Tunisians March at Birthplace of Arab Spring

Thousands celebrate fruit vendor Mohammed Bouazizi
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2011 4:25 PM CST
Thousands of Tunisians March in Birthplace of Arab Spring
Thousands of Tunisians gather in Sidi Bouzid, central Tunisia, to celebrate the first anniversary of the revolution, Saturday, Dec 17, 2011.   (AP Photo / Amine Landoulsi)

One year ago, a fruit vendor set himself ablaze outside a town hall in Tunisia. Today the country's newly elected leaders and thousands of others are honoring the man who triggered a revolution and sparked a wave of political change across the Arab world, the AP reports. People are marching in the streets of Sidi Bouzid, watching fireworks and cheering a new marble statue of fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi's cart, surrounded by empty chairs—all symbolizing ousted Arab dictators.

Egypt and Morocco have also held elections since Bouazizi died, but Tunisia is seen as the furthest along, having elected a moderate Islamist party and held its freest ballot ever. Today Tunisia has a human rights activist for president, a formerly jailed Islamist politician as prime minister, and a left-liberal-religious coalition in power. "Mohammed Bouazizi restored the dignity to the Tunisian people," says President Moncef Marzoukii, who faces a 28% unemployment rate but is selling off palaces to fund employment programs. He promises to "restore joy to this long marginalized region." (More Tunisia stories.)

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