Friday, October 14, 2011
Mrs Bouazizi Speaks to Mothers of Libyan Martyrs
As the battle for Sirte ends, a rebel fighter grabbed a souviner - one of Gadhafi's hats. Not just any hat, the floppy black one he wore to Green Square after giving his memorable and rambling February 22nd Speech from the ramparts of the old castle fort.
After the speech, Gadhafi visited his supporters at Green Square, and while holding an umbrella and getting into one of his golf carts, was briefly interviewed on film by a reporter.
To the reporter, Gadhafi said: “I was talking with the young people in Green Square and wanted to spend the night with them, but it started to rain. And I wanted to show them that I am Tripoli and not Venezuela, so don’t believe these stray dog broadcasters.”
To see the clip check out:
That same day a few hundred miles away another TV news reporter in Tunisia caught up with Mrs. Manoubi Bouazizi. She's the mother of Mohamid Bouazizi, the young martyr who sparked what became a regional and possibly world wide revolution against dictatorship and economic crimes and cronyism.
Mohamid Bouazizi’s mother Manoubi and his sister Basma, 16 years old.
To see the clip:http://blogs.aljazeera.net/africa/2011/02/22/live-blog-libya-feb-22
Bouazizi's mother was asked if she had a message for the families in Libya who have lost loved ones to the violent repression of the protests there. She said:
“I feel sorry for the mothers of the martyrs.
My heart is burning with sorrow.
I pray for the souls of all martyrs in Libya.
We tell them, mothers of the martyrs,
may God almighty give you strength and patience.
I tell the people of Libya, may Gold help you,
I hope you get everything you wish for.
God willing Libya will be a free country
We hope your dictator leaves just as Ali has left.
I would like to kiss every martyr’s mother on the head
and pray that God may grant them the serenity
and patience to bear the unbearable.
May Libya become a free country.
Here's an earlier article about Mrs. Manoubi Bouazizi, her family and her son.
Mohammed Bouazizi: the dutiful son whose death changed Tunisia's fate
Family of Mohammed Bouazizi remember fruit seller whose suicide protest has reverberated across the Arab world
Mohammed Bouazizi's 16-year-old sister, Basma, remembers her brother for the little gifts he would bring when he returned home from work as a fruit seller in the city of Sidi Bouzid.
The world knows Mohammed Bouazizi for something else: as the poor and desperate young man, harassed by the authorities, who set fire to himself in this town in central Tunisia, inspiring a revolution that brought down the country's dictator, an act still reverberating through the Arab world.
"He was funny," says Basma, "and generous." She stops for a moment to recall the elder brother who once walked her to school. "When he would get angry with me he always came afterwards and asked me to forgive him."
His mother, Manoubia, points to where her late son slept in the tiny white-walled bedroom he shared with his younger brother, Karim. It is picture-less and stacked with a few cushions and bedclothes.
There is nothing here to suggest the life now gone, to associate a name thrust out of obscurity into the excruciating kind of fame that came with Bouazizi's act. His mother takes a grey wool jacket out of a wardrobe, the room's sole item of furniture, and presses her face into it, weeping. "This was Mohammed's."
Visiting the dusty town of Sidi Bouzid it seems there are two Mohammed Bouazizis. There is the simple young man of 26 who worked so hard to send his sisters to school and university, selling fruit on the roadside to earn $5 a day. A young man who was often required to pay bribes worth more than he could earn in a day to the local authorities to set up his stall because they would not give him a permit. Who on other days – like the day he set himself on fire – had his business shut down on a whim.
Then there is the Mohammed Bouazizi who has already been elevated to the status of a myth, transformed into an Arab Jan Palach, invested with a meaning more national, social and political than personal. A Czech student, Palach killed himself in the same way in Czechoslovakia in 1968. But where his act was overtly political, Bouazizi's death was an expression of a frustration that could not be articulated.
Attention has been visited on his town, as well as on Bouazizi. A place once largely unheard of, through social media sites such as Twitter it became the hash-tagged centre point of reference for Tunisia's revolution for a wider world, its name a slogan in its own right inside Tunisia.
A picture of Bouazizi's face has been affixed to the mosaic-tiled monument outside the town's municipal offices where he was abused and slapped by a female worker when he went to complain about not being allowed to work. The date of his self-immolation – which burned him horribly but did not kill him immediately – is painted on walls with the graffiti announcing the town as "a place of freedom".
His friends and family remember him as a young man of simple tastes and pleasures, who had no time to follow football or music, who cherished his family and wanted to get married. His ambition was to buy the pickup truck for which he was saving, so he could drive to the market to buy his fruit, instead of having to walk.
It is, perhaps, Bouazizi's lack of obvious political attachments, either secular or religious, that has transformed him beyond a familiar kind of victimhood into an everyman with a wider resonance in the Arab world. Hardworking, optimistic and generous, impoverished but wanting to get on, he was an ordinary man ground down by a pernicious system.
"He was so happy that morning. Happy! Happy!" his mother recalls. She says he had never talked of feeling suicidal, only of being frustrated at his treatment by the town's officials. "He didn't sleep much because of his work. Only a few hours, but he was happy. He had gone to the market at 10 o'clock the night before to buy his produce, pushing his handcart, and then left the house at eight in the morning after his breakfast."
That was the last time she saw her son conscious. Ms Bouazizi heard what happened first from a neighbour. Her son, she was told at first, was sick.
There was no mention of how, furious at his mistreatment by the police and at the municipality that refused to allow him in to complain, he had doused himself in petrol outside the gates, out in the street where the cars pass by. She learned all of that later, and when she did, she fainted.
The local hospital could not cope with Bouazizi's terrible burns, so he was taken first to Sfax, more than 70 miles away, and then, as the government's interest in his case grew in proportion to the demonstrations that took up his name, to a hospital in Tunis.
His mother says: "We are poor people in Sidi Bouzid. We don't have money but we have our dignity, and his dignity was taken away with that slap and those wrong words." And while it is the son's name that has become famous, drawing journalists from across the globe to the single-storey, four-room house where he lived, the story is as much about his family as it is about him.
For what the Bouazizis represent is something instantly familiar across the Arab world: poor, decent people from the hard-scrabble countryside outside the town – a village named Sidi Salah, where Bouazizi went to school in a one-room country classroom. A family who moved to the town to look for work.
It is the story, too, of a mother who worked as a day labourer in the fields, while Bouazizi pitched his trade as a street salesman, who wanted to help their family better themselves through education in a country where wealth and opportunity has been concentrated for decades in the hands of a tiny elite.
Where people such as the Bouazizis are looked down upon, abused.
"When he had free time, he stayed at home with the family," says Basma. "His dream was to see his sisters go to university."
Her mother adds: "He had that dream himself when he was younger but he had a brother and sisters to support, so he quit school at 18 to work. He loved what he did. It was his calling, and people liked my son."
There is the sound of a woman's voice outside the house, declamatory and angry. A friend of the family explains it is Bouazizi's aunt Mouniya. She is directing her fury at the Tunisian men who stand silent: "Why have the Tunisian journalists taken so long to come?" she demands. "When foreign journalists have found us? Why did the mayor not come to Mohammed's funeral?"
Some of the family members look embarrassed. They are not, they have explained, political people. Indeed, when President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, driven out by the revolution sparked largely by her son's act, came to see her son in hospital, Ms Bouazizi says that she was happy.
The hurt done to her son, she felt, had been recognised at last.
"Despite his death, I am proud of my son, as all the Arabs are for his part in the Tunisian revolution." But she does not want other young Arab men in other countries to do what her son did – although some have. "The message I would give to the young men who have burned themselves is you should not do it just to get your voices heard."
Outside Sidi Bouzid, about 12 miles along the main highway, there is a dirt road signposted for Sidi Salah.
The cemetery is a little way beyond the village. There are a few trees and a line of ochre hills in the distance.
Bouazizi's grave is a grey concrete block with two pretty yellow bowls set in it, filled with water. In front of the tomb kneel his uncle Amar and two cousins, mourning.
There is no obvious inscription, but there are more journalists than family, and more arriving.
Mohammed Bouazizi's name will not be forgotten soon.