Ten years later, Tunisian is a democracy. It has withstood assassinations, terrorist attacks and the ideological gulfs of its leaders, at crucial moments pulling back from the precipice of returning to authoritarian rule, as happened in Egypt, and of civil war, as in Syria, Yemen and Libya.
Tunisians are freer to criticise their leaders than before, and their elections are honest. Yet people are miserable and disillusioned, joining jihadi groups in among the largest numbers per capita of any country in the world, and making up the majority of boat-borne migrants to Italy this year.
For most, the revolution has been experienced as a drop in living standards. Economic growth has more than halved since 2010, and unemployment is endemic among young people, who make up 85% of the jobless. “Nothing changed,” says Ashraf Hani, 35, who saw from his kiosk across the road Bouazizi ignite himself after his produce and cart were confiscated. “Things are moving to the worse.”
Debates that occupy Tunis, such as whether women should have equal access to inheritance, or whether the presidency should be reserved for Muslims, feel remote to people in Sidi Bouzid, says Qais Bouazizi, 32. “It’s far away from the social questions the revolution was raised for. Our foremost slogans were about work and dignity.”