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

(Newser) – 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."

Thousands of Tunisians gather in Sidi Bouzid, central Tunisia, to celebrate the first anniversary of the revolution, Saturday, Dec 17, 2011.
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)
A woman holds a Tunisian flag as she celebrates with thousands of Tunisians the first anniversary of the revolution, in Sidi Bouzid, central Tunisia, Saturday, Dec 17, 2011.
A woman holds a Tunisian flag as she celebrates with thousands of Tunisians the first anniversary of the revolution, in Sidi Bouzid, central Tunisia, Saturday, Dec 17, 2011.   (AP Photo / Hassene Dridi)
New elected Tunisian President, Moncef Marzoukii, center right, arrives in Sidi Bouzid, central Tunisia, to celebrate the first anniversary of the revolution in Tunisia, Saturday, Dec 17, 2011.
New elected Tunisian President, Moncef Marzoukii, center right, arrives in Sidi Bouzid, central Tunisia, to celebrate the first anniversary of the revolution in Tunisia, Saturday, Dec 17, 2011.   (AP Photo/Amine Landoulsi)
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