Tunisia protest icon is now world's son: mother

5th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The mother of a jobless Tunisian whose self-immolation sparked landmark protests in the Arab world against autocratic governments said she was proud of her son for spreading the flame of freedom.

Mannoubia, the mother of 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, said he was now the whole world's son after his desperate act changed an entire region, toppled two veteran leaders and now threatens Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi's rule.

"I was very proud of my boy, now I'm more proud. Mohamed set himself alight, which brought this fire, this flame to the Arab world," she told The Sun newspaper of Britain, speaking at her home in the western town of Sidi Bouzid.

"Mohamed is the candle who illuminated our nation and the whole world. He is not just my son now but the whole world's son."

The spark that kindled nationwide protests and ended president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year-rule occurred on December 17, when Bouazizi set himself alight in protest at security forces shutting down his market stall.

He became a symbol for Tunisian youth facing a 30-percent unemployment rate, rampant corruption and nepotism.

"Mohamed had no money to pay their stupid bribes because he had only just started working that day," his mother said.

"The frustration just boiled over. He was a decent man trying to earn money for his family and was sick of the corruption. Mohamed felt humiliated and insulted. It was far from the first time he had been asked for a bribe and he cracked."

Fatally injured, he died in hospital on January 4.

Bouazizi's builder step-father Ammar, 37, added: "Mohamed was respected here because he was just a normal working man. He was a good Muslim who said his prayers but he wasn't a fanatic and he wasn't political.

"That's why his act of complete desperation had such an effect on people."

Next to a giant Tunisian flag, his concrete grave stands amid olive groves and cactus plants in his mother's ancestral village of Sidi Sala, outside Sidi Bouzid.

His mother prayed through her tears as she stood by the grave, The Sun said.

"I pray for freedom for Libya and all the Arab people," she said.

"I'm crying for the dead across the Arab world, for Mohamed and the other mothers whose sons have sacrificed themselves for freedom."

© 2011 AFP

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