Mohammad Bouazizi Image Credit: EPA

Dubai: Mohammad Bouazizi, the 26-year-old Tunisian whose suicide on December 17 sparked unprecedented clashes in the Northern African country, will go down in history as the street vendor who toppled the regime of President Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali, who ruled Tunisia with an iron fist for more than two decades. The suicide was embraced as a cause by jobless graduates, trade unionists and human right activists, and the protests later spread to other towns including the capital, Tunis.

Bouazizi set himself ablaze in Sidi Bouzid, a town in central Tunisia, after a woman municipality agent confiscated the weighing scales he was using to sell fruits and vegetables off a cart, which was his only available mean to support his family, and slapped him. Bouazizi did not accept the public humiliation and went to the local governorate building to report the incident. However, he was barred from entering and nobody wanted to listen to his plight. Angry, humiliated and desperate, Bouazizi drenched himself in petrol and set himself ablaze outside the local governor's office.

The entire Sidi Buzid town erupted in anger. Soon, protesters started calling for the resignation of the president. Twenty-eight days later, Bin Ali stepped down and Bouazizi became the symbol of the Tunisian uprising.