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In town at center of Tunisia uprising, 23 years of repressed emotions burst forth

The Monitor's correspondent describes getting mobbed as she pulled out her notebook and witnessing a scuffle at the home of Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation sparked Tunisia's uprising.

A Tunisian talks to a soldier as he defies the curfew in the center of Tunis, on Jan. 19. A Tunisian prosecutor opened an investigation into the overseas assets of the ousted president and his deeply resented family Wednesday, as the U.N.'s human rights chief said more than 100 people have died during five weeks of unrest.

Thibault Camus/AP

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The dusty provincial town where Tunisia’s revolution started doesn’t look like it’s accustomed to attention.

It never received much until Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in front of the governor’s office, igniting the anger that eventually engulfed the 23-year rule of President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali, forcing him to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Now, Sidi Bouzid is in the spotlight for the first time. The trip to the epicenter of the revolution has become a pilgrimage for the international media that has flocked to Tunisia since four weeks of popular protest forced Ben Ali to abdicate power.

And as I discovered on my trip there today, it’s adjusting to the media attention in its own way.

I open my notebook, and a flash mob forms

When I arrived today after a 3.5-hour car trip through verdant hills of olive groves that gave way to a flat expanse of rocky soil broken by cactus hedges, the first thing that caught my eye was the dozens of young men seemingly everywhere – loitering on the sidewalks, sitting in cafes. I stopped to talk to a few.

Almost the second I opened my notebook, a huge crowd gathered around me, pressing in on me from all sides. Everyone wanted to have his or her say.


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