On 17 December last year, a young man named Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in a Tunisian town in sheer frustration and anger at being prevented from selling fruit and vegetables to raise much-needed money. He died two weeks later – a tragedy that was to become the spark for huge public protests against the rule of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, whose regime had controlled the country for 23 years.

Those protests were largely nonviolent and resulted in the collapse of the entire regime within a matter of days: an extraordinary outcome that sent shock waves across the watching Middle ...


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