Sidi Bouzid's belated recognition

Journalists may have missed most of the action, but the people who began Tunisia's revolution are still desperate to sh

    There is no sign of the uprising that has rocked Tunisia for more than a month on the road from Tunis to Sidi Bouzid. Only when we swing right into a windy road a couple of kilometres out from the town do the signs of what happened here start to show.

    Approaching cars must pass through no less than three road blocks, manned by young boys, and some men, wielding heavy sticks, faces hard with the responsibility of protecting their town.

    They ask for identification, and when we show our journalist permit, allow us through. Smouldering fires add to the revolutionary drama.

    After the roadblocks, however, is a town that is letting its guard down after years of censorship and eager to speak about the uprising that occurred here while much of the world wasn’t paying attention.

    When Al Jazeera visits the Bouazizi household on Tuesday and Wednesday, we are among the first journalists to do so.

    Those of you who speak Arabic may have caught the live interview with Menobia Bouazizi, Mohamed’s mother, on Wednesday afternoon.

    You may also have caught the loud bang when a neighbour, angry that he was not able to speak to the media about his own tragedy, threw a rock, shattering a light.

    That man, like many other people we met in Sidi Bouzid, was desperate to tell his story.

    In his case, his wife had died in hospital and the case had been grievously mishandled ever since.

    Everywhere we went, crowds gathered rapidly as locals clambered to share their personal struggles with Al Jazeera. And all of them had stories that deserve to be told.

    Far from the picturesque Tunisian coast, Sidi Bouzid is a town that is starved not only of employment, investment and political attention, but also of media coverage. Tunisian journalists rarely bother to venture there, let alone foreign correspondents.

    Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire on December 17. Some major international news organisations only reported on uprising days before it toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, a full three long weeks later.

    By the time they were paying attention, the action had moved on to Tunis. Sidi Bouzid’s role in the revolution had already been played, and the brutal attempts by the police to repress those protests was recorded only by the town's inhabitants.

    More than one local asks where the media has been all this time. They are also acutely aware of which media organisations at least used the videos of their protests that they were posting online (Al Jazeera and France 24, the locals told us unanimously), and which media ignored the uprising.


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