Skip to content

Was Tunisia’s Revolution in Vain?

His act of despair still shakes the Arab world. Mohamed Bouazizi, the 26-year-old fruit seller whose self-immolation triggered revolutions across the Middle East, has a boulevard named after him in Tunisia’s capital, Tunis. In his home town of Sidi Bouzid, he is depicted in a giant portrait facing the local government headquarters. But a decade since he set himself on fire in protest at state corruption and brutality, Bouazizi is out of fashion in Tunisia – along with the revolution his death inspired. His family have moved to Canada and cut most ties with Sidi Bouzid. Tunisians are freer to criticise their leaders than before, and their elections are honest. Yet people are miserable and disillusioned, joining jihadi groups in among the largest numbers per capita of any country in the world, and making up the majority of boat-borne migrants to Italy this year. For most, the revolution has been experienced as a drop in living standards. Economic growth has more than halved since 2010, and unemployment is endemic among young people, who make up 85% of the jobless.