Policing the Arab Spring: Discordant Discourses of Protest and Intervention

  • Roxane Farmanfarmaian


On 17 December 2011, when the young Tunisian fruitseller Mohammad Bouazzizi set himself on fire in the dusty town of Sidi-Bouzid, he was neither the first nor the last Tunisian to immolate himself in the months leading up to the Arab Spring (Mirak-Weissbach, 2012, p. xxv).1 Yet the public harangue he experienced at the hands of a policewoman, the prohibition against peddling his wares (his family’s sole source of income) and his subsequent abuse in the local police station were uniquely symbolic (if all too common) of the state of indignity and poverty shared by so many in the Arab world, and the degree of hostility that had developed between the people and the enforcers of order. As demonstrations triggered by the YouTube video of Bouazzizi’s self-immolation spread across Tunisia and subsequently rolled across the Arab world, crowds came together not just due to contagion but because of their own par-ticularist histories of authoritarian ill-treatment and exploitation (Joffe, 2011).


European Union Social Movement Arab World Gulf Cooperation Council Political Opportunity 
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© Roxane Farmanfarmaian 2014

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  • Roxane Farmanfarmaian

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