around a police station. Then, on Dec. 22, Neji Felhi, 24, climbed an electrical pole in the same town and shouted, "No to misery! No to unemployment!" then touched the 30,000-megawatt pole, killing himself. Two more of Tunisia's young, disenfranchised and unemployed attempted to end their own lives in similar ways in the days that followed.