Why Mohamed Al Bouazizi should be the Liberal Voice of 2011

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

So speaks the first few lines of our constitution. They should be enshrined in everything we do – for if we’re not fighting for this, then, as Liberals, what are we fighting for at all?

So when I think about who should be the Liberal Voice of the Year, I think about who has done most to make those values real. Whose actions in 2011 have done most to enable more people to live in fair, free and open societies, and promote equality of rights?

In 2011, one person stands above all others. Mohamed Al Bouazizi.

For those who don’t know, Mohamed al Bouazizi was a fruit seller in a small Tunisian provincial town called Sidi Bouzid. Following a confrontation with a local government inspector and several failed attempts to get anyone in authority to listen to his complaints, Mr Bouazizi set fire to himself in protest at his treatment, and the treatment of millions of Tunisians like him, in front of the local Governors office.

He died on Jan 4th 2011 from his injuries. Before his death, rioting, sparked by his actions had spread from Sidi Bouzid across Tunisia. President Zine el-Abine visited him in his hospital to try and quell the protests, and when civil unrest continued, the President was forced to flee the country. It was the birth of the Arab Spring.

Since then of course, democracy has arrived in Tunisia, with free and fair elections leading to a new government. Dictatorships have fallen in Egypt (the world watches to see how the military will make handle the transition to, hopefully, full democracy) and now Libya. The President of Yemen has been forced to flee, we see protests in Syria, Qatar, even Saudi Arabia.

The Arab Spring has done more to deliver the prospect of a fairer freer and more open society for more people than any other movement in decades – all started by the actions of just one man in a small Tunisian desert town. While he could never have foreseen just where his actions would lead, there is little doubt that Mohamed Al Bouazizi has started a revolution that, more than anything else, means he must be the Liberal Voice of 2011.

Read more by or more about , , , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 9th Jan '12 - 12:39pm

    I agree with Richard.

  • Richard Swales 10th Jan '12 - 1:13am

    It’s alleged that the humiliating thing about the confrontation with the inspector was that she was a woman and he was told off and/or slapped by her – whereas he would have accepted this behaviour from a male inspector.

    These aren’t liberal values.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Tristan Ward
    I hear what Charlie and others say about the tedium and pain of having to rehearse the same arguments about trans rights over and over again. I feel the same w...
  • Michael BG
    Michael Kilpatrick, As clause 4.5 allows more than one ballot on emergency motions I thought more than one ballot should be allowable on the normal motions. ...
  • William
    Thanks Richard for your sensible and reasonable contribution. Of course we use self-ID for gender and other characteristics (eg race); to use anything else woul...
  • Tristan Ward
    People may wish to consider this article about the Labour party, but it is equally applicable to the Liberal Democrats - arguably more so in my opinion: http...
  • Mel Borthwaite
    My observation is that - as this article illustrates - sex and gender are often conflated when, under the 2010 Equality Act, ‘sex’ and ‘gender reassignmen...