2011: A Year That Revealed The Power of Place

December 17, 2011, Washington, DC: One year ago today, a young Tunisian man set himself on fire after police seized his vegetable cart, his sole source of income. His fellow Tunisians began the year 2011 incensed over the event and all it reflected about the country’s rampant unemployment. In January, they gathered on Twitter and Facebook, but they also gathered in real live person. They weren’t alone. The reaction was contagious. People emerged from the isolation of their homes and gathered in other places too, demanding jobs, demanding lower food prices, demanding regime change. They gathered in places like Algiers, Algeria and Cairo’s Tahrir Square. By month’s end, Tunisia’s leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali had left the country. In February, images of celebration burst from Tahrir Square as Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office. In places like Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain, like Sanaa, Yemen, like Benghazi, Libya and Daraa, Syria, the drumbeat continued into the spring.

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