x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

A different Bouazizi

The mother of Mohammed Bouazizi has been arrested for arguing with an official, suggesting that some Tunisian authorities still don't understand recent events.

If anyone can be called "the mother of the Arab spring", it surely would be the activist Tawwakul Karman, whose brave protests in Yemen earned her the Nobel Peace Prize. But there have been many notable mothers in these revolutions, including one whose son, Mohammed Bouazizi, committed an act of self-sacrifice that inspired regional protests and helped to reshape the Middle East.

That woman, Manoubia Bouazizi, was jailed on Friday over an altercation at court in central Tunisia. It would seem, at the very least, to be a spectacularly bad piece of public relations on the part of authorities.

What happened is still unclear, but reports suggest Mrs Bouazizi attended a court in her hometown of Sidi Bouzid to sign papers that would allow her to receive government compensation earmarked for the families of people who died in Tunisia's brief revolution. At some point, it appears Mrs Bouazizi argued with a clerk of the court and was arrested for insulting an official.

Leaving aside the symbolism of Mrs Bouazizi's clash with officialdom, surely her son's death has been hardship enough. Tunisia has been through an enormous upheaval over the past year, many have died and the whole country disrupted.

Mohammed Bouazizi became a symbol and has been called a martyr, but he was, first of all, a son. Like many other Tunisians, Mrs Bouazizi lost a son to gain her freedom, and deserves better treatment.