On December 17, 2010, a young man in Tunisia was desperate enough to set fire to himself. 27-year-old Mohamed Bouaziz claimed that he was suffering humiliation and poverty due to the actions of local officials. His wares were often confiscated leaving the market trader unable to eek out a proper living.
In a desperate protest he set himself alight.
Mohamed suffered terrible injuries but he did not die until January 4, 2011. By then the writing was on the wall for the Tunisian regime and many other tyrants in the Middle East.
It seems fair to say that the actions of Mohamed on this day last year provided the catalyst for the Arab Spring. Too many people in the Middle East were living under the rule of unelected officials. Regimes were mainly self serving and those in charge prospered at the expense of the rest of the population. Change was long overdue but finally it began.
It has been a tumultuous year in the Middle East. Egypt is currently experiencing fresh protests in its quest to rid the country of its military interim leaders. The old regime may have toppled but military leaders, who used to sit side by side with the regime, still have power.
Syria is as troubled as it has been all year. If reports are to be believed Syrian protesters are being killed daily. The regime maintains that it is simply a handful of rebels causing problems but that seems unlikely.
Tunisia, where the unrest began, seems to have at last turned a corner. Protests and demonstrations followed Mohamed's actions. Once he died these intensified leading to regime change. On January 14, 2011 President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali stepped down, after 23 years in power. Elections have been held and a new elected government has taken over. Whether they will manage to remain corruption free remains to be seen.
The Middle East is currently unsettled and civil unrest continues but some countries should be stable in the near future. For the rest the fight goes on.