Tunisian protest draws international attention

Emily Brown, Copy Editor

As I walk down the halls of our school, I hear the occasional comment about our government.

Not once has it been anything but negative.

We fret about the inequality and unfairness of it all.

All those big guys in the White House seem to be out to get us, the little people.

Everyone is always complaining.

But was there ever a time you really had to fight for anything?

Was there ever a time in your life when you wanted change in your government so badly that you would set yourself on fire to bring attention to your cause?

I highly doubt any of us have felt that sort of desperation.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky.

Tunisia, a country in the northern part of Africa, has been chaotic since dozens of riots erupted across the nation.

This craziness was sparked by a young food vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, whose very living was taken away when the police confiscated his cart.

In protest, he set himself on fire to condemn job shortages and low wages.

What happened next is nothing short of a youth revolution.

As news of this act spread across the web, the people of Tunisia, especially the younger generation, started to stand up against their extravagant dictator, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, ruler for 23 years.

They accused him of growing rich while the poor grew poorer.

He denied people freedom of press and was accused of rigging numerous elections.

Independent international human rights groups like Amnesty International and Freedom House criticized Ben Ali’s government officials for restricting political rights.

As the unrest grew, the Tunisian military started to shoot into the crowds of rioters. Members of the legislation (and parts of the military) decided that change was necessary before the death toll grew any higher.

Before fleeing the country, Ben Ali handed over power to Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi.

Ghannouchi took control of his self-described “temporary” government but lost his position when the country’s constitutional court declared the transfer of power unconstitutional.

One man’s act tore apart an entire authoritarian and undemocratic Arab regime.

And now the implications of Tunisia’s ousted leader are spreading across the world.

Demonstrators in Egypt, Mauritania and Algeria set themselves on fire to replicate the occurrence in Tunisia.

Just as the food vendor was tired of injustice, young Middle Easterners are growing sick of their autocratic governments.

Something we could never fully understand.

I can’t help but wonder if anyone in this school would ever go as far as setting themselves on fire to make a point.

Would you ever dare to die to change your government?

I would guess not.

Here, it isn’t necessary to die or seriously injure ourselves to be heard.

But whether you answer is yes or no, keep in mind how very fortunate we are.

The next time you start whining about our democratic government, think about all the people in the world fighting for their rights.

Think about the courage it takes.

Most of all, be thankful that our country isn’t immersed in turmoil and we don’t have to fight to be heard.