The city of Kasserine, in the central-west region of Tunisia, which has long been the epicenter of protest against the policies of Ben Ali’s government, erupted into full-scale insurrection the first week of January 2011. Not far from Kasserine lies Sidi Bouzid, where protestors had already taken to the streets after a poor street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire on December 17 in reaction to humiliation he suffered at the hands of the local authorities for simply trying to earn a living for his family. People in Kasserine were enraged by the news of the Sidi Bouzid shootings and decided they must support their neighbors with whatever they had at hand. On January 7, young men in almost all parts of Kasserine took to the streets, starting what has become known as the “night protests.” On January 8, Ben Ali described the Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid protestors as a band of criminals and robbers executing a foreign agenda aimed at destabilizing the country, and augmented the existing security forces with unidentified agents whom the people of Kasserine called “snipers,” because they started shooting everywhere indiscriminately. Nineteen-year-old Slah Dachraoui, who was so young his friends in the neighborhood called him “the bird,” and twenty-nine-year-old Raouf Ben Hamad Bouzidi, who tried to help Dachraoui after he’d been shot, were the first martyrs to fall that evening.

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