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On December 17th, a 26 year-old unemployed university graduate named Mohamed Bouazizi drenched himself in petrol and set himself on fire in the central Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid in protest of economic conditions. Bouazizi, who succumbed to his injuries early this morning, had been the sole breadwinner for his family when his unlicensed produce stand was confiscated by local police.
The protests that have already claimed the lives of at least three are remarkable on several fronts: relatively unprecedented, they have drawn support from many sectors of society – trade unions, students, lawyers syndicates. They have gone largely unremarked-upon in the Western media. They have effectively and creatively relied on technology and new media to sustain and share their message, despite remarkable levels of censorship. They have been assisted by external online activists, notably the collective known as Anonymous. Allies of the regime have reportedly engaged equally enthusiastically, utilising phishing, censoring, and hacking against activists.