What all that we discuss in the name of Arab Spring today began in December 2010 when a poor fruit vendor of a non-descript Tunisian town Sidi Bouzid decided he could not take anymore the corrupt ways of the local administration.
When, on December 17, 2011, 26-year-old Mohammed Bouazizi went to complain about a municipal official who had confiscated his scale and had slapped him on protesting, he wasn’t let into the higher government office.
Feeling his dignity hurt by the slap as well as having lost the means to his livelihood, his cart, to the corrupt municipal official, Bouazizi came out screaming, ran to a gas-filling station, poured gas over him and cried, “How do you expect me to make a living?” setting himself ablaze. He died on January 4, 2011.
This message of a non-political Tunisian burning himself to protest the rampant corruption went viral on Facebook and upped the momentum resulting in a mass movement that uprooted the dictator of 23 years, Zine Ben Ali.
Many were shot dead during the protests that followed the death of Bouazizi. "Facebook was the only video-sharing platform that was available to Tunisians. And seeing videos of people shot with real bullets in their heads on Facebook was shocking to many Tunisians," said Zied Mhirsi, a doctor, radio show host and uprising activist, in CBS’ 60 Minutes.
Facebook videos, reaching to almost one-quarter of the population, fueled the fire on other communication platforms. Blog content in Tunisia predated the turn of political events. Conversations about liberty, democracy and revolution on blogs and on Twitter often immediately preceded mass protests. Twenty percent of blogs were evaluating Ben Ali's leadership the day he resigned from office (Jan. 14), up from just 5 percent the month before. Subsequently, the primary topic for Tunisian blogs was "revolution" until a public rally of at least 100,000 people eventually forced the old regime's remaining leaders to relinquish power. (The Project on Information Technology and Political Islam – University of Washington)
Spread of mobile internet communication aided and compensated for the lack of the Internet infrastructure in some geographical areas. This combination helped to stir the whole Tunisia, a country where around 20 percent of the population uses social media but almost everyone has mobile communication access.
Also, blocking tweets, SMSs through mobile communication and information flow through the Internet was beyond means of a government like Tunisia given the requirements of sophisticated technologies to control the overlapped spectrum bandwidths in a globalized world. Even China, notorious for restricting freedom of information access, is finding it hard. Blurred borders of the global technological village helped in more than one way during the Arab Spring.
The upheaval that began in Tunisia and thus named Jasmine Revolution in the honour of its national flower Jasmine, that saw its dictator for 23 years fleeing the country, strengthened the voices of change in other Arab countries. The whole region got engaged into a debate beyond any specific country limits.