By Hena Ashraf
Originally published at Left Turn
A few weeks ago on the train my mind drifted to Mohammed Bouazizi and a great sorrow descended over me. I thought of how his tremendous sacrifice on the 17th of December 2010 was the literal spark that set the fire for uprisings around the world. I thought of how an ordinary Tunisian street vendor profoundly affected the lives of millions of people everywhere with his tragic protest.
His self-immolation captured the immense anger and frustration that millions experience on a daily basis. By setting himself on fire in front of the local governor’s office, Bouazizi showed the world that he could no longer endure the harassment and humiliation he suffered at the hands of corrupt local authorities. His example shows how revolutions start from the ground up, from ordinary people who are fed up of being pushed around. His actions set off revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, uprisings in Bahrain, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and throughout the Arab world, as well as in Greece, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
What’s been most remarkable is that despite the War on Terror and its racist underpinnings, in 2011 Europeans and Americans learned how to revolt and protest from Arabs and Muslims. In just a few months, by demanding that regimes supported by Western governments end once and for all, the people of the Middle East defeated centuries of Orientalist notions that they are backward, ignorant, and not ready for democracy. Alongside the toppled regimes lies Orientalism. It is wonderfully astonishing that the reference point for Madrid, Rome, London, New York, Oakland, etc, is the Arab world.