Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fruit seller Bouazizi who set fire to himself and to Tunisia dies in hospital

Video of people attending the funeral of Mohammed Bouazizi Wednesday morning. Source Nawaat.

Another hartbreaking video of the actual funeral is here to be found.

Mohammed Bouazizi (26) the universitarian turned fruit seller who set fire to himself on 17 December thereby kindling the present intifada in Tunisia, has died on Tuesday evening. This has been confirmed by his family,  Le Monde reports. He was buried this morning.
Bouazizi, who lived in the city Sidi Bouzid in the centre of the country  had a universitarian grade, but could not find a job. He decided to start selling fruit and vegetables in order to gain some money. But after the police confiscated his merchandise because he did not have a permit, he immersed himself with  petrol and set fire to his body as an act of protest. This was the beginning of protest demonstrations in Sidi Bouzid which quickly spread to the whole country and still continue. Bouaziz's death was reported already some days earlier, but it turned out this was somebody with the same name.

President Ben Ali paid a visit to families of victims on 28 December. Also he visited a completely mummified Bouazizi in the trauma hospital in Ben Arous, near Tunis.

 The total known death toll in Tunisia now stands at four: On 22 December Houcine Néji (24) also in Sidi Bouzid electrocuted himself by climbing an electricity pole. The same day Mohammed Ammari (18) died after having been shot by the police during a demonstration in Menzel Bouzaïane. Another man who took part in the same demonstration, Chawki Belhoussine Hedri (44) died of his wounds on 31 December.

Meanwhile the manifestations continue. Details are sketchy. Occasionally  we hear about protests of  laywers,  at schools, like a strike in Medenine at the 'Lycée technique', or about skirmishes with the police. Manifestation and/or clashes with the police were reported  in Sidi Bouzid, the 9 April Faculty of the University in Tunis, in Sfax and in Sousse. The information could not be verified. The sources are Tunesians who are twittering under aliasses.
The cyberwar and the newsblackout in Tunisia have gone to new epic dimensions. Reporters without Borders issued a condemnation of 'the reinforcement of online censorship amid a wave of protests and rioting in Tunisia that began two weeks when a young man set himself on fire outside a police station in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid'.
Reporters without Borders signals that foreign sites like France24, Rue89, BBC, Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle are blocked in Tunisia. Of course the local press does not report about the demonstrations. Foreign reporters are not allowed to do so and in most cases not allowed into the country (Al Jazeera was kicked out of Tunisia a short while ago). At first the social media filled in the gap and played a big role in bringing the events into the open. But this week they have become the targets of a massive offensive on the part of the government.
As Reporters without Borders say:  'The government is not blocking access to all of Facebook, as it briefly tried to do in 2008, but it is pursuing a strategy of targeted blocking and intimidation of the bloggers and citizen journalists who are emerging as the main relays of news and information,' according to Reporters without Borders. (...) 'Facebook users cannot access the ‘https’ version of the site, which allows them to log on with a password securely. (...) Many activists and bloggers have reported that their email and Facebook accounts have in hacked. (...) Twitter pages about Sidi Bouzid were rendered inaccessible in Tunisia after the hashtag #sidibouzid spread like wildfire not only among Tunisians users but also netizens in neighbouring countries and throughout the world, testifying to the international solidarity movement that has arisen.'  
For tomorrow solidarity protests are planned in many cities around the world. Among them Paris and most other big French cities, Montreal and Quebec, Rome, Brussels, Algiers and Geneva. 

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