Two men in Tunisia set themselves on fire over the past few days to protest living conditions in their country, reprising the event that set the “Arab Spring” uprisings of 2011 in motion.
The Arab Spring began when a 27-year-old street vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire outside the local governor’s office, enraged by the confiscation of his merchandise and callous treatment by regulatory officials. Bouazizi died of his injuries after two weeks in the hospital, galvanizing a popular uprising that eventually drove dictator President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from the country after two decades in power.
Tunisia is once again ruled by a dictator, President Kais Saied. Saied won office in 2019 as an outsider crusading against corruption and promising dramatic reforms. In August 2021, he suspended the Tunisian parliament and seized absolute power, supposedly a temporary move while he imposes the most challenging reform