Sidi Bouzid: Tunisia's Place of Protest

Sidi Bouzid, a desolate farm town in the middle of Tunisia with an estimated 30 percent unemployment rate, marks the spot where the winter revolutions of the Arab world began. Launched when a young fruit vendor set himself on fire in protest over a bribe-seeking policewoman, the protests began primarily as demonstrations over unemployment. In Sidi Bouzid, the cafe Charlotte fills up by mid-morning with unemployed young men who have no jobs to go to. Image by Ellen Knickmeyer. Tunisia, 2011.

Two longtime friends with two master's degrees between them, and no job. Hamza bin Abdullah received his master's and returned home to Sidi Bouzid the day that former classmate Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest over the sheer difficulty of earning a living as a young person in North Africa. Here, Hamza drinks coffee at the Charlotte cafe with friend Sofiene Dhoubi, who has been unable to find a job in the two years since he earned his own master's. Sofiene was quick to join the demonstrations that followed Mohammed Bouazizi's desperate act. Image by Ellen Knickmeyer. Tunisia, 2011.

In a bare, dark stucco home in Sidi Bouzid warmed only by a metal grazier placed on the concrete floor, the mother of Mohammed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian who set himself on fire in a desperate act of protest over the obstacles facing young Arabs like himself, receives a steady flow of journalists and well-wishers from around the world. The mother, Manoubia Bouazizi, alternately expresses pride at the uprisings launched by her son's protest, and bends over in tears, frightened that by having committed suicide, her son is destined for hell under Islamic law. Image by Ellen Knickmeyer. Tunisia, 2011.

Hamza bin Abdallah stands in front of burned police cars and scorched police compound in Sidi Bouzid. Although Facebook, al-Jazeera and Twitter eventually helped spread revolution around the Arab world, for days in December, the young men of this farm town fought alone against local representatives of a government that denied them jobs and opportunity. "It was a war here," Hamza says. Image by Ellen Knickmeyer. Tunisia, 2011.

Sidi Bouzid's main plaza remains a place of protests and debate in the time since the country's revolution. "No to poverty. No to youth unemployment" some of the graffitii painted around the square declares. Image by Ellen Knickmeyer. Tunisia, 2011.

A sunny weekend morning on the Tunisian coast, not far from the gilded presidential palace of newly deposed Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. After the country's youth-led uprising, Ben Ali was gone from Tunisia -- but so were tourists, and investors. With the economy shaken by the unrest, and labor strife breaking out across the country, young Tunisians struggled to find their way ahead, with no road map for life after the revolution. Image by Ellen Knickmeyer. Tunisia, 2011.

Weeks after Mohammed Bouazizi's self-immolation began the revolution in Tunisia, his hometown of Sidi Bouzid remains a place of protest.