January 17, 2011

What Can We Do for Freedom - By Dana Jaf

Muhammad Bouazizi was a Tunisian college graduate. He had a bachelor degree in computer science, but he was selling vegetables on the streets of Sidi Bouzid. He never complained about that. As long as he could make the end meet, he was ok.

He had made a mobile shop out of his cart selling all kinds of home-grown fresh fruit. Everybody there knew him. They loved him because he was not only a grocer, but a genius one with a college degree.

However, the authorities saw that small corner of the country too much for him. They had not given him a job, and they were not going to give him a place. They decided to confiscate his small cart. Muhammad didn't know what to do. They had taken over his only hope for life. He decided to go to the authorities and bring his small cart back.

Not only they didn't give back the cart, a woman officer slapped Muhammad on face in front of all the people there.

That was too much for Muhammad. He was a man with dignity. He was not to accept it.

He came out of the Mayor's office, washed himself with gasoline, and burnt himself. Muhammad was taken to the hospital, but there was no hope for recovery. He was completely burnt. The last words he said before his death were to his mother:

Traveling, o Mom. Forgive me. No blame is beneficial. Lost in a path that is out of your hands. Forgive me, if I disobeyed the word of my mother. Blame the time and not me. Leaving but not returning. For much I cried and tears streamed from my eyes. No blame can benefit in a time that is treacherous in the land of people. I am tired and all that passed left my mind. Traveling and asking what can make you forget

The pictures of Muhammad burning in flames ignited a revolution. It began from his hometown and spread throughout all Tunisia.

The dictator, Zein al-Abidin Ben Ali, visited Muhammad on his death bed. That was an attempt to calm the angry people down, but failed.

Muhammad Bouazizi passes away, but his story didn't end.

Tunisia stood up, and the dictator, who had ruled the country for over 20 years, fled the country.

Seeing the dreadful images of Muhammad running through the streets while burning in fire, I asked myself:

Muhammad burnt himself to defend his dignity and freedom, what can we do?
It is an open question that is worth reflection, at least.

Dana Jaf  - International Studies at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani

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